|Old Reviews - Sandals Whitehouse Spa and Beach Resort|
Arrival: Feb. 2008
Restaurants and Bars:
Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel: We did'nt go on any tours, we decided to stay on the resort and just enjoy our time and relax. We played beach volleyball a few times, which was very fun, and participated in some of the poolside fun as well. We also went snorkeling, and parasailing, which we found very enjoyable, and the instructors were all very helpful and knowledgeable. Also there is a photo shop called snapshots on the resort, photogs walk around throughout the day and night and take candid or posed snapshots of you, take advantage of this, the pics are great and you will have them as great momentos from you trip.
Just back from one week in paradise!!! January 26th to Feb. 2nd.
Ist: Do not let the 1.5 hour trip from the airport deter you on this resort. The road and traffic were no where near as bad as in Dominican Republic. And the drive is scenic and didn't feel that long at all. We stopped on the way to the resort at a local cook house and had authentic jerk chicken and some beer to go and it was awesome.
The resort, as previously stated was beautiful. Lots of fountains and the landscaping was nice. We stayed in the French section and the room was beautiful and clean. Maids came in twice a day to tidy up, etc. I have to say this is one of the cleanest resort I've ever been to. One morning, there was acutally a guy out on a kayak cleaning the buoys and the rope!! And the staff are the nicest, friendliest people. And I really don't think it's because that's there job. I've been to to other resorts where the staff are only nice if you tip them. Not these guys. All the time, they would chat you up and bend over backwards to do anything for you. We tried a couple of times to tip the staff at first and they always refused. So it's not for the money.
The food was awasome. If anyone has any complaints about the food, you need to stay home …
Always something to do at the resort. My highlight, since I love to snorkel, was a night snorkel. Very cool. Had to pay extra ($35.00) but very worth it. I went snorkelling every day for free during the daytime.
The only criticism I can make about the resort and it's very minor and of a personal preference type of thing was that I found they did not play any caribean or Jamaican music around the pool. They played the same CD over and over. But, really, that is the ONLY thing I could find missing. Other than that, had a great time, would go back in a second and highly recommend this resort.
Nice but too much bling
After a bumpy hour and a half bus ride (sitting over the wheel well) to Sandals Whitehouse, we were pleasantly welcomed with a cold towel and champagne. It was very nice! Unfortunately, our flight was a late one and we arrived at the resort at 11:30 pm (even though we booked a flight for 6:00 a.m., Sunwing bumped us to the late flight).
Our impression of the rooms at Sandals Whitehouse is they were nice, but not as big or grand as we'd expect for being only 2 years old, and the price. The standard room we've experienced in another Sandals resort had a separate seating area with a step down to the bedroom area, and the bathtub was a jacuzzi tub, plus bathrobes were supplied. Sandals Whitehouse's rooms were just 1 big room, with a small bathroom (1 tub/shower + toilet), vanity, and no bathrobes. (We had the bottom floor (lowest "level") in the French area.) Some people complained about the mold in their bathroom. It seemed older than 2 years. The king-sized bed was comfortable though, and the view from the room was spectacular no matter where you were - all were oceanfront. It was peaceful at night and all you heard were the crickets and birds. The music during the day was pleasant and not overpowering.
The bartenders and staff were friendly and accommodating. The food was great, but actually there was too much food! The pastry cafe was nice, but if you wanted a coffee or tea while watching the lobby singers, you were tempted by the glass case of squares, cakes, ice cream and ended up eating way too much. Everything was cooked well and had no problems with the food, healthwise. Although, there was more variety, especially in the buffet, & taste was better at the other Sandals we were at. At Whitehouse, they didn't come around to refill your drinks at dinner quite as frequently as in other Sandals either. It was great not having to worry about making reservations for any of the restaurants - you just walked right in. We never had to wait as we usually ate around 6:30/7:00. Our favourite restaurant was "Eleanors" for dinner, and "Bluefield" for lunch.
The entertainment was top-notch! Every night we stayed up to watch the 10:30 pm shows because they were interesting, well-done, and professional.
The beach was great - we didn't set foot in the pools although there was 1 in every complex and the biggest pool in Jamaica! We got to the beach around 10:00 a.m. every day but by then the umbrellas were usually taken, and the "good chairs" were usually made up by the staff and reserved with towels, a cooler, flowers and signs for the "special" people. There were numerous regular beach lounge chairs empty and available all the time. The nice part was that nobody roamed the beach selling items to you, and not 1 boat came by at night trying to sell drugs or what have you. We felt totally secure, protected, and we felt like we were on our own deserted island. It certainly was restful and quiet.
The swimming area at the beach was limited by ropes because it was designated for boats to go by, so you couldn't swim out very deep - it went up to your waist. But the sand was white, clear water and just patches of seaweed/plants, with starfish around. It was neat! The snorkelling trip available (free) was ok, but the coral was dead - very sad to see.
Not one bar had any drink menu, or list of drinks, (ie. a Jamaican special drink) to pick from. You had to know your alcohol if you wanted something, which took a lot of the fun away. It prevents you from experimenting a new drink, especially if you normally don't drink much to begin with, other than wine at dinner.
The shopping was exhorbitant - for the rich!! They had an art store which had items selling for thousands of $$, clothing stores, high-end jewelry store with no beach/cheap jewelry to be found. The spa was nice, and the massage we had was amazing! It was priced 200% higher than back home, but worth the splurge.
Would we go back to Sandals Whitehouse? Probably not. We found Sandals Whitehouse very expensive for what we got. Every person is unique in their expectations and desires for a trip, and for some people, I'm sure they'd feel differently than us. We enjoyed our time away and felt like we had a good vacation overall.
Overall Impression - Excellent
Why I chose this resort
Sandals Airport Lounge
Customs Tip: be sure to pack a black or blue-ink pen in your carry-on luggage as you must fill out customs cards for Jamaica and the flight attendants didn't seem to have any spare pens. Be sure to fill out sections A, B, and C for your arrival, as most people missed filling out section B, myself included.
The Drive to Sandals Whitehouse
The room fridge was stocked with a variety of pop and juices: gingerale, coke, diet coke, lots of water, some small cans of pineapple juice, cranberry juice, apple juice, and orange juice. The balcony was small, but you could hear the ocean waves gently crashing on shore as soon as you stepped out on the balcony. The balcony furniture consisted of two chairs and a small table, as well as two bars for hanging wet bathing suits. The room safe was in the closet and was sufficiently large; I'd guess the interior dimensions to be at least 5x12x18 inches. There was a large umbrella for two in the closet, but I never had need of it as it only ever rained briefly. There was a standard ironing board, iron, and hair dryer. The TV service had several channels, and also hooked into your account at the hotel - it even had a welcome message for me by name! I believe you can order movies using the TV options, but I didn't try.
The bathroom had a toilet and small tub with shower head. The water pressure and temperature was always good. The bathroom fan never seemed to keep up with the high humidity, but then I wasn't convinced the room air conditioner pumped out the humidity the way the ones here at home do, either. The room was cool enough, and the fan circulated the air nicely. The single sink was outside the bathroom, and had a large mirror and plenty of counter space. There were 200mL bottles each of Shampoo, Conditioner, Aloe (great for sunburns!), and Moisturizer.
Housekeeping makes at least two visits to your room each day, which can be inconvenient if you can't find your "Do not disturb" sign. The morning housekeeping visit happens to make your bed, straighten your room and replace your towels. There seems to be a separate visit for stocking the fridge, though - not certain when that happens. Then there is an evening turn-down service where they fold down your comforter and deliver tomorrow's list of events, restaurant hours, sales, and weather forecast.
