The Iberostar Selection Rose Hall Suites in Montego Bay on Jamaica’s North Coast is a five-star all-inclusive hotel that prides itself on luxury as much as safe and responsible tourism. Jamaica reopened its borders on June 15, but in spite of this, there has been a huge push for locals to explore home and experience the sights, scents and tastes of Jamaica which are not often marketed to us. This campaign by the Jamaica Tourist Board is known as Rediscover Jamaica and has been hailed as a huge success thus far, with more and more locals making reservations at the country’s leading resorts, and is possibly the largest wave of locals exploring yaad. This uptick in ‘staycations’ is also due in part to the numerous deals and specials put in place by these large all-inclusive hotels to appeal to a local crowd, and I’m here for it! Millions of people save for months and years to afford a trip to Jamaica, while Jamaica is our birthright. With that said, if you’re looking for another great location for your next staycation, look no further than Iberostar.
Driving from Mandeville to Montego Bay last weekend was quite an experience. It was my first time driving to Montego Bay via this route, and let’s just say the main roads are called ‘B’ on Google Maps for a reason. The potholes were numerous, but the views of rural Westmoreland, Hanover and St. James via the Shettlewood/Montpelier (B7) route were lovely. It almost looked like a second Holland Bamboo with bamboo plants towering overhead to form a beautiful viridescent canopy, that eventually became made up by other tall trees. The roads were very winding too, and driving back after the heavy rainfall on the weekend was treacherous. Hopefully you’ll be heading to Montego Bay on another route and with better weather, but nothing would let me miss my weekend reservation at this beautiful resort.
Estimated Driving Times to Iberostar Rose Hall from:
- Sangster International Airport: 17km, 20 minutes
- Ocho Rios: 80km, 1 hour & 15 minutes
- Negril: 98km, 1 hour & 45 minutes
- Mandeville: 101km, 2.5 hours, due to road conditions.
- Kingston: 158km, 2.5 hours (with toll)
- Port Antonio: 182km, 3 hours & 15 minutes
We dropped off our luggage at the door to the lobby where our bags were sprayed with Lysol. Next, we had to use hand sanitizer and step onto sanitizing mats to rid our shoes of whatever germs they could be carrying. Check-in is at 3pm but our rooms were ready when we arrived at 2pm, and the entire process was smooth. We were greeted with complimentary drinks of our choice then given a quick rundown of the CoVid-19 protocols, followed by an escort to our room with luggage in tow.
The pandemic precautions include:
- Masks are mandatory at all times and when interacting with staff, except when on the beach, in the pool or while eating. Therefore, this meant you had to wear a mask while being seated at the restaurants and in the buffets.
- Buffets were modified to ensure only the staff touches utensils, and staff is subject to daily temperature checks. Handwashing is enforced as always. Mandatory 14-day paid leave is provided for ill staff and/or those who test positive for CoVid-19.
- Tables are cleaned in between guests, chairs are sprayed down, and even the laundry is being washed at a higher temperature. The restaurants are deep-cleaned twice a day as well, and rooms are kept empty for at least 24 hours in between guests to allow for adequate deep cleaning and disinfecting. If you’d rather do the cleaning yourself rather than allow someone to access your room, green cleaning kits are provided on request.
- Hand sanitizer stations were provided just about everywhere– in the lobby, at the beach, by the restaurants, bars, cafe, pool, gaming areas, you name it. A complimentary bottle of hand sanitizer was provided in each room also.
- The number of guests allowed in each restaurant or in group activities such as beach yoga has been reduced to allow for adequate social distancing, and stickers to maintain distances of 6 feet between guests were in place. Even loungers and chairs have been rearranged to maintain social distancing too.
- The Iberostar enhanced mobile app allows one to make reservations for dinner or the spa, browse menu options, request upgrades, understand the hotel layout and sign up for activities remotely and limit unnecessary contact.
- They have a 24-hour medical facility and doctors on call which will come to you in case you’re unable to make it to them.
There’s no telling when this pandemic is going away, so it’s important for us to begin adjusting to this new normal. Life cannot remain on hold forever, and our economy has to get back on its feet. Vacationing can be 100% safe once you do your research beforehand to ensure that your hotel of choice has put measures in place to ensure your safety. A global crisis of this magnitude calls for reevaluation and ingenuity. Iberostar Rose Hall seems to understand that and has been moving with the times to ensure that vacationing in the lap of resort luxury is safe, smooth and efficient. They also proudly display that their health and hygiene protocols comply with the recommendations of WHO, CDC and local health authorities.
Related: I Felt Safer at a Hotel Than Work
Activities & Entertainment
The property is home to an expansive white sand beach with free non-motorized watersports (snorkeling and kayaking), two outdoor pools and a lazy river for tubing, pool tables and table tennis. Scuba diving, catamaran cruises and parasailing are available at a cost, as well as daytime excursions to popular tourist attractions in and around Montego Bay. Golf at the nearby Rose Hall golf course is available. Spa Sensations offers a tranquil oasis for couple massages on the beach, seaweed facials, hydrotherapy and a sauna at an additional cost also. There’s a fitness schedule posted in the lobby with ongoing fitness activities throughout the day for those looking to have an active vacation, but other activities such as the Star Camp for the youngsters, have been put on hold due to the pandemic restrictions.
