Tuesday, September 28, 2010

RESORT REVIEW: Grand Palladium Lady Hamilton

Trip date: August 21-28, 2010  
Location: Lucea, Jamaica

Beach Junkies rating (out of 5 stars):
Beach: 3.5 / Food: 5 / Room: 4 / Pools: 5 / Snorkeling: 5

We found a great deal to Grand Palladium Lady Hamilton for a one bedroom suite flying into Montego Bay with Air Transat. For this trip we were traveling with two other couples, one of them brought along their 22 month old little boy. Our sold out flight left Toronto at 12:45 pm and we arrived on time in Montego Bay at 3:45 pm. Customs and getting our luggage was quick. Let me warn you that there is one washroom before you hit customs but you have to wait because everyone from the plane is trying to use it. There is another one after customs but it is a single stall. We found our bus and had our luggage loaded in a separate trailer truck that would be following the bus. We have never experience so many people going to one resort. There was two buses going to the resort. We arrived at GPLH around 5:30 pm.

Check in
We were greeted with a glass of rum punch. Check in went smooth and quickly. Our group all got rooms in the same building. We got our map, room cards and activities schedule. We grabbed a whole golf cart to bring all seven of us plus our luggage to building 33. When you view the resort map, everything looks so far away but it’s not. After a short ride, we dropped off our luggage, checked out room and the view from the balcony, or should I say two balconies.

We were assigned to building 33. We got room #3330 on the top floor facing Coral Beach and the adult pool. One couple was in the room next to us in room #3331 and the other couple with the child was in room #3318 on the second floor. All of us booked a one bedroom suite. This suite includes a living room area with a pull out sofa, TV, two chairs, table and desk where the mini bar can be found (two bottles of wata, two cokes, two sprite, two diet coke, one bigga orange and two Red Stripe); a bedroom with a king bed, desk and TV; huge closet with a safe, beach towels and bathrobe; a bathroom with stand up shower, toilet and jacuzzi; and lastly, two balconies, one off of the living room and the other one from the bedroom. We loved the location of our room, therefore when we realized the air conditioning wasn’t working, we didn’t complain. We didn’t want to have to move rooms in case it couldn’t be fixed. We endured a very hot two nights but after my hubby turned off the A/C, it stopped circulating warm air and cooled down the room immediately, or it could be that someone came to fix it slightly (we did mention to the front desk and our tour rep but we didn’t want to make a big deal out of it). The sofa bed was a tad dirty, the bed was hard but bearable. We loved the pillows and there were many channels available to watch. There are some standard toiletries in the bathroom and the water pressure in the shower was great, better than my own at home. Building 33 is right beside the adult pool and bar and a very short walk to the beach. It’s about a 5-7 minute walk to the lobby or to Sunset Cove.

The food at the resort is amazing! Anyone who disagrees with me must be the world’s pickiest eater. I did some research ahead of time to find out what the theme nights were at the buffet. In our group, some of us had special requests - to eat at the buffet on Jamaican night and for me, on Mexican night. I’ll explain our favorites for breakfast and lunch and then give you a breakdown of what we ate each night for dinner. Note that if you are booked with Imperial Club with Transat Holidays (white bracelet), you are entitled to five a la carte reservations per week. An added touch is in front of the buffet, they have a listing of what dishes they are offering at the buffet.

Breakfast - made to order, omelettes, french toast, bacon, ackee and salt fish, rice and peas, smoked salmon, hard boiled eggs, chocolate donuts, chocolate croissants

Lunch at the Buffet - it just your usually buffet fare. I liked to make made to order panini sandwiches.

Lunch at Poseidon - you must try the jerk pork, it’s super spicy hot but really good. The fish tacos are delicious too. This is an outdoor restaurant so it can get very hot in the place even with the fans going on. There is also an ice cream machine here.

Lunch at the Jerk Hut - The line up is long but worth it. You can either eat your plate of food on the beach or bring it to Poseidon. You can get Jerk chicken, corn on the cob and paella.

Jamaican night at the Buffet - this is the best themed night all week. It’s on Saturday night so make sure you don’t schedule an a la carte dinner, better yet, check with the reservations desk to find out the exact night, just in case they change it. At the buffet you can find, curry goat, jerk chicken and pork, rice and peas, collard greens, coleslaw and yummy banana fritters covered in cinnamon sugar or chocolate.

