Monday, February 13, 2017

The Jewel Runaway Bay Beach & Golf Resort Review: Part 2

A Bob Marley & a margarita
Last week, I wrote about the Jewel Runaway Bay Beach & Golf Resort in general, our room at this Jamaican all-inclusive and its wonderful beach. I also did a quick write-up on Sunwing, which was our vacation provider, and on the Club Mobay, a lounge at Montego Bay's international airport. Now let's finish this mega-review up with my thoughts on the resort's kids' club, its activities and of course, the food.

Food & Drinks
I believe that the Jewel is the first all-inclusive I've been to in which all of the bars, even the swim-up one, have an cocktail menu. That was a great resource to have and it let us try out all kinds of drinks. I also quite liked that the Jewel had a different drink or "Jewel" of the day. That's a little detail but it's a fun one that will go a long way to making the resort stick out in my mind.

I think Baby is jealous of my Purple Rain
While alcoholic offerings at the water park were on the slim side, the other bars offered a wide range of alcohol, including well-known brands, and the bartenders could usually whip up whatever you wanted. We did once ask for a drink they didn't know (a Spanish coffee) but then one bartender looked it up on his phone and a few minutes later, there it was. The strength of the drinks varied but in general, it was at the "just-the-right-strength" level. As I mentioned before, this isn't a party resort and because of that, it was usually pretty easy to get a drink. As a nice bonus, drunken/obnoxious behaviour was pretty much non-existent.

The Jewel is home to one buffet and technically seven restaurants (note that some of these restaurants occupy the same physical space; they just change their identity and menu depending on the time of day.) We ended up skipping the sushi restaurant (though did have the sushi at the buffet) and Court Jester's but tried everywhere else.

Overall, the food is good, even excellent at times. Okay, it's not all always the prettiest looking nor is it the fanciest (no caviar here) but in general, what you're eating tastes great. Always, there's always something open and available and even the pickiest of eaters should be able to find something.

The menu at the Platinum
While I know that a lot of people aren't fans of buffets, I quite liked what the Jewel offered at the Coral Cafe. Lunches and dinners are always a bit different, though certain key elements stayed the same. For example, lunch always offered the grilled sandwich/wrap bar, which I loved. Breakfasts were a bit repetitive but what was there was good, particularly the French toast and eggs. I do though wish that the baked goods and fruit offerings at breakfast were a bit more varied.

I also wish that the buffet was a bit more consistent when it came to desserts. Sometimes they were fantastic but other times, like when cherry jubilee was the main dessert (twice!), dessert was just disappointing. And while there was always a wide variety of cakes and squares, they were generally on the dry side and just weren't what I was expecting.

Our favourite restaurant was Platinum, which markets itself as a contemporary spin on classic Caribbean food. I've seen more than a couple people grumble about this place on Trip Advisor and I don't know why; there is a nice variety of choices and everything we had was excellent. In fact, it was so excellent we ate here twice, with me having the snapper both times because it was so good. Even better was the chocolate dessert that also included ice cream and Bailey-soaked bread pudding. I want that dessert now.

Platinum is the Jewel's only indoor restaurant and at first glance, it looks like a "classy" restaurant, complete with a piano player. But it has some surreal touches, including odd ways of presenting some of the meals and giant menus. Yes, it's a weird combination but whatever, the food was amazing. We also never had an issue getting a table but we did eat on the early side since we had a baby with us.

The mahi-mahi
I was also a big fan of the Italian restaurant, where I had an excellent mahi-mahi dinner. Husband was less impressed with his lamb, which he found to be a bit overcooked, but like me, he enjoyed the pasta bar and the desserts. If we'd had more time, we would have checked this restaurant out again.

By day (and overnight), the Italian restaurant is called Moonstone and it's home to some wonderful jerk chicken. Its fries aren't as good as those at the waterpark but the paninis aren't bad. There are also nachos that for some reason only come with cheese and various other options, like a pasta bar. While I preferred the buffet for lunch, it's worth trying Moonstone out at least one.

