I was lucky enough to be part of a lovely group of Canadian MICE planners, who spent six days in November exploring Jamaica’s north coast on a MICE fam organized by the Jamaica Tourist Board. The trip focused on the resort offerings in the Montego Bay and Rio Bueno areas, both of which are easily accessible from Montego Bay Sangster International Airport. Beyond the resorts, we also had the chance to visit some unique venues and attractions in the region. It was a full itinerary that left me looking forward to returning to Jamaica!
We got our first taste of Jamaica’s famous hospitality when our WestJet flight landed in Montego Bay and we were greeted by Club MoBay staff and whisked through Customs. Club MoBay is an excellent service to consider for MICE programs. You are treated like a VIP, skip the long lines in Customs, and are on your way to experiencing Jamaica in no time.
We got a second, more literal, taste of Jamaica, when stopped on the way from the airport to our hotel for lunch at Scotchies, a renowned local eatery serving authentic Jamaican cuisine. Widely considered the best “jerk pit” on the island, it is a must-try for foodies.
The group’s accommodations during the trip were provided by the Jewel Grande Montego Bay Resort & Spa, where we stayed the first three nights, and Meliá Braco Village Resort, our host for the last two nights.
The Jewel Grande, a five-star property located in Montego Bay, is part of the Playa Hotels & Resorts Group, which also manages the Hyatt Rose Hall and the Hilton Rose Hall. Opened in December 2018, it is an all-inclusive family resort offering 272 rooms with butler service. It has a mix of junior suites, two- and three-bedroom suites, presidential suites and oceanfront villas in three towers. Towers A and B are more of the English Colonial style with marble flooring and dark wood furnishings. Tower C is the newest building with a more modern Scandinavian design with light woods and colours. All 85 rooms in the C building are oceanfront views. The hotel also has 14 restaurants and bars (perfect for dine-arounds) and seven meeting rooms with natural light that can accommodate 200 people.
At the Meliá Braco Village Resort, we all had Beachfront Deluxe rooms with access to the Club Level. This four-and-a-half-star family all-inclusive resort is located 35 minutes from the airport. It was renovated in 2015 and features 239 guestrooms, including 52 beachfront suites at the Club Level. All rooms are designed with a modern style in lighter colours. On the f&b side, the resort has 11 restaurants and bars, including 876Prime and Nikkei, a Teppanyaki-style Japanese restaurant, both of which require reservations. For groups, it has a conference pavilion that can accommodate up to 250 guests in a banquet setting. There are also three smaller rooms for meetings and events. The resort’s main beach, main lawn and garden can be used for outdoor events.
From these two home bases the group visited 11 resort properties, two unique venues and even fit in a visit to beautiful Dunn’s River Falls.
RESORT SITE VISITS
Hyatt Rose Hall | Hyatt Ziva Rose Hall and Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall
The Jewel Grande’s sister property, Hyatt Rose Hall is a five-star all-inclusive divided into two properties—the family-friendly Hyatt Ziva Rose Hall and the adults-only Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall. In 2017 Playa Hotels added two new sections to the property, which had been a five-star Ritz-Carlton. You can now find 344 rooms at the Zilara and 277 rooms on the Ziva side. Guestroom options include junior suites, swim-up suites and presidential suites. Décor in the rooms is contemporary modern with light colours and marble flooring. Together, the two properties have eight restaurants and a wide range of indoor and outdoor meeting and event spaces.
The four-star all-inclusive Hilton Rose Hall Resort and Spa is located next to the legendary 18th century Rose Hall Plantation. The hotel was renovated in 2017 and offers 495 rooms within two towers with resort view and partial oceanfront and full oceanfront views. In addition to eight restaurants and bars, the property has more than 44,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor event space, including a ballroom that can accommodate up to 500 guests.
One of Jamaica’s most legendary resorts, Half Moon is celebrating its 65th anniversary this year. The resort has 210 luxurious rooms and suites and 27 lavish villas with butler services. But Half Moon’s big news is that it is opening a new luxury resort experience on March 1, 2020. Eclipse at Half Moon joins Founders Cove at Half Moon and Rose Hall Villas to give guests—and planners—a trio of accommodation options at the resort. It is comprised of 57 spacious, luxurious accommodations, two restaurants, three bars, a market café, Fern Tree – A Salamander Spa, an infinity-edge swimming pool, and a private beachfront with a natural swimming cove.
