|Grand Bahia Principe Jamaica|
Another stop in Jamaica and this time we’re visiting Grand Bahia Principe Jamaica in Runaway Bay, Jamaica. Located on the north coast of Jamaica, Runaway Bay is about 45 minutes from Sangster International Airport (MBJ) in Montego Bay and approximately 30 minutes from Ocho Rios. A large resort with 840 rooms, all Junior Suites, this resort provides over 2600 feet (800 meters) of beach, turquoise blue sea, recliners and beach umbrellas so you can relax. Despite the cloudy and gray skies with the occasional shower, you can see why Grand Bahia Principe Jamaica would have a huge impact on you when you first approach it. If you aren’t intereviewst in starting at hotel, you might be interested in somewhere similar to http://www.exceptionalvillas.com/jamaica.
The main lobby to the resort is extremely big and unfortunately, far louder than what I would expect or want in my vacation. It could be the acoustics or simply that many people were congregating inside and in the lobby area vs. outside. When I asked what the occupancy rate was, it was at a hefty 84%, which isn’t bad at all. There are tables and chairs scattered throughout to allow people to sit and chat or relax. When you walk up the front steps of the resort, you can see right through the lobby to Caribbean. There are plenty of bell hops waiting to assist you after the check in process as well.
|Junior Suite Superior #11301|
The all Junior Suites concept means that all rooms are bigger and have more services than what you would expect from a typical hotel room. All rooms comes with hydro massage tubs and the majority of the rooms have beautiful views of the sea and with exclusive services. Depending on the room style (Superior, Sea View, or Golden) depends on what extra services you will receive. With the Superior and Sea View suites you receive three specialty restaurant reservations while with the Golden you receive four. The room itself is nearly 138 square feet with a sitting area, canopy bed (either a king or two full-size), large bathroom with the jacuzzi tub, and a balcony/terrace.
There are two buffet restaurants at the resort open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, The Orchid and the smaller Palmyra. There are also four specialty restaurants at the resort that all require advance reservations in order to dine in them. These include The Grill Steak House, Dolce Vita Italian restaurant, Don Pablo Mexican restaurant, and Mikado Japanese restaurant. The food seems to be a mixed bag as, unfortunately, there is nothing local or Jamaican in the restaurants and as such, guests feel like between the food and the style of the resort, they could be just about anywhere. This area near the front lobby had a great view and was also in close proximity to the freshly baked cookies. Wonder if this is where people go when they’re really hungry?
Gran Bahia Principe Jamaica‘s entertainment options include nightly shows, discos, and bars throughout the resort. If you’re looking for something more active, you can partake of the non-motorized sports included in the all-inclusive price like kayaking, snorkeling, wind surfing, or scuba diving, but it is limited to one hour per day per activity. You can visit the fitness center, which although clean, was small and windowless and felt somewhat gloomy. It was hidden in an area behind the spa and there wasn’t anyone there working out. Not sure if it was because of the time of day or just because no one wanted to go there.
The nearby Bahia Spa was quite different from the fitness center as it was instantly soothing and calming. You can see that the resort has invested a significant amount of money in making sure guests not only want to come here, but that they will want to spend lots of their money here. After you enter the front door, the spa staff will greet you and and you can sit and relax in the waiting area until your appointment. I asked for a menu of spa services, but there weren’t any available, which I thought was extremely strange. I would have had to have them list out all of the services and then choose that way, which I know I would absolutely never do. Online they list their services, which include massages, facials, body wraps, hair services, manicures, pedicures, and more. In addition, they have a Turkish Bath, Finnish Sauna, Ice Fountain, Sensation Showers, Foot bath, and a heated pool.
The highlight of the resort seems to be the enormous pool area. There are three lake-style pools that are interconnected and surrounded by tropical gardens. There are also two children’s areas so children can also have fun in the pool. You can swim up to one of the pool bars (Hybiscus or Tulip) and enjoy a drink or visit one of the other bars at the resort including the ones in the hotel lobby (Daiquiri) with live music at night, a beach bar, a bar in the amphitheater (Calypso), and a snack Bar with American-style fast food (Piscis). The pool can get pretty loud with those enjoying their libations and having little to no inhibitions, so I would definitely encourage families to visit one of the pool areas where families gather.
While the grounds are lush, the rooms are big, and the pool enormous, there are aspects of this resort that would personally give me pause about staying here.
- The beach area appears to be nice although rocky and perhaps water shoes would be necessary when entering.
- Although all-inclusive, the alcoholic beverages that are included are made with local or national brands, but there are “premium drinks” that aren’t included, but if you’re willing to pay for them, they will gladly charge them to your room.
- There is a $50 deposit for the room safe with a $6/day rental charge.
- Internet fees are $30 for the week per device, which can be costly if you each have a device or two.
- The lack of availability of authentic Jamaican cuisine but for Jamaican night, which they hold once a week.
The Gran Bahia Principe Jamaica, although an overall attractive resort, sits almost halfway between Montego Bay or Ocho Rios, which feels like you’re in the middle of nowhere. It also has an overall generic feel to it, like you’re staying at a Comfort Inn. It might be Jamaica because you’re telling me it’s Jamaica, but if you’re looking to visit Jamaica for a Jamaican experience, this is not going to be it unless you venture off property to do things on your own. I would recommend this resort to anyone looking for an affordable vacation at a three-star or so property who enjoys the pool and mass market style food that is adequate, but nothing extraordinary or spectacular. If you like to lounge by the pool with drinks all day and eat at a chain restaurant where the food is the same whether you’re in Kansas, California, or Florida, then you might like this resort. If you’re even slightly adventurous and enjoy trying local flavors and experiencing the culture of your destination, this truly isn’t the place for you. Don’t be swayed by the pictures of this or any resort you might see online, be it from the resort’s website or the travel review sites. Figure out what you want from your vacation before looking for a resort and the end result will be an enjoyable vs. adequate vacation.
Pop on over to the Travel Shop Girl FaceBook page to see some more pictures of the Gran Bahia Principe Jamaica and tell me what you think.