Nighttime entertainment includes live music, shows and theatre spectacles, and the act changes each night. We only caught the last part of a Michael Jackson performance on Saturday night, and the artiste who impersonated the late and great MJ seemed pretty good.
Okay, you’ve found me out. I’m an undercover foodie and this close to starting a food blog once I can remember to take pictures BEFORE I dive in, ha! Anyhow, the food at Iberostar was memorable for the right reasons and I think I remembered to take pictures of nearly everything for once (you’re welcome!).
Due to the reduction in bookings, only four restaurants were open during my stay including two buffet style restaurants, an Oriental and an Italian restaurant. I’d wanted to experience both à la carte restaurants but the Italian one was already already fully booked out by time I arrived, but thankfully I got to experience the Asian restaurant on night two of my stay. The à la carte restaurants are only open for dinner from 6:30pm until 10pm, and are by reservation only. The buffets are no longer self-serve which slows things down since there was one server to perhaps 5 or 6 dishes and if someone wanted multiple things from one station, serving him/her took a lot of time, but I guess that’s a small price to pay for safety.
The chefs were quite engaging, and the star for breakfast was the omelette station as it is at most resorts. They had both continental and Jamaican breakfast options, and it’s always a match made in heaven enjoying both at the same meal. The fruit options were limited, however. I would’ve liked to see more than watermelon and cantaloupe but besides that, breakfast was a win for me. The mimosas were everything!
Lunch could be obtained at either the buffet or beach food truck which served burgers, fries, hotdogs, wraps and jerk chicken. The jerk wasn’t as spicy as typical Jamaican jerk, but otherwise the food was decent. The buffet, on the other hand, steals the show for lunch with lots of luxurious and exotic dishes, catering to all dietary preferences. There was a decent mix of local dishes too. Hopefully the calories from vacation don’t count. I’m getting hungry just writing this!
The Oriental Tsuki Restaurant is certainly up there in one of my favourite epicurean experiences. I began the meal with a smoked salmon roll, shrimp tempura roll and wonton soup. For main course, I had sweet and sour chicken with basmati rice and dessert was fried vanilla ice cream. The presentation for all 3 courses was a win for me, and the taste was also spot-on.
The drinks were endless! A few were a bit too weak on the alcohol for my tastes, but the rum punch never disappointed once I asked the bartender to RUM IT UP! 😁 The bartenders were also friendly and willing to make custom drinks on request and surprised us when we couldn’t decide what to get.
Lastly, I must mention my favourite spot on the resort after the beach and pool of course: THE CAFÉ! It’s like Iberostar knows I’m a sucker for a good café. They had a fine selection of lattes, frappes, espressos, teas, wraps, sandwiches and pastries but what set this café apart from your average coffeehouse is the decor! Just look at how much genius was incorporated into crafting a coffee-themed decor! Gigantic coffee mugs served as lighting fixtures, oversized spoons doubled as wall art and coffee barrels functioned as tables. The lighting also created the coziest ambiance ever, so I spent lots of time here during the rain we got on day two of my trip which rendered outdoor activities next to impossible.
Last but not least I must mention the spacious room which was my home for 3 days and 2 nights, especially given that the weather made me spend a bit more time in it than planned. The room comes with a king size bed with plush comfy covers, a mini fridge stocked with sodas and beer, a safe, ironing board and iron, TV with cable, air conditioning, ceiling fan, a sofa, table and chairs, and of course a balcony. My beach view room had a lovely sprawling view of the pools and beach. Hearing and seeing the Caribbean Sea ebb and flow all day and all night long from it was wonderful. The bathroom had a bathtub, rainshower and hot water.
The true star of the room for me was seeing Iberostar’s committment to environment protection in action. The Iberostar resort chain meets the world’s leading benchmark for sustainability in the travel industry, the Earth Check Certification. They’ve eliminated single use plastics in their rooms and provide 2 glass water bottles and 2 glasses instead which can be filled at their convenient contactless water filling stations outside your room on each floor. Instead of providing shower gels, shampoo and conditioner in multiple disposable containers, they’ve attached a dispenser system in the shower and bathtub which is refilled in between guests to minimize waste. This commitment to sustainability goes on even outside the rooms. They adhere to the Wave of Change movement which protects the oceans through sustainable fishing and coastal health, and they also promote honest food sourcing and have gone paperless.
I’m grateful to have spent a lovely weekend at this gorgeous property which puts tremendous effort in keeping its guests and the environment safe. The Iberostar Selection Rose Hall Suites certainly deserve their five star status and it’s with pleasure I can say this is now my favourite hotel in Jamaica. Thanks for having me, Iberostar. If you’re looking to enjoy a safe staycation in Jamaica, you won’t be disappointed once you make it Iberostar.
‘Til next time.
** Disclaimer: The experience was gifted by Iberostar, but all opinions are my own.