Lotus - the Asian restaurant had too many items to select from, it was hard to decide. Some of the dishes we ate were: Wakame Salad (a fave), Tempura Soba, Vit Quay (Crispy Duck served with pancakes and Hoisin sauce) and Japanese Fried Rice. Any of the Maki rolls are equally delicious.

Mexican night at the Buffet - yummy steak and chicken fajitas. There was also tacos, Mexican rice, quesadillas and so much more.

Gala night at the Buffet - I was very disappointed with this themed night. In most other resorts, Gala night = lobster or lots and lots of seafood. There was none of this and really, nothing that stood out to make it a gala night. I would make sure to book an a la carte for this themed night.

French night at the Buffet - also another disappointing night. I will admit that the beef bourguignon was good but nothing else. This was the night that we were suppose to eat at the seafood restaurant, Poseidon but we missed our reservation.

Bhogali - this Indian restaurant was probably our favorite restaurant. The service was much slower here but it didn’t matter to us. It was nice to eat at a poolside restaurant. Some of the dishes we ate were Subzi Samosas, Vegetable Pakora, Kerala Shrimp Curry (a fave), Butter Chicken and Tandoori Chicken.

Xaymaica - the Creole restaurant we decided to leave for last. We thought it would probably be the best dinner but it was okay. The salad bar has many conch type salads, breads and ackee with beans so make sure not to fill up on it. Some of the dishes we ate were Cod Fritters, Crab Cakes, Coconut Shrimp, Seafood Gumbo (a fave), Island Rack of Lamb, Rasta pasta and Tilapia Jambalya. The grilled pineapple dessert was a favorite but most of us were not pleased with our main course.

In total, there are seven a la cartes restaurants - the ones we didn’t try were Poseidon (Seafood), El Mariachi (Mexican), Bubba’s Restaurant (Steakhouse) and Pastafarian (Italian). In my opinion, I would make sure to eat at the buffet on the Jamaican and Mexican nights and then book the other nights for a la carte. All of the restaurants are in the main building except for Poseidon, it’s close to Sunset Cove.

One last thing I should mention about food is there is a Sports Bar in the lobby that’s open 24 hours. It’s tucked away in the corner by the theatre on the ground floor. Here you can get fries, jerk pulled pork sandwich, really, really delicious beef and chicken patties (order by the dozen and trust me it’s worth the 20 minute wait), popcorn, nachos and ice cream.

There are several bars located all throughout the resort. Infinity lobby bar, Woogie Boogie disco bar, theatre bar, sports bar, swim up bar, Las Brisas pool bar and Coral pool bar. My favorite bar was Coral Bar by the Coral adults only pool. It’s my favorite for two reasons: 1) the bar is right next to our building and close to our spot on the beach and 2) two of my favorite bartenders worked there, Sedrick and Oneal. They served us mimosas, Red Stripe, Miami Vice, Rum Punch, Mojitos and Sedrick’s secret drink. If you want the most delicious Mojito (even better than Mojitos in Cuba), go to the bar that is between Lotus and Xaymaica restaurants and look for Dexter. He makes the best tasting Mojito ever.

Beach (this part is written by my husband since I don’t snorkel)
La Brisas Beach - Beautiful. This was our main spot for the mornings and the afternoons. Snorkeling is great right off the beach, you see lots of urchins, fish and I saw 6 lion fish in the coral. Closer to the rocks towards the back, I saw some squid as well. The middle part of the beach is rocky so if you want to swim, stay towards the ends of the cove.

Coral Beach - This is the adults-only beach which is next to the adults-only pool. The snorkeling off of this beach is awesome. There are 2 sting rays, and an eel that I saw that live here. There are also a bunch of sea urchins towards the right of the cove so please be careful. The water here is always calm and snorkeling here is easy.

Sunset Cove - This was my least favorite. The beach had a lot of birds, bugs and the water reminded me of a lake. Not my cup of tea but it was for many other people. This is where the water sports center is located and there is some great snorkeling here to the right of the cove. I saw some fish I never saw before and an eel and a VERY VERY BIG Barracuda! There also is an octopus here somewhere but I never did find it.

