As some of you know, Wally and I have been vacationing at all-inclusive resorts since 1997. This year we looked into Sandals Grande Rivierain Ocho Rios. We liked what we read about the renovations and the awards it has received. Since this would be a new resort for us, I called our traqvel agent Amy McHugh, to get her opinion. We had several questions, and if she did not have the answer at her fingertips she immediately contacted the resort and got back with us in just a few minutes. Many thanks to Amy for spending time with us during the day as we narrowed our decision down our Sandals Grande Ocho Rios room choices.

After a lot of discussion,we finally decided on Sandals Grande Ocho Rios Ocean Edge Honeymoon Penthouse Beachfront Concierge.

Review: Beach Sandals Grande Riviera Ocho Rios: Before you delve deeper into this review, you should know that if you are looking for a resort where you can stroll along a beautiful white sand beach, Sandals Grande Riviera Ocho Rios is not the best choice for you, and you need to look elsewhere for your all-inclusive resort, possibly Sandals Whitehouse. Since we live at a beach, this is not too important to us. However, if you are pool people and a small stretch of beach is enough for you, you will probably enjoy Sandals Grande Ocho Rios Grande Riviera as much as we did.

Sunday, January 20 must have been a very fgod day to travel to Jamaica.One thing that helped was having seats near the front of the USAir flight out of Charlotte, since we got off the plane before many others. In exactly 30 minutes from the time we entered the Sangster Airport in Montego Bay walked that long walk to Customs, passed through (Welcome Home!) retrieved our luggage and and arrived at the Sandals Lounge.I think this was a first for us.

The bus to Sandals Ocho Rios took about 1.5 hours which included one requested stop. The driver seldom spoke, but he opened a a hanging screen (about 14 inches square) and he played variouis videos of local musicians including Bob Marley which were enjoyable and helped us get into a Jamaican mind-setfor our vcations at Sandals Grande Ocho Rios (Soon come!)

At the Sandals Ocho Rios entrance, we were offered warm washcloths and glasses of champagne. We were greeted by Lennox, our Concierge, who escorted to our room. (See arrival photos.) As you can see from the photos, the view from our balcony is absolutely stunning!

We wanted to visit qas many restaurants as possible while we were there. We missed a few, but here's our llist:

10 nights - 10 Restaurants = 10 Reviews!!

Review of Sandals Grande Ochi Restaurants

Bayside Sandals Grande Riviera Review - This restaurant converts very nicely from a breakfast/lunch buffet into dramatic outdoor evening setting. I had Surf 'n Turf, Wally ordered lamb chops. Both were delicious! The lobster was perfectly cooked, and with allowances for steak in Jamaica not being what we have come to expect in the US, it was good too!

China Doll Sandals Ochis Review- Beautifully decorated, great atmosphere! Certainly one of my favorites. I love stir fried anything, and there were so many options on the menu that it was much too difficult to choose. If we could have been there longer, this would have been at the top of my list for a return visit.

Neptune's Sandals Ochi Review - We both enjoyed the food and service here. The tables and chairs are directly on the sand, and the atmosphere is casual. Wally and I both ordered the baked snapper. We have plenty of good fresh-caught seafood in Myrtle Beach, which we enjoy often. However, snapper and sea bass are not ommonly caught here locally, and are found only at the better restaurants where they are not inexpensive. So you'll see "snapper" and "sea bass" turn up a lot on my restaurant reviews.

Valentino's Sandals Ochi Grande Riviera Review - I ordered the Sea Bass, and Wally enjoyed a rack of Lamb. The food was very good, but the service was excruciatingly slow and the waiter was not paying attention. We got off to a timely beginning (water, wine, bread) but then things slowed down to the point where we were sure we had been forgotten. When I looked around, trying to catch someone's eye, I discovered that all the waiters in the restaurant seemed in a hurry. I hope this is not the image Sandals is trying to create - Class with with a capital C. White gloves, lovely atmosphere, upscale dining, sophisticated staff and amenities. But something here is not clicking. The flow was off-kilter. I know from reading reviews on my own Myrtle Beach Message Board that restaurants can and do have off-nights, and hopefully that was the case.

Sabrina's Market Place Sandals Ochi Grande Riviera Review - The night we chose to visit Sabrina's was also the evening they were entertaining a large table of 20+ people. That may exzplain why our lobster was a little dry and a bit mealy.

Reef Terrace Sandals Ochi Grande Riviera Review - Excellent! Unbeatable setting over the water, delicious food and impressive service. Another favorite!

Kelly's Dockside Sandals Ochi Riviera Review - We had a corner table where we watched the sun as it was setting. It's llocated in a lovely setting. Weboth ordered the mahi-mahi which was delicately cooked to bring out the flavor of the seasonings. We enjoyed it very much.

Returning Guest Dinner (Wed.) Review - There was nothing special about the blanc chicken breast. We were seated next to a Canadian couple who had attended the same function the week before and they had enjoyed Surf 'n Turf. The really strange thing about this dinner was the Sandals representative seated across the table. We have no idea who she was! She never looked at us. Never made eye contact, nor any effort to introduce herself. She chatted with the couple seated next to her, and when the dinner ended we assumed she would greet up. But she disappeared. That's a first for us. Oh well....we really enjoyed chatting  with the Canadian couple. I hope they will see this review and get in touch with me. We received a bottle of Appleton Rum at dinner, and two t-shirts appeared in our room thge next day.

The Manor Review Sandals Ocho Rios (Great House) was another beautiful surprise for us. What a lovely spot, near the big pool, with softly romantic lights reflecting off the water. This is a lovely setting with very good food and service. It's another restaurant wwe would visit again, given the opportunity.