On the French Village end of the beach, there is a little Sandals security hut with a guard who takes your name and room number should you choose to continue walking along the beach outside of the Sandals property. You must check out, and then check in again when you walk back, but there is no requirement for any ID - it feels as if you're still on Sandals property, even though you're in the nature reserve that surrounds the resort. There were some local fishermen who landed their boat on this stretch of sand, but they always knew the guard and stopped to chat. I enjoyed speaking with the security guard about local customs and how things worked in Jamaica.
At the other end of the Sandals beach in front of the Piazza is the water sports area. I didn't try to walk past the Sandals property that way, but it looked like many locals lived nearby.
It is worth noting that food is available from at least one place 24 hours a day. Even at my 2:30 check-in, Arizona's was apparently open. Smoking is not allowed inside any restaurant, which I am used to and enjoyed, although I sometimes got a face-full of smoke on the outdoor patios. Ash trays were well hidden, and I suspect you had to ask for one. This resort has two Jamaican-style restaurants, while some other resorts I researched had none.
The dinner service at Eleanor's was definitely white-glove. The menu here was high-end Jamaican cuisine, and again was very flavourful. It has been my experience that spicy hot dishes are avoided in places that cater to the stereotypically bland palettes of North America, but at Eleanor's they were not afraid to show you what Jamaican cuisine was really like. I tried the blackened chicken (a bit too spicy for me), and the tasty red snapper. One other chicken dish I had was not great, but I can't remember what it was. Again, your own experiences will determine whether you like the menu here or not, but to me, flavour was in the spotlight. They even have a unique way of cleansing your palatte before the main course!
=> The Paris Cafe
=> Casa Blanca: the Piano Bar/Martini Lounge
=> Signature Buffets
There are only a few stores onsite, and I didn't end up buying anything from them. There was one night where some locals brought items to purchase into the Piazza, but I wasn't interested in wood carvings or clothing. Instead, I bought my souvenirs from the airport on the way home. Certainly the duty free shops for alcohol and coffee are much more cost effective at the airport than anywhere else. There seems to be a big push for Sandals' art auction, which took place almost every night in the Theatre, it seemed. I never ended up going, but also couldn't afford any art at the time, as they started the auctions at $300 USD.
A review of Sandals Whitehouse on Jamaica’s southcoast - July, 2007
Although we hoped for an improvement in the roads to this resort area, the many potholes and impoverished conditions along the way made the transfer to the resort somewhat depressing. If this is your first trip to this island, expect to be taken back by the living conditions you will see on the way out of Montego Bay. However, we were very impressed by this clean, elegant resort when we arrived there. We loved the friendly, attentive service (characteristic of this resort chain) and the magnificent landscaping on Jamaica’s south coast, the newest in the Sandals/Beaches chain.
We are travel agents and Certified Sandals/Beaches Specialists and have visited Jamaica over 20 times. We and have been to every Sandals and Beaches resort in all four of their Caribbean locations. We chose SWH for this vacation and were very glad we did. It is the most elegant and up-scale Sandals or Beaches resort by far.
NOTE: Caution – the resort is in the tropics and does get its share of brief showers along with the sunshine on its brilliant beach. Be prepared with good insect repellant, some Benadryl as well as SPF 30 lotion for your comfort and protection.
We arrived at the spacious, air-conditioned, high ceiling reception area with a magnificent view of the garden and enormous pool and were greeted by a smiling staffer with a cold drink, a cool towel. At check-in the bellmen and friendly reception staffers said, "Welcome home!" Then we were escorted to the Concierge Lounge, the communication center for guests booking the higher level categories.
NOTE: You may want to consider spending a bit more to receive this extra level of service and amenities: the personalized check-in, fully stocked bar and refrigerator with beer, vodka, gin, rum, wines, champagne, juices and soft drinks. Although bottled water was available throughout the resort, it was very convenient to have this set-up in our suite.
Our ground level accommodation with a beachfront patio was huge and well-appointed. It came with a great amenity kit, plush linen, bathrobes, and very comfortable bedding. The A/C was easy to control and worked perfectly. The cable system worked well but new flat-screen TV’s should be installed soon we were told. Butler-serviced suites have full 24-hour Room Service whereas we had room service with continental breakfast and a fixed menu for lunch and dinner until 10:00pm.
NOTE: all rooms in this resort are oceanview (you don’t have to upgrade to get oceanview) and have mahogany furniture, a king-size four-poster bed, hair dryer, safe, clock radio, iron & ironing board with a coffee/tea maker.
Housekeeping service was exceptional and we appreciated the nightly turn-down service. Laptops may be rented and internet access was available both in the room and in the Business Center.
SWH is a “Sandals Signature Resort,” their designation for their seven up-scale resorts offering champagne breakfasts, Red Lane Spas, late night buffets, and room service. The other five Sandals are called the “Classic Collection.”
The Italian Village building is closest to the main The picturesque, mile long beach and the three pool areas have plentiful, comfortable lounges in shaded places and there were a few small groves of palm trees all along the beach. Prime spots are always to be found so there was no need to wake up at sunrise and throw towels down to reserve chairs for the day as necessary at most island resorts as big as this. There were some rocks, starfish, and “turtle grass” at the clear, gentle water's edge – no surf - perhaps due to the barrier reef that runs across the bay.
NOTE - there is an international clientele so if you are not used to topless bathers on the beach you may be surprised (sometimes pleasantly, sometimes not :-) We were glad that the few topless bathers were discrete and that there were no vendors walking the beach nor timeshare sellers to bother us anywhere, anytime. The resort has no neighbors so the beautiful white-sand beach was delightfully quiet.
SWH’s land and watersports are included and are too numerous to mention. The quality of the equipment is top shelf. The Red Lane Spa is centrally located with fantastic services – at a hefty extra cost of course. However, there are steam rooms, saunas, and hi-tech showers available to all guests with or without the hands-on service at the spa. There is a retail shopping area with duty-free jewelry, gift, clothing, photo shops and a tour desk.
F & B
The quality and variety of the food was outstanding. Bayside is an elaborate international buffet for all three meals. Arizona (Tex-Mex) and Bluefield’s are two beachside grills. There are three air-conditioned ala carte venues – Jasmin’s is Asian, Guiseppe’s is Italian, and Eleanor’s is Caribbean elegant dining for breakfast and dinner. No reservations are required at any of them but do expect to wait if you eat ala carte between 7-8:00pm. The European patisserie, Café de Paris, was the best coffee shop/dessert haven we have ever seen anywhere in the Caribbean – open daily from 6:30am to 11:00pm.
There is no strict dress code. Men are expected to wear slacks and collared shirts and women should dress country club casual in the ala carte venues. Many women wore cocktail dresses. “Resort Casual” is how SWH likes to call it.
There are six bars on property, and the service is excellent, especially at the two swim-up bars with blended drinks, and premium brand liquor available everywhere. However, you might want to develop a taste for Red Stripe ‘cause it’s the only beer available. On the plus-side was Sandals recent decision to switch to Beringer wines throughout the chain. They are a big upgrade from the mediocre “house” wines that they used to offer and those served at other chains of all-inclusive resorts.
Activities & Nightlife
As you may know, Sandals offers the widest array of land and water sport activities of any all-inclusive chain. The list is available at the back of their brochure or online. We recommend that you stick with the resort’s offerings and not go off the resort in motorized vehicles for your recreation. Although you may pay a bit more with the Sandals tours, theirs are safer and more reliable.
There were nightly shows with local groups of musicians & dancers the best of which, believe it or not, was the staff production in the Cabaret – the song & dance production done by the SWH staffers from the various resort departments. It was by far the most entertaining, delightful, polished staff show we’ve ever seen at any Caribbean resort anywhere. There is a violinist on the Cafe patio as well as bands and singers playing at the pool. Every week there is a beach party, a Pirates of the Caribbean Dinner (limited seating), and a cooking seminar. Finally, there is a piano bar, karaoke nights and a nightly disco.