There are four pools, Roselle Relax pool on the Jamaica side, Coral Adult pool on Lady Hamilton side, a pool at the Spa and Infinity main pool. This main pool is the biggest pool I have ever seen at an all-inclusive resort. There are lots of chairs and palapas surrounding the entire pool and two volleyball nets. We did spend some time here but most of the time we were on the beach. What we liked was that you can exchange towels at any of the pools rather than there just being one place. As I mentioned before, the Coral adult pool was right next to our building (#33). This pool has night swimming so it’s open until midnight. The first night we arrived, we went for a dip. I am 5’2 and after I walked down the first couple of steps, I got to the last step and it had a very big dip. I could not touch the ground. Needless to say, I never went back in, I would only sit on the steps or lie on the loungers. Another reason why we never went back in was because in the next couple of days, a bunch of topless, drunk girls took over the pool. Being topless and drunk does not bother me, we are all on vacation and after all, it is an adults-only pool. What did bug me was when we noticed that they were totally buck naked.  Call me a prude or uptight but I think it’s a bit unhygienic to be chilling in a pool all day naked. There are other resorts that let you prance around naked, it’s called Hedonism.

We didn’t see much of the entertainment that took place by the pool but we know that they did trivia pursuit, had reggae lessons and organized beach volleyball tournaments. The one day we hung out by the pool, we met Smiley. He got everyone around the bar drinking shots. We never made it to the disco as it started late and we were tired from waking up early in the morning to make use of our day by soaking up the sun. The animation team does organize nights out to their local clubs. This info is posted by the pool towel hut. As for nightly entertainment, we missed most of it because we ate dinner at 8:30 pm and by the time we finished dinner, the show was over. On our last night (Friday), we were able to catch the show. It’s the one show I heard a lot about and it was the one I was looking forward to. Not sure what exactly the show is called but it has a steel drum band playing top 40 hits and a bunch of breakdancers. This was so entertaining. There is also live music at the Infinity bar by Miss Lou’s. It was nice to hang out here, enjoy the pool view, grab a drink a listen to the talented band/singers.

The entire staff is awesome. Out of all the resorts we have been to, we find Jamaicans the most friendly and helpful. To those reviewers who complain about the service they get, think about this...if you are rude to them, of course, they will be rude to you. Treat them with respect and they will respect you back. If roles were reversed, wouldn’t you treat someone with kindness if they were kind to you first? Do not make demands to the staff as if you were the Queen. Some of the staff that made our stay wonderful - Sedrick and Oneal at Coral pool bar, Lawrence at Las Brisas pool bar, Romaine at the Negril buffet, Winston at the Infinity pool, the security guards, Brenda and Ian and the bell boy who made our check out a breeze. Unfortunately, I can’t remember his name. I also want to thank the GM, Dimitris Kosvogiannis for his warm welcome and attentiveness to my emails. He runs a every tight ship here at GPLH.

Check out
Check out was a breeze. We called the bell boy to pick up all seven of us and he was at our building in five minutes. We brought down all our luggage and didn’t even mind waiting for one of the girls who was running late and letting us say by to the bartenders at Coral pool. When we got the lobby, we checked out, did some shopping at the gift shop and hung out at the sports bar to eat more delicious beef patties. Our bus arrived on time but because there was a torrential downpour, the loading of the two buses got a little chaotic. The team of bellboys handled the situation professional and didn’t lost their cool with all the demanding guests. Everyone who was on our plane rushed to get their luggage onto the separate trailer truck and to board the bus. We patiently waited for the second bus and it all worked to our advantage because since we were the last to board the second bus, our luggage was the last to go on the trailer but first to get unloaded at the airport. We checked in at the airport in no time which left us with an hour to quickly shop. The Montego Bay has great shopping so save some money for it. There is a Havaianas store that sells the flip flops for $16.

I would definitely recommend this resort to everyone. Despite some of the bad reviews it’s been receiving, those should be ignore because those are people who think they are the Queen and should be waited on hand and foot. We paid a good price for this resort and especially for Jamaica. We would definitely come back because the staff made our stay very enjoyable. There is plenty to do within the resort since there is the big main pool, three beaches and lots of restaurants to eat at. Yes, the resort is far from the excursions but if you do your research, you will know this. We booked to stay at this resort because we had no intentions of leaving it.

