Archive for the ‘Jamaica’ Category
A friend of mine recently went to Secrets Wild Orchid Resort – Montego Bay Jamaica for his honeymoon. His vacation was well — not quite what they expected. I asked his permission to reprint his review for you. (Thanks, Perry!)
Basic summary of the resort: Secrets Wild Orchid and its accompanying Secret St. James Resorts are in a prime beach/ocean front location. While the beach appears to be man-made it does face west allowing a spectacular view of the sunset in the evenings. The accommodations were reasonable and on par with 4 apples. It does not offer a high level of luxury or a wide variety of high quality dining or amenities. Most of the higher end features are actually NOT included in the All-Inclusive resort. Please continue reading the rest of the review below that will add details to this review.
Arrival at the airport went fine and we were directed to the Apple Vacations staff. The greeter at the airport was friendly and helped us get on the bus to the resort. Check-in at the resort went smoothly, the bell hops and the check in staff were friendly and hospitable. We were offered drinks and a snack while we waited the 20 minutes to get checked in the Preferred Club. We had the Eternity Honeymoon package and thanks to my wonderful travel agent Rhonda at Travel Leaders, we did not have trouble getting this package (execution was poor, more on this later). We were told to meet with our Apple Representative Courtney in the main lobby later that afternoon. Overall reasonably friendly and accommodating. This was about as expected.
Courtney outlined the various packages in a very broad manner. He did not offer many details, in fact he told us to read about them on our own time. In my opinion he was only concerned about selling excursions, did not care about the quality of our stay, and at times was rude and offensive toward my wife. He left a very bitter taste in my mouth about Apple Vacations as he was the only representative from Apple Vacations we met on the resort.
One cannot help but feel we were only worth what we were spending on outside excursions that required separate payment. Overall he was not helpful, uncaring, at times rude, and generally gave us the feeling that once we paid he didn’t care. This was very poor service and hurts the Apple Vacations name.
Just a quick note – other than being closer to dining establishments and a quieter beach I did not feel there was any benefit what-so-ever to the preferred club. The special snack bar/ liquor area was open access to anyone. The food sits out for long periods and I suggest caution in consuming it. SPECIAL THANKS AND GRATITUDE TO ZEON THE BARTENDER in the preferred club lounge He made our stay special, always filled our drinks, tried to make us unique concoctions, and shared stories with us almost every night. He was quite simply the best person we interacted with at the entire resort. Several of the other staff could learn hospitality from him. The computers that were supposed to be for preferred members only were also open access (anyone can walk in and use any facilities). This did not matter to my wife and I, but it is worth mentioning that it wasn’t anything special.
The Beach and View
We were on the 4th floor in the preferred club. Rm 1418. It had a great view from the balcony and beautiful sunsets. The beach had beautiful white sand, it looked like it had some erosion problems when it rained, but overall was not too rocky and the water was a magnificent clear blue. These are intrinsic to the resort and the place definitely has all the intangibles. There were plenty of shaded lounge chairs and sun chairs to catch the sun. The Wild Orchid Preferred Club area was quiet and comfortable. There were no activities on this end of the resort. There were wilder partiers and activities in the St. James area but not at Wild Orchid. At times you didn’t feel part of the fun, but it was a relaxing area which was good for a honeymoon. The ocean had some beautiful fish in the shallow water, just be careful of the jellyfish which were present in high numbers on occasion. There was a staff person bringing drinks about every hour and a half on the preferred club side. I got the feeling they would have come by more often but the bar was on the opposite side of the beach. Neither us nor the server really wanted to walk all the way over to the bar. Overall this aspect of the preferred club was fabulous and definitely a plus.
Restaurant and Food –
This was very disappointing. In brief, the Jamaican classics such as Jerk Chicken were great. Other meals were ok or slightly above chain restaurants. Others are a disaster, and honestly at this level resort is totally unacceptable.
Breakfast – Aside from some of the continental items in the preferred club the World Café was the basic choice for breakfast. They have a large choice of meats, cheeses, fruit, breads, an omelet station, French toast, eggs etc. Overall breakfast was very good because its easy, seemed fresh, and most people aren’t looking for miracles at breakfast. Toward the end of breakfast things are still good but they are warming up which could result in some dangerous situations.
