Breezes Runaway Bay Completely Overhauled

Now THIS is a great example of a renovation! We’ve seen many resorts that undergo a “multi-million dollar refurbishment”, and all you notice is new drapes and sheets. Breezes Runaway Bay, on the other hand, is almost completely different from its previous self. We last visited this property a little over a year ago, and it was very basic – standard rooms, two restaurants, one pool, but having a great stretch of beach and plenty of included activities for sports-minded people. After closing for over six months, the resort opened its doors this past January after a vigorous $20 million renovation that adds 15 percent more rooms and suites, a new swim up pool and two restaurants, plus a complete overhaul of existing accommodations.

There is a brand new low-rise room block along the beach, introducing 30 oceanfront rooms and suites, including seven one-bedroom suites and eight verandah suites with private plunge pools. Many of the garden view rooms have been expanded and transformed into Verandah Suites, each boasting private plunge pools. The existing guest rooms have been spruced up with new mahogany furnishings, LCD televisions, and high-speed wireless Internet access. Bathrooms sport a fresh new look, with new countertops and polished hardware and faucets.

They’ve also added two exciting new dining experiences, greatly expanding the meal options. At the casually elegant Munasan, a sushi bar compliments Teppanyaki stations, where chefs cook dinners to order. Diners who loathe to venture too far from the beach might opt for Reggae Café, serving delicious Jamaican specialties for lunch and dinner. These restaurants round out Breezes’ current dining options, including Italian fine dining, continental buffet restaurant and the Starlight Grill (a very unique concept whereby guests choose their raw food and have a chef prepare it, all under an open nighttime sky!)

Two new freshwater swimming pools, supplementing the existing Olympic size main pool – one new pool services the new oceanfront room block, while the second features a swim-up bar and misting pool. Additionally, a new, easily accessible water sports building offers guests the latest in scuba and Nitrox equipment, which dive enthusiasts can test on the famed Canyon wall, located just beyond the beach.

All in all, a tremendous upgrade to a very fun and active resort – for more details, click here.

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Riu Ocho Rios Turns Two

On November 1st, 2005, the 856-room Riu Ocho Rios opened on the north coast of Jamaica. The Riu Ocho Rios is the largest Riu resort in the Caribbean, and is the third Riu resort in Jamaica, joining its sister resorts Riu Tropical Bay (opened in 2001) and Riu Negril (opened in 2004). A Happy Birthday is in order!

Visually stunning from any angle, the bright pastel purple colors really stand out against the 300,000 square feet of tropical gardens. Although it’s over 800 rooms, it’s not so spread out that one can get lost or feel overwhelmed – Riu has done a great job in keeping everything cozy.

Guest rooms at Riu Ocho Rios are situated in a Club wing (basic rooms) and a Deluxe wing (upgraded amenities, all Junior Suites, with additional dining options just for Deluxe guests.) All rooms have a balcony or terrace, AC, complimentary in room safe, mini bar, liquor dispenser, satellite TV, telephone and hairdryer. All rooms are considered oceanview, although guests in the Club wing rooms on the first two floors will quite honestly be hard-pressed to see the ocean, as they sit back from the beach a bit and are behind the main pool with many palm trees – if you do want a true oceanview, go for the Deluxe wing, or at the very least request a high floor.

Somewhat unusual for the Ocho Rios area, the Riu has a nice stretch of white sand beach, plus very calm water. The beach is not very ‘deep’ from water’s edge to the resort grounds, so it can get crowded during peak times, but plenty of chairs and shade. Large pools and lots of dining options (including a la carte dinners without restrictions on the number of times you can dine) make for a very enjoyable stay.

A great addition to the Riu family of resorts – and keep an eye out for the Riu Montego Bay, scheduled to open in the fall of 2008!

Bahia Comes to Jamaica with the Gran Bahia Principe Jamaica

Here they are – Bahia Principe, one of the world’s largest hotel companies, opened their newest property in Runaway Bay at the beginning of this year, and the Gran Bahia Principe Jamaica is quite impressive! Phase One has been open since January (just over 700 rooms), and Phase Two (a small addition adjacent to the main section) will be open shortly, adding a few hundred more rooms. Phase Three, scheduled for next year, will nearly double the entire complex, exceeding 1800 rooms!

The Gran Bahia Principe Jamaica is an all Junior Suite resort about 45 minutes from the airport, set on two different sections of beach – Phases 1 & 2 front a man-made, elevated beach area with a small lagoon off the ocean, while Phase 3 (an easy two minute walk from the original section) will surround a long stretch of natural beach with a much larger ocean area. (All phases have full access to both beach areas.)

Very nice layout, easy to get around, and like the Riu Ocho Rios is not so spread out that it feels massive. Most rooms will have oceanviews, some at an angle because of how the buildings are laid out, and all feature in-room minibars, hydromassage tubs, and sitting areas. They do offer the Bahia’s well-known Golden Club level of rooms, with additional amenities and more.

Four restaurants and four bars are in Phase One; more will be added as other sections open (by the way, no major ‘construction’ going on – Phase Two is simply a small addition and all the structures are in place, and Phase Three is set off from the main areas so any construction will be far enough away not to disturb anyone.)

Very good value for what’s included (Junior Suites, minibars, etc.) and has a full-service childrens club, plus the Pueblo Principe shopping center.

Iberostar Rose Hall – The Newest All inclusive in Jamaica

The most recent addition to Jamaica’s growing all-inclusive portfolio, the new Iberostar Rose Hall is one of the few that can boast its proximity to the airport – from the time you get on the shuttle bus, you can be on the beach in less than 20 minutes.

This resort just opened in May, and like the Gran Bahia Principe, it’s the first of three phases – although not nearly as large! This first section is the Iberostar Rose Hall Beach Hotel, and consists of 366 rooms and Junior Suites (with fully-stocked minibars and balconies) surrounding an infinity pool with swim up bar that fronts a small, yet beautiful white sand beach with natural foliage.

The resort features five restaurants, including a show-cooking International buffet, and offers room service from 11AM to 11PM. Plenty of day & night activities, and the Star Friends (entertainment staff) are very encouraging! And can’t forget to mention the Iberostar Mini-Club, a full service kids club for children 4-12.

The next phase to open will be Iberostar Rose Hall Suites right next door, which will be similar in layout but feature all Junior Suite accommodations, and should be open early 2008. The final phase will be the Iberostar Grand Rose Hall, which like the Iberostar Grand Paraiso in Mexico will be adults-only and high-end luxury.