Still not convinced?  See what others think here.


Steph I said...

Stunning photos - I especially love the one of the boat on the beach. Beach Junkies Wallpaper Wednesday, perhaps?

I completely agree with your comments on the expectation of level of service at resorts. One only needs to display good manners and respect towards the staff who are working so hard to make your stay the best that it can be.

Anonymous said...

Awesome post, thanks for all the info! I am looking into booking at this hotel for my wedding in April. Did you see any while you were there? I heard the beaches are all man-made - does that mean they're all made of little rocks that hurt your feet? I don't want to have to wear shoes on the beach... Thank you!

Leesh said...

We didn't see any wedding when we were there but we did see an wedding arch on the beach (there must have been a wedding before we arrived). It was by where that boat is in one of the photos. Yes, the beach is man-made and is made up of little rocks (but there are some parts where it's powdery. It hurts your feet at first but you get use to it. Not all three beaches are like this.

If you have any more questions, please feel free to email us.

Resort Review said...


The way explained about the resort is quite impressive. We get all the inside view of the resort from this site. The images you have provided give us a detail information about the resort. Thanks a lot for sharing this unique information.

Resort Review

tglnhat said...

Awesome review. Hubby and I are going in July. ( I won the trip, only time I can go) Especially like the idea that there is a 24 hr bar because we will be arriving a bit late and will be hungry.

I am so looking forward to this trip.

Leesh said...

tglnhat - that is awesome you won a trip to this resort. I recently won a trip too but it's to a resort we are not too thrilled about.

You are going to love your stay at GPLH. When you go to the 24 hr bar, make sure you order the beef and chicken patties. They are delicious!!!

Anonymous said...

We have a group of ten going to GPLH in June. This will be our first trip to Jamaica. The guys are in beer training and have been consuming some Red Stripe. I must say it is not our favorite beer. Was there a selection of beers or is it Red Stripe or bust?

Leesh said...

There might be other beers but Red Stripe is Jamaica's beer. If you are not a fan of Red Stripe consider getting the mojitos. They make a pretty good one at this resort.

darabalas said...

Just stumbled across your blog. I love it! We have been to the Grand Palladium in Mexico and are going to the one in the DR on Saturday so we are really excited. We shall have to try this one next time.

m i Q said...

We absolutely loved this resort! Haven't been to the one in the DR but Punta Cana is always a favorite of ours! I hope you enjoy your trip!!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your reviews. We just returned. Loved the resort.

Julia Wilson said...

Do they offer any excursions?! I had my heart set on doing some but I know my favorites are closer to ocho Rios ! :( but all our resort options don't seem to be in that location

Beach Junkies said...

Our tour operator offered a bunch of tours and excursions at the hotel. Unfortunately we didnt participate in any for the same concerns you have. If you don't mind a far drive, I say go for it but for us we didn't want to waste our day sitting in a bus. Hope that helps.

Anonymous said...

thanks for the post can't wait me and my gf are going in a few weeks april 8th through the 15th. As far as off site excursions after a little research I am planning on going to mayfield falls, blue hole mineral spring, and then finish it off with ricks cafe. I do not know the cost to book a tour guide for this yet, but the cost for falls is aprox 17-20$ for a two hour tour of wilderness and falls, 7-10$ for blue hole mineral spring/mineral pool with unlimited use and there is 25 ft jump into mineral spring, and unsure on ricks cafe cost. total trip is 77 km or 1 hr 41 min there and a lil over an hour back. another possibility is separate trip to luminous waters.
Lastly, does the resorts snorkel equip include fins and if so what quality?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great review. We have been to Grand Palladium Riviera Maya twice and wanted to visit somewhere similar and since it's all owned by the same person/people we thought we'd check out Jamaica. We'll be going this November. I'm happy I found your blog about it b/c some of the reviews were confusing. I am going with my husband and our 2 kids. one will be 2 and one will be 4. I read that it's quieter on the Lady Hamilton side but further from the main lobby and resturants but think I would still prefer that with the kids. Do you think that's wise or will it be too much of a hassell commuting for food and such?