What to Watch in Jamaica Hotels

Following a multimillion-dollar renovation, Sandals Ochi Beach Resort’s latest offering includes the Ochi Beach Club, with cabanas, seating, beachfront pool and a swim-up bar.
Following a multimillion-dollar renovation, Sandals Ochi Beach Resort’s latest offering includes the Ochi Beach Club, with cabanas, seating, beachfront pool and a swim-up bar.

During a panel discussion at ITB in Berlin in March, Wykeham McNeill, Jamaica’s minister of tourism and entertainment, touted the island’s recent hotel developments, adding that, “When I’m meeting with partners or corporations, they say we still need more product.” Well, it looks like hotel companies are responding. Here is the skinny on some of what’s new and forthcoming.

Karisma Eyes Second Resort

Less than two years after Karisma Hotels and Resorts expanded to the Caribbean with the opening of Azul Sensatori Jamaica in Negril, the company is looking to build a second hotel in Negril and Travel Agent has the skinny. We sat down recently with Rafael Feliz, Jr., corporate brand manager for Premier Worldwide Marketing, which is the exclusive sales and marketing representatives for Karisma Hotels and Resorts, and learned that Karisma is looking to open a roughly 100-room, boutique-style hotel next door to the existing Azul Sensatori Jamaica.

Feliz, Jr. says there is no timetable in place for the groundbreaking or opening of the hotel, but did note that it will be a more luxurious, intimate hotel than its future neighbor, Azul Sensatori Jamaica. The name of the hotel has not been decided, he says.

“We wanted to build some extra rooms there because the property has been doing so well since it opened, but we didn’t want to disrupt what we have going on now by adding rooms, so we decided to build an entirely new hotel right next door,” says Feliz, Jr. “This is going to be a smaller, more luxurious hotel but it will have a lot of the same offerings and we will also be incorporating the Nickelodeon [Vacation] Experience into this hotel.”

Not quite familiar with Karisma’s new partnership with Nickelodeon? Karisma announced in November a new partnership with Viacom International Media Networks (VIMN), a division of Viacom Inc., to bring Nickelodeon brand experiences to Azul Hotels by Karisma. This collaboration marks the first time Nickelodeon has partnered with an international resort collection.

Following a multimillion-dollar renovation, Sandals Ochi Beach Resort’s latest offering includes the Ochi Beach Club, with cabanas, seating, beachfront pool and a swim-up bar.


The Nickelodeon Vacation Experience at Azul Hotels by Karisma is set to debut this year. Exclusive to Azul Hotels by Karisma, the Nickelodeon Vacation Experience will include interactions with some of Nickelodeon’s favorite characters such as Dora the Explorer, SpongeBob SquarePants and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Sandals Hops to It

Last month, Travel Agent’s Natalie Maneval flew to Ocho Rios for the official opening of Sandals Ochi Beach Resort — a reimagining of the former Sandals Grande Riviera Beach & Villa Golf Resort. The multimillion-dollar renovation project has given the resort a new look complete with new outdoor water decorations by the lobbies, renovated guest rooms, new restaurants and a refreshed look that embraces the Sandals brand that return guests have come to expect. All the accommodations at the Ochi Beach Resort have been updated, and the resort has introduced the All-Butler Village with roughly 200 villas and 70 butlers. A key addition is the Ochi Beach Club, which has cabanas, seating and a pool area with a DJ.

Sandals Resorts also recently launched a new island-hopping program where clients can split their stay among different islands and resorts. This program will enable Sandals guests to easily experience multiple islands in one Sandals Resorts vacation.

From hopping over to Sandals Emerald Bay Golf, Tennis and Spa Resort in Great Exuma, the Bahamas, to Sandals Royal Bahamian Spa Resort & Offshore Island in Nassau, the Bahamas, or experiencing two of Sandals’ newest resorts, Sandals Barbados and Sandals LaSource Grenada Resort & Spa, in one trip, guests have many options to explore the vibrant cultures and beauty of six different islands.