Lunch – Oceana was good with what appeared to be made to order lunch although you get the strong feeling its all premade and that it sits for long periods at tropical temps. The world café has a tremendous variety (with lots of terrible food) but absolutely none of it is executed well. For example I do not expect stale tortilla chips with cheese whiz, burgers that were steamed and resembled a hot-lunch plate from elementary school. They were bad! They also have loads of sandwiches with mayo, pasta salads, and all sorts of what I consider very poor “American” lunch items. If you check the temperature all of the food is warm or at 85F. This was a significant health issue. I am a Ph.D. microbiologist and I took great care to avoid things that I felt were unsafe. Unfortunately, I GOT FOOD POISONING! (we are not talking mild issues people experience). Either from the lunch buffet or from dinner. It was terrible just terrible. I had a night from hell with diarrhea, cramps, shaking chills, and a high fever. I had to visit the doctor the next day… more on that in a minute. If you want to see the cleanliness or lack there of, take note of this… None of the salt shakers work, at least not very well. You’ll need the salt as the food is way way under seasoned. Open the salt shaker by unscrewing the top, you’ll notice the caking from the moisture but you’ll also see some horrible black or brown dirt, it’s gross. If the salt shaker isn’t clean lets just say the food areas are serious hazards. The thing is the resort hasn’t been open long so this is disturbing. In the evening, the restaurants were ok…. We enjoyed Portofino the Italian restaurant and Bordeaux the French restaurant, they were good. The menus were limited and there was a feeling of banquet style cooking…. You know pre-made items mass produced. In short it’s sort of a step up from the Olive Garden. Himitsu the tepanyaki dining experience was a joke. I have had some great experiences in the U.S. and I’ve had bad chefs too, none of them were as bad as this “best guy they have” There are no tricks, no spinning eggs, catching shells, flipping shrimp tails, no onion stacks…. Just a bunch of silverware banging and tapping the salt shaker, I mean I have no experience and I could do as good, or better than our chef. They don’t even make the fried rice fresh. This should not be called Tepanyaki. Overall, some food wasn’t horrible but also didn’t seem up to the level of what should be expected. They can do classic Jamaican dishes such as jerk chicken and pork pretty well especially at Blue Mountain, but you get the feeling they had an executive chef they hired for a day or two to show everyone who had little training how to make the food and then they left. I still can’t figure out if the resort even has a qualified Chef. If there is one on staff are they comfortable with the quality of food because it’s not really even 4 Apple quality. If that wasn’t bad enough, there house wine is absolutely positively terrible. I don’t even know why they serve it. Here is the catch, you can get a decent bottle but that will cost extra generally around 50 dollars a bottle. While I understand why you have to buy a good bottle, it’s almost mandatory as the house wine is so very bad. We do want to give kudos to Andrae at Portofino as he was absolutely fantastic, and by far the best service we had in any of their restaurants. Monique our hostess at Portofino was also fantastic. Room service is totally forgettable, it might save you a trip or feed you if you miss lunch or dinner but the selection is terrible, and the quality is poor.
Special Packages – Eternity Honeymoon package – I would never buy this it doesn’t measure up
This would have been great except for some glitches. Here are some notes:
Champagne on arrive – this is for every guest not just you
Fresh flowers and fruit basket in room on arrival – Flowers came on day 2 we NEVER got a fruit basket
Champagne breakfast – we got that as scheduled (wasn’t the first morning, not that it mattered) and it was pretty good
Couples Massage – had it scheduled but food poisoning ruined it and was cancelled
Couples Facial – Very good, spa service was a delight
Private Beach front dinner – we booked the Gazebo then had to reschedule and they rebooked us in the gazebo …. We went to dinner and it was all of a sudden on the beach. That might have been ok but they put us in front of a volleyball net on the beach next to a muddy puddle ridden volleyball court. This really wasn’t that close to the ocean either. We made the best of it, but it was tacky and seems like the staff didn’t think through this very well. We were also supposed to get a bottle of wine and they gave my wife 2 glasses (I wasn’t drinking) and then told her she drank it all (not true there are at least 4 glasses in the bottle?!) The rose petal path and the special romantic atmosphere in your room after dinner was never done. We got the petit fours maybe once or twice during our stay. Ultimately, they seem to be going through the motions on the honeymoon packages. If I had paid the separate 700-800 dollars for that package I would have been irate. So much for that Apple Comp.