Kimono's Sandals Ochi Review- This Japanese restaurant was a lot of fun, and way too much food. If you've been to one of these restaurants in the past, you know they are all much alike. But the food was better here than some others we have visited. Each chef has their own presentation and personality, so they interact differently with guests at their table. The food was very good, and it was a fun evening. Thanks to Lennox, our Concierge, who spared nno expense to treat us to dinner and drinks here. (Hey, we love you, man)

Desserts at Sandals Ochi (review) They are all prettier than they taste!

Bananas - The banana trees were destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. Soon come back next year!

Chocolate Night at Sandals Ochi (review) - Wednesday, directly following the returning guest dinner. Very popular event. Lots of chocolate everywhere!

No mosquito bites! (A first for me!)

Plenty of floaties at every pool, but adding fresh water every day keeps the temperature too cold for many folks who would otherwise take a plunge.

Review: Couples Massage - Sandals has always done a good job with their Red Lane menu of services. Wally and I enjoyed the Couples Massage. It was very relaxing and thorough. I thought this year we might have escaped the "product push" since nothing was mentioned during the massage. But no. When the massage was completed, I was asked what skin products I currently used, and I responded that I have been using the Obage product line for several years. I politely declined the purchase of two recommended products for my dry skin. products were also offered to Wally, but he said it was a "soft sale pitch" and as soon as he said "no thanks," the products immediately disappeared.

Sandals Ochi #1 strength: The friendly staff and employees, followed bt the gorgeous location. I don't think we could have found a Concierge any better suited to us than Lennox Lawrence. Our personalities just clicked, and as I mentioned on Lennox's Facebook, the first day we had a Concierge.  By the end of our vacation, we sadly left our new friend.

Many thanks to other Sandals staff members who made us feel at home...Dayna, Demar, Marva, Nayoka, Charlette, Nayoka, Aruilla, Radu, Camiel, Hollie, and all those I missed mentioning by name. This turned out to be one of our favorite Sandals resorts. As Wally said, "Everywhere you turn, you find something unexpected and beautiful."

A word about our travel agent: I used to book all our all-inclusive vacations myself. But after meeting Amy McHugh with DreamMakers Vacation Services several years ago, I would not go on vacation without her input. Amy has been a huge help to us for several years. Travel agents don't charge client fees, and they are invaluable, especially when it comes to all-inclusive resorts. A perfect example...this year I forgot all aoout counting day and when we were awarded our Gold Sandals at the returning guest dinner. I was overwhelmed. Amy knew it would be a surprise to us, but without her I'm certain we would not have received the gold sandals at that dinner. Thank you, Amy, for the pass to Club MoBay, the Red Lane credit, and for making sure we were happy with our vacation choice! (Yes, we loved it!)

The return trip to the airport was direct, without anyone wanting to make a stop. The driver entertained us with Jamaican history, folklore and even a couple songs! The wait at the airport was made a lot easier by having passes to Club MoBay (Thanks again, Amy!)

Complaints:

Lighting and bathroom. The bathrooms in the Riviera Beachfront rooms need to be replaced. I read complaints about darkness in the room and bathroom a few times before we booked the room, but I wondered "Hey, it's Sandals....how bad can it really be?" Well, it can be really bad. There is one sink (even though there is room for two.) The wall behind the sink has no lights....just a mirror. The shower is in the tub. I'm not exaggerating when I say it's a one-person bathroom, and I'm not complaining because we're overweight. We're not. There is only one overhead dimly-lit light. Girls, don't even think of applying makeup in this bathroom or in the room. You'll need to do it on the balcony. In defense of the staff, they did have someone replace the bathroom light bulbs with brighter ones, which helped a little, but it did not really make a lot of difference.

The cost of Wi-Fi should be included, just like water and electricity. This is especially true at an all-inclusive. The fee is $42.99 for 7 days. Then we are punished for adding 3 more days onto our vacation, which results in daily charges after the first 7 expire. It was especially irksome on this vacation since I was using many hours of my Internet service to post live information and photos promoting this resort on Dream With Us Travel I was not surprised to hear several other guests complain about the charges. It's not the money so much as it is the principle. I'd rather see Sandals include that wi-fi cost into the basic resort fee rather than wondering why on earth I'm paying $43. for 7 days of wi-fi when I'm at an all-inclusive resort.

Sandals, it's bad taste to knock your competition! We were on the Glass Bottom Boat tour, returning to Sandals Ocho Rios along the coast. The young guide pointed out what we were seeing. "There's Sans Souci, which means 'without care' " he said. He should have stopped right there. "But," he went on to say, "Sans Souci attracts only the very young and the very old. And it costs more than Sandals." Huh?? Am I hearing this right? I really wanted to ask this kid how many times stayed there, but knew the answer would be "never." I decided not to make him uncomfortable. Sandals, you have a great product which you should promote without the need to take a swipe at Couples, your next door neighbor. Wally and I have been to all the Couples resorts, and in Feb. 2011 we spent 10 nights at Couples Sans Souci. As a matter of fact, all ages were represented, we enjoyed a wonderful vacation, the wi-fi was included, and the cost was less than Sandals. Sandals, every employee who interacts with you guests represents the entire Sandals resort chain. Be careful what you say. It can backfire.

Club MoBay Review Before we boarded our flight home, we spent about 2 hours in Club Mobay You can see 3 photos at the bottom of page 3. You'll enjoy the Fast Track service through immigration and security, then you can relax in one of three individually themed lounges with premium bar, snack counter, business centre, Wi-Fi, international cable TV. You can find more information here,

Bottom line: We would love to return to Sandals Ocho Rios. It turned out to be one of our favorite Sandals Resorts! !

Sandals Grande Riviera Review,
Ocho Rios, Jamaica

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Sandals Ocho Rios, 2013
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