US dollars are readily accepted. Every attempt is made to satisfy guests' needs. The management staff is visible and accessible. Their attitude is "What can we do to make you as happy as possible?" We really enjoyed our stay tremendously and think that you will too.
Sue & Marvin Weber, owner/mgrs & Certified Sandals Specialists
My husband and I went to Sandals Whitehouse for our "WeddingMoon" and as it has been stated in other reviews be prepared for a long BUMPY ride from the airport to the resort. Although it is very scenic when you've just gotten off a 4 hour red-eye flight from Edmonton to Toronto, then a 3.5 hour layover in Toronto, and finally a 3 hour flight from Toronto to Jamaica, all you want to do is be at your resort. Don't get me wrong the ride is still a beautiful way to see a lot of Jamaica and our driver was great, telling us much about Jamaica and it's people.
Resort - two words: huge and breathtaking. There are 3 villas/complexes where you can stay. The "Italian" which is closest to the main/largest pool and restaurants. The "Dutch" which is the middle complex and seemed to be the quietest (medium sized pool and no swim-up bar) and finally where we stayed in the "French". The "French" complex is the farthest walk away from the lobby, main pool and most of the restaurants but "Bluefield's" the outdoor Jamaican cuisine restaurant is right there. The pool in the "French" complex is a good size because they play water volleyball here (not all the time though) and they play beach volleyball just off to the side. Everything from the grounds to the beach to the rooms were beautiful and clean. ** If you don't like walking or have trouble walking stay in the "Italian" complex, my husband and I are both in shape but when it's hot out and you're full of food it's a LONG walk back to the "French" complex.
Beach - Always clean and clear with lots of chairs to be had either in the sun or the shade. We would take bread from the buffet and snorkel just off the beach and feed the hundreds of little fish that would come and eat right from our hands. They also have floating docks with benches to relax on out in the water, as well as a hugh inflatable trampoline out in the water (tons of fun). With regards to the bugs, mostlikely sandfleas, definitely wear long pants/shirts or use bug spray (at dawn or dusk) because I mostly had shorts and skirts on and I got bit a fair amount but my husband maybe had 3 bites in the 2 weeks we were there. The sand is soft both on the beach and in the water.
Restaurants - we loved them all, however don't forget to: 1) bring nice clothes -you were not allowed to wear shorts or jeans in some of the restaurants and 2) go early because they fill up fast. We are not picky eaters so there was enough choices for us and we never got sick from any of the food.
Staff - they were all lots of fun and super friendly. They asked us as many questions about Canada as we asked them about Jamaica. We played lots of games/activities and when we didn't they never hassled us to join in. You get points when you join in and when you reach 100 points you receive a Sandals necklace and at 300 points you receive a Sandals t-shirt. We got both and had tons of fun. Remember they are not allowed to accept tips so everything they do isn't for how much money they can get from you.
Tours/excursions - we only went on one, "Black River/Y.S. Falls" because all the other tours meant a long bus ride (minimum 1.5 hrs there and 1.5 hrs back). Our tour was approx. 40 minutes away if that. At "Black River" they take you 2.5 miles up river on a pontoon style boat and you learn much about Jamaicans ecosystem, and if you're lucky you will get to see some crocodiles. We saw 4 and our guide even reached out and held one. Be aware once your on the boat there are no bathrooms along the way which isn't much fun if you really have to go. After the river you go to a small restaurant and have an okay lunch (included in the price) and then it's off to Y.S. Falls. When you arrive you are taken to the falls by tractor and the spectacular sight of the falls is something that can't be described.
We highly recommend this resort if you want to be relaxed, spoiled, and have fun. The only thing that I would say that could be viewed as negative is the very long ride to many of the excursions and the very long walk from the "French" village to the "main" part of the resort.
P.S. Our wedding was pure perfection and we couldn't have asked for a more beautiful honeymoon.
Sandals Whitehouse was our first experience with an all-inclusive resort and Sandals. We enjoyed our stay so much, we re-booked for February of next year and believe we've found our "getaway".
With no other all inclusive resort to compare to, I can only offer my honest opinion of our experience. This was our second trip to Jamaica and it's a beautiful country and the people are very friendly and helpful. We never grew tired of hearing, "no problem, Mon." From the moment we landed to the time we departed, we truly had a wonderful vacation.
My biggest concern prior to leaving was the 90 minute drive to the resort. It's true. It is a long drive. I believe our trip was an hour and 20 minutes and that included a brief stop at a rest area (both to the resort and on our return to the airport). The drive did not bother either of us because it gave us the opportunity to take in the beautiful island. However, for anyone that suffers from motion sickness, you may want to consider bringing along some Dramamine. The roads are narrow, windy, I don't think there is speed limit, and expect frequent stops as other cars pull out or people are walking on the side of the road.
Due to this being our 15th wedding anniversary, we booked a concierge room. If it fits within your budget, I recommend it. We were given special treatment upon arrival and were taken to a separate concierge office. We were upgraded to a suite and felt special from that moment on. What does the concierge service get you? Well, you have a fully stocked bar and refrigerator that is restocked every day. This includes soda, water, cold Red Stripe beers and juices. The concierge can make reservations for you, book excursions, and spa treatments. We also received several calls throughout the week just to make sure we had whatever we needed--it gave me a sense of security that someone was looking out for me in a foreign country.
We indulged at the Red Lanes spa and had a few treatments throughout the week. They were wonderful! It was meant to be a stress-free vacation and it was. As we met many people throughout the week (mostly at the swim-up bar at the Main pool) we learned this was their favorite Sandals resort. I was lucky enough to sit next to a travel agent from New Jersey that has been to all the Sandals and said none compared to this one. It made me feel good about our choice.
If you are looking for lots of nightlife activity--this is not the place for you. If you are looking to relax, spend the day at a nice beach or great pools, meet people, enjoy a decent meal, not worry about ordering another drink or having dessert at the French pastry shop--then Sandals Whitehouse may be for you.
The age range varied too. That was a big surprise to me. I was a little leery that it would be a big "honeymoon" resort. And, while there were several weddings while we were there, nothing about the resort felt "cheesy/too romantic" to me like some of the Sandals advertising feels. There were couples of all ages and it was wonderful to see a 70-something couple holding hands on the way to dinner.
We are looking forward to next year's trip and may even convince some of the friends we made last week to join us. Next year we plan to venture off the resort a bit and head to Negril for a day. We are also considering letting our children in on the secret and are planning a vacation to Beaches--Sandals family resort!
THE PLANE RIDE:
THE BUS RIDE
ARRIVAL AT THE RESORT
THE WALK TO THE RESTAURANTS
THE PARIS CAFÉ
OTHER STORES AND SERVICES
DAYTRIP TO NEGRIL
THE PIANO BAR
We loved this property! I had read many of the reviews prior to going and was a little worried about the airport transfer and the amount of time it took. Also worried about getting car sick. But I have that one figured out. Be sure when you arrive in Jamaica, you arrive during the day. Then on the ride you get to see some beautiful countryside. If it were to be dark on your drive, you could easily get sick.
Like I said the property is breathtaking. The service was impeccable. The staff the most courteous. The rooms were very clean and well appointed. We upgraded to the Butler service. I wondered what would we do with a butler. Well, a whole lot more than we ever thought. He offered to unpack for us, reserve our spot poolside every day which he did with flowers, fresh towels and a small sign. He made my spa reservations, dinner reservations and when we dined in the room, he brought it in and set it up with white linen service. Now this person you can tip and we did because he earned it. They also give you a phone to carry in case you need him. They will give you rides from one point to another (which came in real handy when it rained one evening). And if you leave your camera in the room, call your Butler, he will fetch it for you.
