Review of Grand Bahia Principe, Runaway Bay, Jamaica

Disclaimer: This review is based on my first time experience in an all-inclusive resort. As a backer-packer or adventure tourist, I typically couldn’t care less about the amenities, room service or the number of ala carte restaurants that are on the property but I have been told (my significant other is my all inclusive expert) that these are some of the key differentiators between “all-inclusives”.

1. Entertainment:
• The lounge area where the nightly performances take place is a piazza style space with a stage at the end. The chairs are all standard plastic furniture and have waiter service. The performances are generally average, but this isn’t the reason for going to an all inclusive, so it gets a pass in my mind for just have some live entertainment.
• There is a piano bar off the main lobby where there is a performer between 8-10pm. This was a nice lobby, but again small touches could have made a significant difference – fans for the uncovered general area would have made a huge difference to guests who were sweating out there.
• The disco is a nice area except that the DJ who works there should be coached on how to use turntables and figure out some good songs. The music was generally not good for the crowd (and I love reggae and soca – there wasn’t enough of anything good i.e. People left the dancefloor or never got on)

2. Beach Area / Pool
• There are two separate beach areas within the resort: Nude and Regular.  I cannot critique the nude area but within the regular beach area, the resort created an artificial beach and they trucked in the white sand. This is clear since the sand hasn’t been refilled in the last two years and washed away leaving the rough sharp sand and concrete patches below. Walking on the beach is fine, but once you get into the water, the sand in the water is quite rough and shallow and doesn’t make for the greatest beach experience. In addition, there is a significant reef area between both the nude and regular areas. There were not many people in the beach swimming but rather tanning.

• The swimming pool is large, well connected with enough pool bars with good service. There was tons of construction at the far end of the pool but our bartenders blasted the music, so we had a great time. If you’re going, look for Jerome or Timmoy – those guys were tons of fun.

3. Room Service:
• As clients who signed up for the “Gold Package”, one of the biggest selling points to us was the 24hr room service. I understand that kitchens cannot run 24/7 with a full menu as this is not economical from a cost and staffing perspective. However, when a gold member gets into a room and looks at the room menu – it lists five items (I didn’t copy the menu down for this review- but the items are accurate as of this morning)
i. Hamburger and Fries
ii. Ceasar Salad
iii. Margarita pizza
iv. Ham and Cheese Sandwich
v. Garden Salad (Greens, Tomatoes, Olives, Onions)
vi. Hot Dog and fries
vii. Fruit or Veggie Platter

The room service menu lists at the top (10.00am to 7:00am), so there are three hours in the morning where you cannot get room service. I don’t care about this – who orders room service in the morning – you can easily go for breakfast. We do care that at 2:00 am in the morning, you cannot get anything but a ham sandwich and a hot dog. (D* and I tried twice to get the hamburger at night and we couldn’t – we had to actually go to Burger Principe to get a burger. Also Burger Principe does not serve fries – I spoke to the chef there at night a couple times)
From the hotel perspective, I asked the front desk about this mystery and of course in true Jamaican style, they had no clue about any changes (I think Tennisha Peters, was the clerk’s name). The chef mentioned that there should have been an insert in the room’s menu for all “Gold” guests. I surveyed 6 other couples who also had “Gold Status” and they of course could not locate this “mysterious”: insert.

The room service menu was acceptable in our opinion by day.  It had some variety and provided some healthy options for those who prefer.  The menu would have been great , had it been available for the advertised 24 hours.  This was not the case.  When we tried to order from the menu late night, we were told that that was not possible.  Even though our room service menu clearly stated that it was available from 10am until 7am.  (it’s apparently closed for three hours…meaning room service for only 21 hours), we were told that we must not be seeing the “insert” that should be in the menu.  The insert included 3 possibilities
• Hotdog
• Ham and cheese sandwich
• Veggie tray.  Nothing else!!

When we asked friends who were also gold status if they had this “insert” they had never seen it.  In fact, when we asked front desk about room service and this “insert” they also had no idea about it also and assumed that room service included everything on the menu. 

Regardless, the discrepancy in the room service, the lack of consistency in answers about this was completely unacceptable to us, especially when the 24hr room service was trumpeted. If a hotel is going to serve a limited menu, communicate that properly to all your “Preferred members”

4. Check In / Tours
• Check in was no problem, as part of the “Gold Club”, this was already taken care of. This was well coordinated.
• We organized our own tour with Richard Hosang at the front. He is a knowledgeable and safe driver, who will help navigate the roads. I would highly recommend him and his rate was quite reasonable. Going through the hotel tours is extremely expensive and in my opinion a rip off. There were 6 of us, who went on our day-trip (8.30am – 7pm) which included
1. Visiting Bob Marley’s mausoleum at Nine Miles
2. Lunch at Scotchies (Best Jerk chicken around … period!)
3. Dunn’s River Falls
4. Shopping in Ocho Rios craft markets
5. Impromptu stop in St Ann’s for some reggae CDs
6. Driving through the rural center of Jamaica

Total cost per person was about 80$ with tip included. Lunch and tickets to attractions (15$ each for Bob and Dunn’s River Falls) were included. If we did this through the hotel tours, it would have been about $170 a person.

5. Restaurants/ Drinks
• Orchid Buffet: Decent with good variety of food. Decent service. No complaints here. Overall food quality was averageCheck in was no problem, as part of the “Gold Club”, this was already taken care of. This was well coordinated.
• Drinks/Bars:
1. Food available at the hours between breakfast & lunch and lunch & dinner.
2. No real snack options or service at the bars for munchies etc.
3. Bars did not have many drinking options in the “all-inclusive” menu, if you want premium, you will have to pay extra (BTW An example of “premium” vodka was Absolut – so think about that, if drinking is a main thing, you should know.)

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About Rishiray

Rishi Sankar is a Cloud HRMS Project Manager/ Solution Architect. Over the past 15+ years, he has managed to combine his overwhelming wanderlust with a desire to stay employed, resulting in continuing stints with 3 major consulting firms (IBM, Deloitte, Accenture). He documents his adventures around the world on "Ah Trini Travelogue" with pictures and stories from the road/tuk-tuk/camel/rickshaw. You can follow him on Twitter at @rishiray and on Facebook at "Ah Trini Travelogue . He doesn't like Chicken Curry but loves Curry Chicken and is always trying to find the perfect Trinidadian roti on the road. He also doesn't like cheese and kittens ... and definitely not together. E-mail from his blog is appreciated like a 35 yr old Balvenie at [email protected]

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