One example is the offer for a 10-day trip to Jamaica and Barbados, with four nights to spend at Sandals Montego Bay and six nights to spend at the new Sandals Barbados. Another offer is an eight-day vacation to Antigua and Grenada with four nights at Sandals Grande Antigua and four nights at Sandals LaSource Grenada Resort & Spa.

Sunscape Montego Bay Coming

Apple Leisure Group subsidiary AMResorts has announced Sunscape Resorts & Spas will open its first resort in Jamaica with the signing of Sunscape Montego Bay. This is AMResorts’ third property on the island, and marks the seventh new hotel deal announcement by the company in 2015.

AMResorts will begin enhancements at the resort this month to incorporate Sunscape Resorts & Spas’ brand standards. The upgrades will be carefully planned and integrated, allowing clients to continue to enjoy the property during the process. AMResorts will officially assume operations of the resort on August 1. The resort will remain under the Sunset Beach Resort, Spa and Water Park, and the Oasis at Sunset name until its official rebranding in December.

Moon Palace Jamaica Grande is set to open in Ocho Rios at the end of May.
Moon Palace Jamaica Grande is set to open in Ocho Rios at the end of May.

The property is comprised of 430 rooms across two 10-story towers offering spectacular views of the bay, and also includes an aquatic park and onsite casino. The resort’s guest accommodations, facilities and amenities will be enhanced to offer AMResorts’ “Unlimited-Fun” vacation concept, providing family-friendly accommodations such as connecting rooms and in-room children’s amenities; a limitless food and beverage program including a la carte dining options; an Explorer’s Club for kids with dedicated facilities; daily entertainment; world-class spa facilities; and more. Other additions will include a Preferred Club area with swim-out suites.

Sunscape Montego Bay occupies a long stretch of white-sand beach next to sister AMResorts’ properties, Secrets St. James Montego Bay and Secrets Wild Orchid Montego Bay. The resort is just a 15-minute drive from Sangster International Airport.

Moon Palace Rises

To introduce the 700-plus-suite Moon Palace Jamaica Grande, opening in Ocho Rios at the end of May, Palace Resorts is offering a savings of 30 percent on bookings of three or more nights. Guests must book by June 30 for travel through December 23. Resort amenities include a The Playroom for children, Flowrider Challenge water area, spa, six bars and five restaurants: steakhouse, seafood, Italian, Asian and international.

Palace also recently announced the launch of the Palace Resorts PRO Destination Wedding Specialist Program for travel agents. Value-driven benefits from the program include being listed as a trusted agent within the Palace Resorts consumer wedding website, bride and groom amenity vouchers and access to a branded wedding booth valued at $9,000.

Acquisitions and Upgrades

Hilton Worldwide recently signed two iconic Jamaican properties — Jewel Paradise Cove Beach Resort & Spa Runaway Bay and Jewel Dunn’s River Beach Resort & Spa Ocho Rios — to its Curio — A Collection by Hilton global brand of upper upscale and luxury hotels. Owned by Sagicor and managed by Aimbridge Hospitality, they will be Hilton’s first Curio hotels in the Caribbean.

The 225-room Braco Village Hotel and Spa is currently undergoing a $1 billion upgrade and will be rebranded as the upscale Meliá Braco Village in December 2015. The Trelawny-based resort will be Meliá Hotel International’s first property in Jamaica. The long-term goal is to expand the resort and rebrand it as a Paradisus resort.

The Vagabond Group has teamed up with hospitality veteran Mary Phillips and culinary experts Delius Shirley and Chef Cindy Hutson to acquire the boutique Moon Dance Cliffs on Jamaica’s West End. Beginning June 1, the new owners will renovate the 33 rooms, spa, restaurant and public areas with plans to reopen on October 1 as The Cliff Hotel and Spa.