The food is good, nicely presented and there are a lot of choices. The Italian restaurant is definitely the best!
However, there is an isolation factor. You are a long way from anywhere. And if you didn't like the ride in, you are probably not going to want to leave until you have to take that ride back over that hill. There is really no where to shop so take everything you need. The gift shop is fine for forgotten items, but no much for souvenirs.
We have been to the Sandals in Nassau and we loved it there too. In fact, we love it more. The property was not as big, but the food was better and there was more to do close by including gambling at Paradise Island.
But if you are looking for quiet time with your significant other, warm relaxing water, a beautiful beach, 3 wonderful pools, tennis courts, a fantastic spa and just relaxing...you can't beat Sandals White House.
And by the way ladies...don't be afraid of not be picture perfect slim in that bikini. There are a lot of beautiful women there of all sizes, big and small.
We rate it 4.5 Stars (because nothing is perfect!)
My husband and I traveled to Sandals Whitehouse with another couple in May 2006. Sorry this review was delayed- I kept forgetting to write one! I am a travel agent in Maryland and have had the good fortune of traveling to all 7 Sandals properties in Jamaica now, along with Sandals Royal Bahamian in Nassau and Beaches Turks & Caicos. I have to say that of all the resorts I've stayed in, Sandals owned or not, this was hands down my favorite! There IS no comparison and I would pay twice the amount I paid to stay here again! I have not one complaint- except maybe the drive there!
The grounds are meticulously cleaned and groomed. We enjoyed looking at all the varieties of flowers so much that we signed up for a "nature walk"- not usually our cup of tea. Our guide was a college educated groundskeeper at the resort who was incredibly knowledgeable about all the plant species.
The rooms ALL have full oceanviews. Rooms on the first floor have patios that end directly on the beach while the higher floors have glorious views of the ocean from their balconies. The rooms were all large, clean and well maintained. We paid to upgrade into concierge level which I think is worth every cent. I appreciated having a fully stocked bar and someone to take care of my reservations and questions. We utilized this feature a lot more then we even expected to. The balconies are a little on the small side but more than adequate for their purpose and still a nice feature with those amazing views!
We probably each gained 15 pounds with the food there! I've never tasted such good food at an all-inclusive! We tried all of the restaurants and wished we could go back and eat at a few again. We even considered having 2 dinners one night so we could enjoy the steak at Arizona's twice! During the day Arizona's serves as a beach bar and grill. In the evening it was usually empty because people thought it was more of the same snack type food. Those people really missed out on some incredible TexMex! The Asian restaurant was wonderful and even the buffets were good. Our favorite, though, was the Cafe De Paris- a bake shop with the most incredible cookies, crepes, brownies, danishes, scones, etc. This was a daily, (sometimes 2 or 3 times daily!), stop for us. A definite highlight of the trip was their midnight chocolate buffet. Set your alarm clocks, stay up late, do what you have to do but DON'T MISS THIS! If you even remotely like chocolate you'll love it. I've never seen anything like it! They made the eiffel tower completely out of chocolate, and rows upon rows of truffles and other assorted chocolates. There was a chocolate fountain with fresh fruit to dip. AMAZING!
The pools were great- never over crowded and nice to have two swim-up bars. There was an abundance of "floaties" and plenty of chairs around the pools. The entertainment staff did a great job of organizing pool volleyball games, etc. They were always around if you were interested but not in your way if you weren't.
The beach is 3 miles long and always seems deserted. Beautiful water and lots of shaded areas to relax. The sunsets are amazing as well. They have water trampolines and floating chairs out in the ocean if you're interested. They also have great snorkeling right off the beach, snorkeling boat trips, glass bottom boat rides, hobie cats and almost any other water sport you can think of. Beach lovers will love this beach!
Entertainment here was top notch. They had local performers, fire dancers, singers, a marching band, several steel drum bands- it was never ending. This is an area I'm usually dissapointed in. Not the case here. There is still not too much going on after midnight but they do have a dance club available if you're interested and a "martini/piano" bar as well.
Finally, the staff was exceptional! Everyone went above and beyond to make sure we were happy. We had the general manager ask us about our stay, the concierge staff asking if we needed anything any time we passed them on the walkway, the maid staff was wonderful, waiters were friendly and always smiling/singing. What incredible service!
I've reviewed a lot of resorts now and I'm usually very good about giving the good along with the bad but I honestly couldn't find anything to complain about with this property. I find it incredibly hard to believe that anyone could. Give it a try, you'll love it!
I also have recent reviews of Beaches Turks and Caicos and Sunscape the Beach Punta Cana on Debbie's sites, if you're interested in either of those properties. Please feel free to email me if you have any questions! email@example.com
I would like to start off by saying I do not understand why anyone would have an awful vacation at this resort. My husband and I got married in paradise in January 2006. We had an amazing time and cannot wait to go back fro our 1st anniversary next year. I have read many complaints, and I am at a loss for words literally. One complaint stands out from most, and this was a woman who complained about not having a mini bar in her room or that the rooms were bad. I am sorry, but if that is what you want, then PAY for it, don’t expect it to be free then complain that it was not. The resort was very full when we were there, therefore no room upgrades were available, and I think it is reasonable to expect this. We already had a butler suite because we did not want to take a chance that we would not have an upgraded room for our visit. Even though we are SGG members, there would have not been an upgrade available to us. Yes the road was windy but that is travel in a foreign country. Bring some gravel; I have yet to make it to a resort without some nausea, so be prepared. I have traveled in many places and ate in the finest of restaurants. The food is adequate, and some things are extraordinary. You have to remember the ingredients do not come from home, there are different eggs, milk, cheeses and meats then what we are used to, it just takes some getting used to, and for the things that you don’t like, then fine, don’t like them. I am a very picky eater and fine dine at home often, this includes the way I cook, and I still gained 5 pounds at Whitehouse because the food was so good. So if you are there for a week and you cannot find something to enjoy, then I have to say you should not travel, and just stay home.
The people are amazing and will do anything they can to accommodate your requests. The night we were married a young girl served our wedding dinner on the beach. She was a young mother and to appreciate the great service, we gave her coloring books, crayons and some personal lotions etc. To thank us, after dinner she came over and sang us a song... “From this Moment” AMAZING, it brought tears to both my husband and I.
Our room was breath taking, I knew we had the potential to be one ground floor room which I was not thrilled about, so I simply called the resort ahead of time and spoke to the manager, Jeremy, he ensured that we have a 2nd floor room! If in doubt I recommend a phone call, it is worth it! Every morning we had our butler bring us eggs benedict, the ham was a little different from what I am used to so I ordered the one with the salmon. Very good. With this fabulous breakfast, we started each day with mimosas probably too many because we had the minibar in our room and had access to them daily. J
The pool was nice and there always seemed to be enough chairs and towels which was enjoyable since I have been to other resorts where this was not the case at all. The beach is gorgeous and kept meticulous, as it is raked every morning. Yes we did encounter some sand fleas, but they don’t like everyone all of the time. I would recommend wearing bug spray with deet; they would not bother us in that case. It is weird because we were on the beach one day and I was fine, then another day eaten alive. I think it might have been my perfume, so make sure you have the deet spray. Do understand that there are fleas in the sand everywhere, not just at Sandals Whitehouse. I have seen them in Ohio Rios, Dunn’s River, Mexico and even the Okanagan in BC. Just prepare for your beach vacation to avoid the problem.
The lobster was amazing and you can just ask for double serving men, you will be impressed with your plate; my hubby could barely finish it!! Eyes were a little big in that regard. You could eat lobster every day here if you wanted there are no restrictions like there are in many other resorts.
