OCHO RIOS, JAMAICA
JAMAICA FOR A DAY AI SUNSET GRANDE RESORT
We were very worried about this port and I had a previous bad experience there before so we decided that if we were even going to get off the ship, it was going to have to be an AI resort that didn’t allow “pushers” in.
I tried to do a lot of research on this and came up short of anyone that could really review this place. It seemed like tons of people have booked with Jamaica for a Day, but couldn’t tell me about this particular resort. I read both good and bad things on Trip Advisor, but thought “what the heck” and booked. It seemed like most of the “complaints” came from those with problems with their rooms…and hey, I wasn’t getting a room, just using their facilities.
When booking, the price was $60 for an adult and $40 for a child. You are required to put down a $20 deposit for each person no matter the age. Then you pay the remaining amount when you arrive at the resort. You can get transportation provided by them for $9 a person. That’s to and from together for only $9. Since I didn’t know how far it was from the port, I decided this was a good idea and booked it too (was paid along with the deposit at the time of booking). Plus I didn’t know what a cab ride would cost for the 5 of us there and back if I did it on my own. It’s about a 10 minute ride there and you can see the ship right there in port from the resort and we loved that. Once we booked online, we were sent a confirmation notification that they received our payment and would be “emailing” our resort pass within 24 hours. After 24 hours, I had not received it and emailed them. They responded very quickly to let me know they were running a little behind but not to worry and they would get it right out to me (and she did). They also tell you to print 2 copies. One for the ride there and one for the ride back (although we didn’t need to show anyone anything on the way back, but they say to do it as a precautionary).
When we made it to the pier, we ask for the Jamaica for a Day operator and were told to wait inside the gated area for someone. We waited for about 20 minutes or so and then I ask again. There was another couple also waiting for the same bus. I think we must have waited about 45 minutes or so before our bus finally came. The papers tell you to be waiting at the port at 9am and that is when they would be leaving for the resort. Obviously they were running late.
Upon arrival, we checked in and paid the remaining amount of our fees and were issued an armband and also some tokens for resort towels. I had completely forgotten that we didn’t need our towels and had brought the ship towels with us. Also they ask us when we wanted to be picked back up to return to the ship and we told them 4pm was a good time.
I have to say, the place is GORGEOUS!!! The entrance is grand, the décor is beautiful, it really looks like a nice resort. The grounds were also VERY beautiful. I could not believe how many pools this place had. They had pools within pools. Private little area pools and huge pools. Pools under slides, pools under bridges, fountain type pool, you name it. Everything was landscaped very nice as well.
The dining area was a HUGE, very TALL, open area. The buffet was very large and PLENTY of seating there. You are right beside the pools and right in front of the ocean. Very nice. We did see people painting up in the rafters and such AFTER we had all ate and everyone was out of the way.
I loved the food. Very tasty and they had tons of it. Everything you could think of and the jerk chicken was fabulous! The only “rule” they had was you HAD to be dressed and have shoes on in that area to eat (understandable) but we found tons of people that were still in their bathing suits and was told to come back dressed.
Since this was an AI, it included your drinks too. We could drink soda all day or alcohol all day. It came with the resort pass. I have to say my favorite was the “dirty banana” drink. Yummy. They made virgin strawberry drinks for my little one and she loved it.
We couldn’t find an actual lay down beach chair by the time we arrived. I think all the resort people had already taken them. But we could find plenty of regular sit up chairs…which is always fine with us since we really don’t stay in a chair long and would rather be on the beach, in the ocean or in the pool. So we just found a spot by a landscaped area and put our things and had a chair there (plus you could sit on the wall).
The beach is kinda small, but had plenty of chairs. They also had some type of cabana things and I bet it’s pretty at night because they all had lights around them (like the little white Christmas lights). They also came with tables.
The ocean had a sandy bottom, so not great for snorkeling, but there was areas that had sea grass at the bottom of them. I managed to find several crabs in those areas…so watch where you walk or have water shoes on. We did manage to see a few schools of small minnow type fish and a few other fish.
The resort provides the HUGE round rings (something like Styrofoam) to use. They are free of charge. You just have to find one to use it. When we first got there, there were plenty and we waited until later, then there wasn’t any. So we missed out on just floating around on one of them.
To the right of the resort, when facing the ocean, there is a water sports place that you can rent jet skis, take a boat tour and so on. They do stay in their spot but will try to lure you in to purchase a ride or whatever. Just keep walking and you’ll be fine. They aren’t allowed to actually come on to the property or the beach in front of the property.