The five-star, adults-only Excellence Oyster Bay Resort opened in June 2018. It located on its own private peninsula surrounded by white sand beaches 30 minutes from the Montego Bay International Airport. This luxurious hotel offers 315 junior suites and five beachfront villas with butler service and individual private pool. The design of the oversized rooms is a modern-contemporary style with a mixture of marble and wood. This hotel is perfect for incentive programs as it offers the preferred Excellence Club, the benefits of which include private check-in/check-out, concierge services, private pool and beach area, private restaurants for breakfast and dinner and lounges areas. The Excellence Oyster Bay recommends groups of a maximum of 80 people (40 rooms).
The four-star all-inclusive Moon Palace Jamaica Resort is located in the bay of Ocho Rios. Opened in 2014, it has completely remodelled all 704 rooms, a meeting room and 35,000-square-foot spa AWE. The remodel saw the addition of 22 presidential two-bedroom suites and a redesign in a modern contemporary style. The AWE spa is impressive with its 23 treatment rooms and a master suite. If you are planning a meeting, the Moon Palace has over 21,000 square feet of reception space including several ballrooms with high ceilings and many outdoor functions areas.
AMResorts’ five-star all-inclusive Secrets Wild Orchid, Secrets St-James and the Breathless Montego Bay Resort and Spa are all next to each other which means, if you book the Preferred Club Access, you have access to the preferred services (Club lounge, private pools, private concierge, upgraded fine liquors and more) at all three properties.
Secrets Wild Orchid has 350 luxurious suites (one king-size or two queen beds), the design of which is more modern and Zen-like. The Secrets St-James offers 350 luxurious suites, each featuring British Colonial décor, a king-size bed or two queen-size beds, a whirlpool tub and a private balcony. The adults-only Breathless Montego Bay Resort and Spa boasts chic design and state-of-the-art technology that gives it a different ambiance from its sister properties. Designed to exceed expectations, the resort’s 150 ultra-chic and lavish suites offer stunning views of mountains and Montego Bay.
Like its guests, planners benefit from the cross-property access. Events can be hosted on the Wild Orchid beach or on the St-James lawn. Bad weather? The Secrets St-James has an 8,000-square-foot ballroom that accommodates up to 500 guests banquet-style. The resorts also share a world-class 15,000-square-foot spa as well as a fitness center and tennis courts.
The 10-year-old, five-star Iberostar Selection Rose Hall Suites is a family resort with 398 rooms and five restaurants. The décor of the rooms leans towards an English Colonial style with darker colours with all the necessary amenities. The Iberostar Suites shares spa facilities and meeting spaces with the Iberostar Grand Rose Hall, which is located just next door. This five-star, adults-only, beachfront hotel has 295 rooms. Amenities include a spa, five restaurants and four bars. It also offers butler service for the ultimate luxury experience.
During our stay, we met with two destination management companies, Island Routes and Jamaica Tours Limited (JTL). Both companies were pleasant to deal with and professional. Their teams are committed to working closely with clients and provide a complete VIP service such as transportation, activities, off-site venues, décor and audio-visual and much more.
Rose Hall Great House
Rose Hall Great House was the residence of “white witch” Annie Palmer, who now haunts the grounds. During our tour, the guide explained that Annie was born in Haiti to an English mother and Irish father and spent most of her life in Haiti. When her parents died of yellow fever, she was adopted by a nanny who taught her witchcraft and voodoo. She moved to Jamaica and married John Palmer, owner of Rose Hall Plantation. Annie murdered Palmer along with two subsequent husbands and numerous male plantation slaves, later being killed herself by a slave named Takoo. This famous house was built in 1770 and has been restored for tours and private events. A marquee set up on the lawn offers a breathtaking view of Rose Hall Plantation and the ocean. (Photo courtesy of Jamaica Tourist Board.)
Montego Bay Convention Center
The Montego Bay Convention Center opened in 2011 and has hosted all kinds of meetings and events. The Center has three different blocks: The Exhibit Hall, the largest space with a capacity of 6,000 theatre-style; nine multi-purpose meeting rooms; and The Ballroom, multifunctional space with full audio-visual capabilities that can be divided into three spaces. All the spaces have high ceilings and a rich maple finish, marble tiles and surround sound audio technology. The nearby mountainous backdrop offers spectacular views along with the gorgeous ocean views which make for happy attendees. An in-house catering team makes f&b easy. (Photo by Ken Williams.)
The Jamaica tourism board is also a great partner to assist you in the planning of your program. I would highly recommend connecting with them first as they can send out your RFP to suppliers. I would like to thank Dan Hamilton from JTB’s Canada office, who was a great host on this wonderful FAM trip.