If you did not like this resort you have much too high expectations. This was a fabulous vacation for those who want some R&R and do expect that they have left their country and some things are just different in the Caribbean. This resort in my opinion is one of the best in Jamaica. I have stayed at Dunn’s River, which was nice too. Ohio Rios, which is a little more casual. I have been to Negril, I would never stay there though as the resort is not that nice, nor would I stay at any of the Montego bay properties because it feels congested there, as much as does Negril.
My wife and I just returned from the Sandals Whitehouse European Village and Spa resort on the south coast of Jamaica, and it was excellent! The facilities are absolutely beautiful, the service was wonderful and the food was great. Breakfast at the Bayside included being greeted with a mimosa every morning...what could be better than that?!
The restaurant choices were enough to suit any taste and there were no reservations required - if there was a wait to be seated, which was at times anywhere from 10 minutes to a half-hour (at the most), there are lovely cafe-style tables set up outside each of the main restaurants to sit, listen to music and have a cocktail.
There is also a "patisserie", or pastry shop (the Cafe de Paris), open all day, with all sorts of pastries, desserts, coffee, espresso, etc., which is amazing. The beach is beautiful and there are plently of chairs on the beach, and surrounding the main pool, and the additional pools and hot tubs. There are plenty of towels available, and no worries about towel cards, towel exchange, or any of those similar hassles which we have experienced at many other resorts.
I could go on and on, but suffice it to say that the resort is beautiful, our trip was near-perfect, and we will be back!
We went last year and wanted to see it finished so we went back February 2006. It is still unfinished!
At the airport, they told us the Sandals lounge was not working and to get on the bus quickly. Then we sat in the heat for 20 minutes and found out their was nothing wrong with the lounge! The 1 1/2 hour ride over narrow twisty roads (while tailgating at 60 MPH) made me physically ill so that when we arrived I collapsed on the couch. They offered me champagne!! I needed a doctor!
The sand flies will eat you alive! But don't worry, the nurse will send you to the gift shop to purchase cortisone cream, Aloe gel and insect repellent! We had to stay away from the beach for the rest of the week and because we looked like bad cases of chicken pox, no one wanted us near them anyway!
We tried to relocate to another Sandals but were told there were No Rooms available, the manager even laughed at me when I asked her to check daily. They didn't care about our problems, just didn't want us to leave.
The evening entertainment was not good, very cheesy and disappointing.
If you are Vegetarian you are excluded from 1 restaurant, 2 evening buffets and the returning members dinner. We got a little tired of fruit, knockies and veggie burgers.
The Café de Paris was awesome! and the staff was very nice, although unable to do anything for us.
I know this sounds like everything was bad, it basically was for us. We are not difficult people, we don't drink and just wanted to relax. It was hard to do that when every inch of your body itches and you look like you were attacked by bees!
We won't be back!
We have just arrived back from our Honeymoon two weeks at the Sandals Whitehouse Resort & Spa and we have very mixed feelings about our stay. We are 33 and 28 we love to chill out on holiday as we have quite hectic jobs and a busy social life in the UK, sometimes it's nice to get away from it all.
We flew from Heathrow on Air Jamaica, the flight was not delayed from London and went ok, apart from the fact we were sat in seats where the overhead lights didn't work and the headphones in my seat didn't work and we couldn't see the screen, however, I read two books in 9 hours so it didn't effect me much.
We flew in to Kingston, where we had to get off the plane to refuel before our flight continued on to Montego Bay. We were told to wait in the airport for two hours after which time we got back on the plane. We then proceeded to sit on the plane for an hour wondering why we weren't taking off. We were then told there was a technical fault and they off loaded us again. We then heard that we might not be going anywhere that night... great! we had now been up for 22 hours at this point. One thing I learnt very quickly about Jamaicans is they do not communicate. Everything is "No Problem" it will be ok, you do become frustrated until you get used to it and after two weeks we were used to it.
Eventually, we got back on the plane and took off that very night. When we arrived at Mo' Bay and they placed us in the Sandals Lounge with free beer and cold drinks and comfy chairs I thought things were looking up. We eventually arrived at the hotel at 1.30am, we checked in and received cold towels and a glass of Champagne. I thought reception looked fairly ordinary. We have stayed at the Paradisus Rio de Oro in Cuba and the Iberostar Hacienda Dominicus in Bayahibe in the Dominican republic and my first impressions were much grander. This was to remain my opinion for the rest of the holiday.
We were so exhausted when we arrived at the room and I could not believe it when we went in. We were on the ground floor of the French village, where were the grand looking suites that Sandals advertise in their brochures? It was not the most attractive Blue Colour, a small pokey bathroom and a tiny balcony and NO MINI BAR. I haven't ever stayed in a hotel without a mini bar, ever! Even in the Standard Suites. You are probably thinking this shouldn't be a problem in an all inclusive hotel, but in other hotels we would come back to the room about 4pm after a day in the sun and relax on the balcony with a couple of beers out of our fridge. We had paid £4000 for this holiday nearly double what we paid in the Dominican and we got a better room and a better balcony and a mini bar.
We got up the next day and the weather was glorious, we went to breakfast which was very nice and then we made our way to reception and asked to be moved, both my husband and I have careers that require us to be assertive and we are both very polite, however, when we complained we got nowhere, not one person was interested in helping us. We were told that this is the standard of room we reserved. We explained that we were on our honeymoon and still this got us nowhere. We went back to the room with the terrible view of the drainage duct and felt deflated.
We spent most of our days by the pool at the French, this was one of the highlights of our holidays, as Odayne, Oneil and Peaches were lovely! Especially Odayne who made great cocktails and the Dirty Banana and the Odayne Special were my favourites. ask him for a Nut Sack, Mark and one of our friends from North Carolina had great fun devising this cocktail with Odayne. The serving staff at Sandals made the holiday, they were polite courteous very friendly. Andre and Everton at the Water sports taught my Husband to sail and we had great fun on the Hobie cats and on windy days when we could not go out alone, Everton had the cat on it side which is great fun. Krystal on the entertainment team was really nice and never forgot our names despite the number of people she must meet.
The food at Sandals is very average, we eat out a lot at home and love nice restaurants, in a 5* resort you would expect exceptional food, but is was often cold and disappointing. Maybe it is Mark and I who have high standards, but the menus never changed in two weeks I cannot complain about the soup though that was very nice, but again always luke warm. In a country where the temperature is rarely under 80, this is very unusual. The Parisian cafe however, is amazing and the cakes and pastries are wonderful. The piano bar is very nice with comfy sofas and a relaxing atmosphere.
The evening Entertainment was good on occasions, however, the resort is caters for Americans who stay for 4-7 days, so we saw everything twice, very dull. The American people were great and we met some lovely friends and we were sad to see them go after a few days, we felt like we were there for months due to the quick turn around of guests.
Sand Flies, oh my god, Mark & I got so badly bitten that by my 7th day I nearly booked a flight home. Some people didn't get bitten at all and some people like us were covered. I was in agony I itched so much. We had them in the room due to the close proximity to the beach and after 7 days I had, had enough. We went back to reception and once again asked to be moved. Again we were getting no where until one of our American friends Michael intervened, it seems that Sandals are petrified of upsetting the Americans as they are the majority guests and they could not give a stuff about upsetting the British. Every guest should be treated the same, we have all paid to go there. Thanks to Michael we were moved to the third floor and I started to relax a little, I could actually sit out on the balcony and the air conditioning worked properly in this room, unlike the last room where everything was damp.
The resort was finally fumigated two days we were due to leave, somebody else must have complained. I didn't get any more bites after we moved rooms away from the beach.