The water slide…it’s massive huge and looks like a lighthouse. There are 2 different slides that come out of it and it’s quite the haul to get up there. It’s inside the light house and a winding staircase. I booked this AI knowing that my 3 year old was going to love this. When we got to the top a very rude man told me she was not allowed to go down. Everyone had to be at least 48” tall to go on the slides. He would not even let me go down with her. You are only allowed 1 person at a time. He was VERY rude about it and I walked away upset and my daughter was in tears. The rest of the day we had to deal with her pointing at the slides and crying to go on them. This is when parenting gets creative trying to divert her attention to something else to make her forget about it. Ugh! So that was the ONLY bad experience I really had at the resort that day.
Toward the end of the day, they had a live band playing and they were playing “music games”. It was hilarious. They would play the beginning of a song that everyone would know and sing it and then stop and you had to keep singing it and name the song. It was hilarious and entertaining.
Now on to the “sketchy” part of the day…LOL There was a lady that my husband had ran in to that ask if he wanted to have our 3 year olds hair braided. He told them it was a possibility and she quoted him a price of $35 for her entire head. He told her that he would tell me about it (because he knew I was wanting this done) and get back to her.
I had ask several other resort visitors how much they paid for their children’s hair to be done and they had told me it was $4 a braid and it seemed to be costing around $60 a person for their entire head to be braided. When my husband told me $35, I decided it was a good idea. When I found this lady later, she said she would do it for $25 and I told her yes in about an hour or so we would find her. She let us know where to find her (off the resort area of course).
When I went to find her, she wasn’t there and it was just a bunch of men hanging out in the area and they told me to come back in 10 minutes and she should be back. I figured I would wait until I seen her pass again. When I found her, she ask us to follow her to the place just around the corner (by the jet ski rental shop) and she would braid her hair there. When we went around there, it was pretty nasty and a dump. There was a broken down boat back there, men hanging out smoking pot, and trash bags everywhere. It made me a little leery but there was 5 of us there so a little at ease…until….a Jet Ski pulled up and she hurried and put my daughter down off the chair and said “whatever you do, don’t tell them I’m braiding her hair” and then she hid. Another lady that was back there ducked down behind my husband and hid. I started to get a little freaked out at this point. The guy on the Jet Ski was a police officer and he got off and walked up toward the rental building. Once he got out of sight, she said “I’ll be back when the coast is clear” and took off running down the beach. Um…ok. At that point my daughter had 2 braids in her hair and we just stood there like, are we going to get in trouble for something we don’t know about???
We waited about a half hour after the police left and could see her in the distance and kept wondering if she was ever going to return to finish her hair. When she did, she told me that the police didn’t like her and they would get her for not having a license to braid hair and they all knew her.
She then said she was going to take us “somewhere safe that we wouldn’t be bothered”. YIKES. She had us walk up to the rental building and we walked along the back side of it between the building and a huge privacy fence. It was long and dark and at that point I was freaking out even more. I kept telling my oldest daughter, “I’m not liking this at all”. When we got to the other side, there was a bunch of locals sitting at a card table playing dominos and just hanging out. She put my daughter up on a bench and continued to braid her hair. We had some long discussions with her and she was very nice and my mind was finally put at ease at that point. The guys went over to check out the “game” at the table and they were all friendly as well. Not pushy on buying “stuff” but did ask. Now from this area I found that the resort actually went a lot further than I realized. We could see the other half of the resort from on top of this little hill that I didn’t know existed and had seen pictures on their website before. There was a beautiful area with a covered area and flowers everywhere that went out over the water (like an island type) and people get married there. They had a beach area over there too and you could snorkel on that side of the wall. Maybe that’s where I should have been in the first place. We watched people snorkeling up and down that area and I could see tons of rocks in the water. Now I wish I would have explored a little more. In the end, my daughter’s hair was done and she actually took $22 for it. Then my 23 year old daughter had hers done after that.
When it was time to leave, we stopped by the resorts store inside the building to get some tee shirts and souvenirs of our visit to Jamaica.
Our driver was out front waiting for us as promised but this time we were in a HUGE Greyhound type bus. We were the only ones on the bus on the way back. It was a nice bus and we got back in plenty of time to get back on the ship.
When we went into the little building where you show your cruise ID’s to the authorities, they pulled my daughter and her boyfriend aside and did a “search” on them. No clue why or if they just randomly pick people to do that to. Maybe he looked like a drug lord or something to them…he does have a lot of tattoos. LOL But all was good.
All in all, I would definitely recommend this place to anyone. It was a lovely day and I’m happy to finally report back about this place for others to know what it is like.
Here are the rest of my pictures: http://kimbakersphotography.smugmug.com/Other/Ocho-Rios-Jamaica/22279178_k5Tzn2#!i=1780052789&k=fj4CZK2