Medical Care – Got the feeling the staff was dishonest in diagnosis
The nurse was ok and took the history of food poisoning fine, took temperature etc. After it was 103F she called the doctor. 30 to 40 minutes later the doctor arrives, listens to my symptoms which were classic food poisoning (they didn’t know I was a Ph.D. microbiologist/ Medical Laboratory Scientist or that my wife is a nurse, BSN). She proceeds to give me a half-assed 3 test urinalysis and tells me I have a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI). I’m sorry but this was ridiculous, I had no urinary symptoms, my urinalysis was normal, and I had classic symptoms of food poisoning. They treated me with the same antibiotic and for cramping and dehydration. We didn’t make a big deal because the antibiotic they gave me was the same for food poisoning. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out if they said I had food poisoning they would have to investigate while UTI they could ignore. I think it was a cover-up. There were at least 2 other people (probably more) that had food poisoning and one was complaining very loudly to management about how his wife hated his vacation and never wants to travel again. This was not isolated to my situation and clearly didn’t seem like they cared. The whole time I was in the office the nurse was following up on patients with illness, after I got sick they never even bothered to check if I was ok and I was very ill.
Room and Accommodations
The room was excellent, was comfortable and definitely a positive homey experience. As a married couple the toilet accommodations were fine, but I am not sure such an open experience would be good for dating couples and those not in serious committed relationships. Also having had food poisoning they get extra points for having decent toilet paper.
Our room was cleaned appropriately and housekeeping was good when you could get them to clean. Either they wanted to clean when we were in the room or when we asked them to come back they “forgot” to come back. For the most part if we called and made a point to have them come back housekeeping did a fine job. Turn down service was hit and miss. This wasn’t really a concern for us but did want to be thorough with our experience.
In room Mini-bar for preferred club rooms
Overall they were pretty good about keeping the soda and water stocked. Liquor was hit and miss. One day they didn’t give me any alcohol despite me asking for vodka and rum. Another time they told me they did not have juice for the mini-bar, yet other patrons did get juice and it was on the mini-bar cart. One time they told me they didn’t have any liquor today. I don’t mind either way as long as it’s consistent for all guests. Tipping didn’t seem to play a role which is a good thing. Consistency on delivering our mini-bar was definitely lacking.
I feel that you get what you pay for in the spa. You have to pay for services but they do a great job. You shouldn’t hesitate to use the spa just realize its all extra.
The live performances in the evening were nice and definitely were worth watching, they didn’t usually start on time but they were very good. Nothing incredible but adequate. The sunset cruise excursion was worth it and gave us some great pictures in the sunset. I would highly recommend the cruise even though it was delayed 30 minutes, we still had a great time.
The hallways to the rooms flood with the rain, and the elevators do not work. One was down the whole week and the other was working only half the time. This led to slick walks down the wet stairs. Only a matter of time till someone gets hurt. The pink privacy light cannot be seen in the sun during the day. This makes it completely ineffective.
Check out and trip back to the airport:
Courtney from Apple scheduled a very aggressive time-table to return to the airport. When we asked about going earlier he said “it won’t be a problem, if it is you can stay at my house”. Well another passenger on the bus didn’t check out properly and forced our bus to return to pick him up from the resort. This put us another 20 minutes behind schedule. After going through checkin, baggage checking, security we arrived at the terminal with about 10 minutes before boarding. This was after we ran like mad men to get to the gate. This was a very close call our Apple rep needs to listen to the customers after-all we are the ones that need to fly.
The resort has a great beach, beautiful ocean, great sunsets, and an excellent room. These are probably worthy of the 6 apple rating. The food is disappointing in quality. Selection is extremely limited except the buffets which I believe are very unsafe from a health stand point, and they did not seem to care in the least about solving these issues when I got food poisoning. The packages offered by the resort seem like they are following the letter of the service without regard to common sense. You can have dinner on the beach, but we put it on a volleyball court with a view of the net and standing puddles. In some cases, they don’t even bother to fulfill their obligations and it’s simply not worth pestering them to do give you what’s missing (it seems like it’s a big inconvenience for them). Ultimately we were able to enjoy the honeymoon, but we felt we overpaid for a “luxurious resort” its probably a 4 apple resort with a huge price tag. Additionally no amount of money is worth dealing with food poisoning especially when several patrons experienced the same problems. All in all we made the best of it but felt very misled by Apple Vacations and Secrets Wild Orchid. The resorts ratings need to be reduced immediately to stop misleading customers. The best aspect of my experience of this whole process was having a great travel agent in Rhonda from Travel Leaders. She was understanding and did her very best to help make things smooth before and after our return.