The Spa - The staff here were very nice and I had a pedicure which was excellent, my beautician was ironically called Colette and it was nice to meet another Colette, in England we are quite rare ;o)
The trips - We booked three trips at Sandals and only managed to get on one, the Jeep Safari was cancelled one hour before were due to go on the trip, this was due to low numbers and we never managed to get on it for the rest of the holiday. Previous resorts I have stayed at have merged with other hotels to ensure numbers. Our diving was cancelled three times due to rough seas and when we eventually got on out dive, we got to the bottom of the sea the instructor left us there and then after 10 minutes of wondering what was going on we were told to surface and that was the end of that, very disappointing. We are both keen divers and that was the worse dive I have ever done.
We went on the Riverwalk trip and that was fantastic, we got to see some real Jamaica at long last. We learnt about different plants and had great fun clambering up the river. It was freezing water, but crystal clear and the food was genuine Jamaican food which was delicious, I had the Chicken Curry, rice & peas and veg. well worth a visit.
I know you probably think I am doing nothing but complain in this e mail, but Sandals isn't all that. In the brochures it looks like paradise and it just is a very normal resort. There were moments when we were walking along the beach and it felt like paradise, the beach was very nice and I liked the way you never queued for anything and you always had a Sun Lounger, there were far more sun loungers than people. The drinks were also great, this is due to them being international brands and the serving staff were lovely. I also didn't get sick the water is treated.
They had some Canadian travel agents there during our stay, obviously trying to promote it, these travel agents got treated like royalty and got better service than us, they had special dinners and lunches and the management were always around to speak to them. Some were also staying in the suites and it was a free trip.
My advice is, if you are Canadian go to The Paradisus Rio de Oro in Cuba, its amazing, a million miles better than Sandals, the restaurants are fab, the service is excellent the entertainment is consistent and professional, the rooms are huge and it is less expensive. To the Americans, go to the Iberostar Hacienda Dominicus in Bayihibe in the Domincan republic, this is better. I would never return to Sandals and they are unfortunately surviving on an old reputation.
have just returned from sandals whitehouse jamaica, and basking in the memories; sites, turquoise
waters, ocean breezes, appleton rum drinks, new friends, beautifully appointed room, amazing service and
the feeling of being really far away... no airplanes ,tankers or cruise ships to be seen . we cant say enough
about the place. however... the resort is new , there was ongoing work, but also the terrific staff who went
out of their way for your comfort. we stayed in the italian village and did like the proximity to the piazza, pool
and restaurants. we had a fourth floor concierge room which expedited our check in , gave us a beautiful
room with a balcony, and a little extra attention when it came to reservations of any sort. we cannot say
enough about the entire sandals staff......... we return home with a respect for the jamaican people and an
appreciation for being so well treated. there seemed to be mostly americans at the resort, lots of folks from
minn, wi, mi, tx, ny, and a few boston red sox fans from massachusetts. oops forgot our friends peggy and dick
from vermont. all in all , we were impressed by our fellow american tourists who were polite appreciative
and kindly to our jamaican host country. we didn't see any ''ugly americans''.
our first trip of any substance was in 2003 at the sandals in nassau, where we met rob and diane from ny.;
exchanged address'es and then lost the address. who do you think we ran into on our first full day at
whitehouse......... yup, you guessed it. what a trip. youll meet the nicest people......... leave the attitude at home,
say hello to people you dont know, recapture a little humanity , relax, mon. ...............................................................
Airport: We got off the plane on the runway, and were welcomed by HEAT HEAT HEAT. That part was AWESOME after leaving -15 degree temps!! Got into the little Customs/Immigration waiting room, and I would say there were about 20 couples ahead of us. Wait time? 40 minutes. We didn't think it was too bad, considering reports earlier that week of over 2 hours so we think we just lucked out. They had 7 lanes open and all were fairly long lines, but I didn't think they moved through all that slow in comparison with other places I've travelled to. Don't know if it was cuz we landed on a Tuesday and not a weekend, or what, but went through Immigration easily in my opinion.
From there we were herded (like cattle I swear) to the main area where the Sandals lounge is. Everyone that says that Sandals takes good care of you once you land on the ground, is totally CORRECT. We had a couple of draft Red Stripes (not impressed with the beer, but I'm not much of a beer drinker...tasted to me like a full flavor Heineken), and then we were out to the bus depot area to get on our bus.
Transport from the airport is generally Juta Tours. They seem to be one of the largest tour/taxi companies on the island, because everywhere we turned there was a Juta Tour bus. The bus held maybe 20 people max, some were bigger and some were smaller....ours was packed from front to back and we had a great driver. Gave us info on Jamaican culture, told us about how backward their country is that they have to drive on the left side of the road, and 911 is actually 119 there for emergencies. LOL. I got a kick out of that.
The ride from Montego Bay to SWH is long, twisty, turney, sometimes bumpy and extremely scenic. You go up the mountain on the way there for nearly 1/2 of the ride, and then begin the descent on the other side of the mountain on the second half of your ride. DrPerfect was totally correct in saying that once you get on the other side and begin to see coastline and the ocean? You're give or take about 15 minutes from the resort. I would say that depending on your driver, is how bad your ride will be. Ours drove pretty fast, and we made it in one hour and 20 minutes, with a short 10 minute stop in Montego Bay for beer.
The Resort and Check In:
We were told to have a seat, there are comfy couches and nice chairs set in groups in the lobby, and as you were seated, an employee from the front desk area would take your booking voucher and your credit card and disappear for about 10 minutes. Wierdest checkin I've ever done....there was no standing in front of the desk area to get your room, etc....it was all done for you behind the scenes, with you hanging out sipping champagne and waiting in nice comfy seats.
Then the same person that took your voucher and credit card would emerge from somewhere, and give you your Welcome Goody Bag. In that are your 2 room keys with your Sandals ID Card in case you go to another property. Shampoo, Conditioner, Aloe and Body Lotion were also in the bag, along with a small sheet you have to fill out for the front desk. I think it was for the SSG program, but not sure. Also included in the bag were your room assignments, the weekly activity sheet, the spa services information brochure and I think that's it.
A side Note: We were assigned a 2nd floor room in the French Village. I know there has been some debate on which village is considered the "best" one, so I will try to clarify that here. Like the Doc said, ALL the rooms are totally the SAME. I think the only rooms that are different in any fashion, are those in the Italian village on the top 2 floors, because that's where the suites and concierge levels are. I could be mistaken on that, but that was the impression I got. The upper most levelled rooms all looked like they were to be housed in the Italian.
So, did we like our room??? GORGEOUS. 4 poster mahogany bed, a KING sized one too which was enourmous...gorgeous armoire that housed the TV, the coffee maker, and had a door there for a minifridge, but none was in there. 3 decent sized drawers. The closet had the minisafe in it, and you program that with your own 4 digit code. LOVED that. They do have irons and ironing boards in the closets, and there is a blowdryer fixed to the wall in the vanity area. And yes, makeup mirrors are way too low...would be awesome if I were 4 feet tall or 10 years old, but for now, they are useless.
The balconies in both the French and the Dutch village are sort of lacking in my opinion. All are shaped in kind of a triangle shape, and on the 2nd and higher floors, it's almost as if you're sitting in a closet instead of outside on a balcony. There was a drying rack for wet suits outside on the balcony, as well as a pull string in the shower/tub too. My personal opinion? I preferred the rectangular sized balconies in the Italian village, but that didn't even start accepting guests until about our 4th or 5th day there.
The internet ports if you have your own computer are there, and available, but the internet on the TV with the wireless keyboard is there, but not useable as of yesterday. Phone calls to the states were very cheap....I called home once from my room and it was $8 dollars US, and I think I gabbed for about 15 minutes.