People on TripAdvisor love to rave about the pizza restaurant but we found it just okay. To be clear, it's perfectly edible, it just wasn't as mind-blowing as some people have made it out to be.

The only meal I was disappointed with was our Japanese teppenyaki dinner (this is also the only restaurant that requires a reservation). While our cook was very entertaining, and the speciality cocktail that accompanied our meal quite tasty, I found the food to be a bit bland. Still, because of the "show" aspect of the meal, it's worth checking this option out.

The Kids' Club
Children need to be at least 18 months old to be left solo at the kids' club so unfortunately we couldn't leave our daughter there without one of us also being there. But for $7 an hour, we could hire a nanny, who was a kids' club employee, to be there in our place. We did that twice, once for a couple hours in the late morning and another time at night. We had the same nanny both times and she was wonderful, even getting my daughter to sleep at night. (Because I am a rude person, I can't remember the nanny's name). While I know that the idea of hiring a strange nanny seems scary to a lot of parents, I'm very glad we did it.

We also stopped by the kids' club a few times with us supervising so our daughter could play in an air-conditioned place with other children. The kids we saw at the club always seemed happy to be there and the women running the place did a great job at keeping them busy. We spoke with several parents whose kids were spending time at the club and all of them said that their children loved it. Some even noted that the kids' club was the main reason they returned to the Jewel again and again.

Everything Else
This man is balancing his daughter on his head
What else haven't I covered... I can't write that much about the entertainment as we usually were back in our room before it really started (dinners at the buffet did often include a live band doing instrumental covers). We did stay up "late" one night to watch the hermit crab racing and another night to watch most of the circus show. Both events were fun though not exactly riveting entertainment. We also caught a bit of the piano man one night; I wish they had him performing a happy hour set before dinner.

The resort does have a disco, runs clubbing/drinking trips into Ocho Rios (for a fee) and offers other nighttime entertainment options like karaoke but we didn't check out any of that. Nor did we take advantage of the resort's daytime activities, which included everything from soccer to darts to beer pong.

We also didn't do any excursions, again because of Baby (yes, babies cramp your style). We thought about doing the morning shopping tour to Ocho Rios but once I found out that it could be a four-hour round voyage, I thought better of it. If you don't have a baby, there is tons to do, from biking down the Blue Mountain to the famed Dunn's River Falls to swimming with captive dolphins. These trips aren't cheap, but people around us did seem to be enjoying them.

Apart from the airport, we only went off the resort twice. The first was to visit the Ruby Ranch, which sits across from the resort, next to the golf course. The ranch, which plays a big part in the kids' club, is surprisingly small and a bit rundown. There are only a few horses and no, trail rides aren't offered, presumably because there aren't enough healthy horses.

But you can rent a horse and buggy ride, something we ended up doing after we won a 50 per cent off coupon at the manager's cocktail party. Prior to that, we had no plans to book a horse and buggy rider but since it was only going to be $20, we decided, "Why not?"

And for $20, it was okay. Our ride included bad champagne but our guide was informative and our driver gets bonus points for fixing a busted tire. Our 30-minute trip (actually longer thanks to the tire) took us through a residential area that we were told was home to the region's wealthier people. As someone who watches a lot of HGTV, I enjoyed checking out the houses but I can see how a lot of other people would want to pass on this experience.

Would we return?
We won't be headed back to the Jewel in the near future but not because of any problems with had with the resort; we simply aren't interested in visiting the same island twice right now. But I would like to return to Jamaica when my daughter is a bit older and we can actually do things outside of the resort. When that day comes we might end up back at the Jewel, especially if it keeps its fantastic kids' club up.

Should you check it out?
If you're travelling with kids and are okay with an all-inclusive that's neither a party spot nor luxurious, then yes, the Jewel is the Jamaican resort for you.

No comments:

Post a Comment