All in all, the rooms are nicely appointed, very pretty, on the small side if you ask me (comparing to other resorts I've stayed at) but impressively decorated.
So, with all that aside, here's my take on the scoop on which would be the best location to stay:
Plus side of staying at the French: by far the "better" part of the beach area. The beach is gorgeous to look at, but it is just downright NASTY to swim in. If you go in the water down by where the water sports are (which is by the main pool) or even in front of the Dutch building, you get about 20 feet from shore and all of a sudden instead of being in sand, you feel like you're standing in mud up to your knees. Murkey water, not a thing to look at...so unless you plan on taking the snorkelling excursion? Do not plan on snorkelling right off the beach at WH. It was pretty, no question, but I was not impressed with it. The sand fleas are HORRIBLE there. We laid on the beach for the first 2 days of our stay, and didn't know we were getting eaten alive until day 2, used bug spray and everything, and we still had the "suspicious red dots" all over us. Needless to say? We ended up poolside the rest of the week, with no more bites. Definitely a problem, and people must have been complaining because we saw guys out there at night fogging the beach.
Another "plus" for staying at the French, was there was a beautiful pool right there at your disposal. They have a swimup bar there, and also an outdoor grill which I think was Arizona's. I never ate there, because the menu consisted of burgers, dogs, fries and nachos and I can get that here in the States. So we preferred the Bayside for breakfast and lunch, because they put out a phenominal buffet for those meals.
Mini Golf is supposed to be going in very soon, but as of yesterday? It's planned for the large open area by the French building. They still only have dirt there, some baby grass was starting to grow as we were there, but nothing else. I doubt very much the golf will even be close to being completed in the next month. The tennis courts and fitness facility are also by the French building. There is a "juice bar" by the fitness center, and if we got something to work out of that once all week, we felt lucky. Never any cups, no ice, no pop, and nobody around to help you out. THey apparently are working on this still.
The fitness center has some incredible machines. For you cardio or workout buffs out there? It is eliptical and treadmill HEAVEN. Great music to workout too playing 24 hours a day, there were 8 treadmills in there and at least 6 elipticals. All top notch equipment. They had some workout machines that I'd give my left EYE for.....and free weights. Definintely one of the nicest fitness centers in an island destination I've seen yet. Very cool in there, the A/C was incredible inside there which is awesome for working out!! By day 3 they had Tennis going out there, and every morning on our way to breakfast we saw alot of couples enjoying that. Nice courts, and there's also a basketball court by the French as well.
So, there's the pluses of staying in the French. Personally? If I had to pick? I'd do the Italian first, and the Dutch as my 2nd pick.
The lower rooms in the Italian look as though they'll be identical to the rest of the other 2 buildings....as we walked through it we peeked and the rooms on the lower floors were just like ours in the French, with the exception of bigger and nicer balconies. I never got to see what a suite looked like, so maybe we'll get that from someone else.
Side Note: The room numbers run like this: The Italian building starts with all rooms beginning with a 1. Dutch starts with a 2, and French being #3. Our room number was 3204. We had the French building (the 3), 2nd floor (the 2) and our room was 04. The lower the 2 last numbers, the closer to the corner of the building that is nearest the Piazza you are. So if being close to the restaurants is important to you, and you get assigned a room say, like 3328?? You will be all the way down at the furthest end of the French building. If your room number is 1102? You'll be on the ground floor of the Italian building, closest to the Piazza. All the buildings run this way, so just be advised. OH...and yes there are elevators in each building, in the center of each building. We just used the stairs because we were only on the 2nd floor.
Side Note on Butler service: For those of you enjoying this feature? Go to WH knowing that your Butler is also servicing 15 other couples. 15 of them for 1 butler!! I don't know how those poor guys manage it all...as the week progressed and more guests arrived that paid for that category, I noticed the same guy at 7 in the morning, was still working well after midnight that night!! They don't have enough butlers for all that booked this category, and I heard alot of people griping that they had to wait and wait to get ahold of theirs. I don't know if they were aware that those poor fellas serviced so many rooms....we were told this by one waitress that we kind of got attached to at the Bayside and we were surprised they'd put that much on one poor guy. That's alot of folks to care for!!
I will say, that the Butlers go OUT of their way to help everyone on that resort. We caught a free ride on many occasions from our room to dinner at night, and the ride to the Piazza from where we were staying was very much appreciated. NICEST PEOPLE working at Sandals WH. The staff ARE AMAZING.
Tipping: I do not know if you are to tip your Butler or not. We tipped only the driver from the airport, and again on our way back once we were leaving. We received such outstanding service from a certain few people (although I have to say, the STAFF at WH will absolutely MAKE your stay...I mean it!! THey are all working so hard and the clueless thing that the Doc had to put up with, is definitely being resolved. We saw daily improvements as the week wore on...will touch on that in a minute.)
I guess use your judgement on the tipping issue, but my personal opinion is to not do it. Fill out those cards at the end of your week and personally mention employees that you feel made your stay wonderful. They get awards and extra days off for getting voted by guests as a good employee, and it's also how they move up the ladder from waiting tables to maybe management. THat was how it was explained to us by several employees, so just bear that in mind.
OK, now onto the FOOD:
Dinners: Here's where it can get kind of tricky. The first 4 nights we were there, Eleanors and Guissepies (the italian) had over 1 hour waits just to be SEATED. When you've just gotten off a plane and travelled all day? That's not what you wanna hear. If you think you'll be hungry by say, 6pm?? I suggest you stop in at 5 and put your name on their list, and go enjoy a drink. Because if you don't get in there by 5pm at either one of these 2 restaurants, you WILL wait. Why???
Well, first of all, the menus at these 2 places are really original. Secondly?? The restaurants themselves are so small, they make the smallest Dennys here in the States look massive. I don't know what the architechs were thinking when they planned out theset places for dining, because as the week wore on, and more and more guests arrived? They had no choice but to set up more tables along the outside piazza area to serve the people their food. I personally think that sucks, because if it's raining? Then what will they do?? Bayside is the largest one on the property and even that will not service the resort when it's fully open. I'm serious....could not believe how SMALL the spaces were for dining options and I think it will become a huge problem in the coming months. Guissepies: AWESOME. They start you with appetizer selection, or you can go up to the antipasto bar which is self serve. On it, there are salad selections, soaked olives and funky veggies, all with different flavors. Cheeses, breads and that kind of thing. They also offer on their menu fresh baked personal sized pizza's, and believe me, you have to split one with your travelling companion just to taste it at least once. We go the one that had mushrooms, olives, onions and some other funky stuff on it, and it was DELICIOUS. This restaurant has chicken dishes, fish and beef entree's to choose from. We both had the Balsamic Vinegrette(sp?) soaked beef tenderloin, served with garlic "smashed" potatos and maple glazed carrots at least twice that week, because the beef was so amazing in it's flavor...it grabs you by your taste buds and slaps you sideways a few times. DELICIOUS. Mike also had the wine soaked grilled marlin there too, which was delicious.
Eleanors: Again, a great selection off the menu for appetizers. We had coconut shrimp with curry sauce and it was delicious....I think Mike tried the shrimp one night and it was very tasty. This restaurant is where you wanna go for lobster. They had a main entree on there that was lobster tails soaked in garlic and wine butter, and trust me...you won't be disappointed!! One night, we couldn't choose between the balsamic beef and the lobster, and they gave us both "surf and turf" by doing a smidge of the meat and 2 small tails (they were dainties), and it was fabulous. Also, try the creamed pumpkin soup. I thought I'd hate it but OMG it was delicious!! Didn't care for the Pepperpot soup at Bayside...tasted too much like ochra to me, but if you like spinach, you'll probably like that soup,.
A little tip: If you do not want to sit for 2 hours, you do not have to go through the whole ordeal of appetizer, soup, salad, entree and dessert if you don't want to. We chose to skip several portions of the menu just because we were starving and it cut down on the sitting time. They have hard iron chairs to sit on, with NO cushions, and believe me...your poor butt will take a beating in those things after a while. Was the running joke all week to pick out the ladies that had shorter skirts on, walking around the resort with permanent imprints on the backs of their legs from sitting for over 2 hours in those hard ass chairs. I started using a napkin on mine so at least I didn't sit on that hard metal in a nice dress. Definitely something I hope they take care of by the time the rest of you go....that's really what made going to dinner such a chore. The LONG LONG wait for dinner, and the LONG sitting in those chairs!!
Bayside for dinner: Bayside offered a decent selection, although as the week wore on and they reprinted menus on regular paper, we noticed the selections were minimizing. One thing I thought really sucked, is that every restaurante offered the EXACT same menu, EVERY SINGLE NIGHT. So if you wanted to eat at a different restaurant every night, but only 2 items appealed to you off their menu?? You were SOL like I was. I'm an adventurous person, but some of the things on the menus at each restaurant didn't appeal to me, so ergo why we tended to eat the same things at least 2 times during the week. This is one thing I think SWH can do something about...at least change it up every other night in each restaurant because if you are going for 10 days to 2 weeks? You WILL tire of the same offerings, night after night.
Carribean Theme Night: This was on our last night, and if you choose to NOT do anything else? DO NOT MISS this event. This was the highlight of our week!! THey had an outdoor buffet set up, with tiki torches, a bar, a steel drum band, a fire dancer/eater guy.....OMG it was so much FUN!!! We had a blast and the band was absolutely incredible. Do not miss this even if you can help it!!
Pools: We hung out all week by the main pool. Alot of folks liked the French pool, but honestly, there was a group from Vermont or Connecticut or somewhere around there, that we were avoiding all week. There was a couple fellas in that group that were so unbelievalby abnoxious, and not that we're prudes by any means? But just listening to that one particular guy CACKLE all the way from the airport on our arrival day, was enough for us to make great efforts to avoid him all week. So, we hung at the main pool all week. Plenty of loungers, but since it started getting more guests toward the end of the week, we started to make it a point to get down there by 8am to reserve a sunning spot with an umbrella. Pool bar service: IMPECCABLE. Fast, Friendly, and always service with a total SMILE. They kept running out of straws while we were there, so just so you guys know you may not get a straw. They were having problems with getting deliveries for certain items, and straws and drink stirrers were on that list of items.
The main pool itself was totally cloudy most of the week. We didn't even know there was writing in tile on the bottom of it until day 6. LOL. We started noticing that the workers there were sort of "stepping up" the pace toward the latter part of our week, and we weren't sure if it was because some big guys were coming to visit? Or maybe it was the big push to get done before March 5th. Not sure, but by the end of the week, we saw a ton of guys getting in the main pool and attaching pumps and filters and pouring chemicals, etc to get it to clear up, and it took 2 full days of that, and we finally could read the word "Sandals" on the bottom of it by our 5th or 6th day there. LOL.
Shopping: Here is where they GET you. The gift shops are not all open yet, but the few that were were really EXPENSIVE. $35 US for a beach towel??? I DON'T THINK SO. LOL. We bought absolutely NOTHING there, and did most of our souvenier shopping in Negril, and also on Carribean Theme Night. They brought in local vendors with wood craft items, Tee shirts, hammocks and the usual trinkets. You will need cash for them...the vendor items are not charged to your room.
My advice? Either prearrange with Talk of the Town, a day trip to Negril (well worth it by the way...will touch on that another time) or, do all of your souvenier shopping at the airport. Excellent prices on all handmade stuff there and a HUGE selection of stuff to buy at the airport. We chose to do most of it in town at the local craft market in Negril, because we like spending our money where the locals are, rather than in the commercial airport. These people bust their asses to make a buck, and we just enjoyed shopping there, and also bought a few things on the WH resort the night they imported the vendors.
You will need to sign up the DAY BEFORE to do watersports, and this does include diving. So make sure you sort of plan your week that way, just so you know. All sign ups are done way past the main pool, past the Tex Mex outdoor restaurant, where the dive shop is. You sign up for all of that there, no matter what water sport you choose.
Ok, so onto the DIVING portion of my review.
We took the $70 resort course on our 2nd day there. My b/f was at one time PADI certified, but had a bad diving accident while in the military in the early 80's and no longer can find his card. So he took the course with me, and I did AWESOME. Went out on our first dive on day 3, and sad to say, it SUCKED. And this is why:
TIP:: Check the condition of the friggen mask and regulator before you attempt this!!
After talking it over, Mike and I decided to go for the PADI course. So all total, we spent $250 a piece to take the course, and it was so easy it wasn't even funny. Went out on a 2nd dive and this time, I checked all my stuff, added an extra lead weight, cinched that belt on good and tight, and used the resorts masks which fit so much better!! THat dive was AMAZING. We went WAYYYYy out there past the resort, to some reef that was different than the first, and got to see all kinds of fish, lobsters, crabs, a couple of eels, and 2 DOLPHINS!!!! YES, DOLPHINS. That was amazing, and I can't wait to see those pics.
So, DiverBob, you'll be happy to know I equalized just FINE, and enjoyed it so much, I'm now PADI certified and am HOOKED on the whole diving experience. Can't wait to go somewhere new now, and do it all over again. Definitely one of the highlights of our vacation. For any of you going diving, you WILL enjoy it.....very cool spots to dive there just by the WH. You'll really like it. We dove at 1pm the first dive, water was murkey. Dove the 2nd dive at 11am and visibility was PERFECT. I suggest the 11am dive if you are going out at all.
Other things I forgot to mention:
During the morning hours and lunch, you can wear your bathing suit with a coverup if you wish....I schlepped around in a bikini and thong sandals, with a long sarong tied at the chest like a wrap dress for the mornings, but in the evenings I dressed nice, sometimes really dressy and others just a nice sundress and heels or sandals. Men will need a shirt of some kind, but can wear swim trunks to the eating spots in the mornings and lunch times.
OH, I almost forgot to mention the Patissirie. AWESOME. WE enjoyed several cappacinos and iced coffees, desserts and whatnot by the pool during the day. Excellent service and you will enjoy this feature. It is by the main pool, as is most everything else, so that's why we chose to hang by the main pool every day. Ease of going to lunch and snacks at 3pm with our iced cappacino's and our feet in the hot tub. Just doesn't get much better does it??
The Whitehouse resort, in 2 years? Is simply put, going to be STELLAR. THe grounds were filling in on a daily basis, even with the drought Jamaica is experiencing right now, and the staff is learning FAST on how to make the guests there HAPPY. THey bust their asses, everyone has a smile, everyone goes out of their way to say Hello.....I'm telling you all: DO NOT WORRY about your trip!! You will LOVE it there. Even with the finishing work that needs to be done, and the kinks worked out with staff or whatever? I have to say, that getting a free week after the incredible stay we had this week? We feel like we robbed the BANK.
That's about all I can think of...I hope I didn't forget anything. Feel free to fire away questions, I'm happy to answer if I can.
Oh, and one more thing on a more personal note. We had a full moon on the night of the 24th while there, and to make my stay in Jamaica even more memorable? Mike asked me to MARRY him. Was the most romantic setting, full moon, a band in the background, we were both dressed really great that night, a drink together, and he proposed with the most gorgeous ring ever. Made me cry and ruin all my makeup. LMAO!! So, in short?
Jamaica will always hold a very special place in my heart.