I’m a big fan of trying to go to warm places during the winter and this year was no exception. For Thanksgiving, my wife and I booked a long kid-free weekend in Jamaica. We both have the Chase IHG credit card (welcome offer was 80,000 points and 1 free night – check current offer here) and we timed our card anniversary dates to be at the same time, so we used both of our free nights at the Holiday Inn Resort Montego Bay Jamaica. While most of our travel / vacation trips are go, go go (and so is our life), we planned for this trip to consist of mostly sitting around on the beach doing nothing but relaxing. And as this Holiday Inn Resort Montego Bay Jamaica review will show, we managed to do pretty much just that!! 🙂
Holiday Inn Resort Montego Bay Jamaica review – cost and price
The Holiday Inn Resort Montego Bay All-Inclusive is on the north coast of Jamaica in the Montego Bay area. Cash rates vary with the season; I saw rates anywhere from $150 up to $400 / night. You can check rates for your dates here. This Montego Bay Holiday Inn all-inclusive resort now is a Category 9 which costs 50,000 IHG points / night. As I mentioned in the intro, we used the free nights from our Chase IHG credit cards to stay here, though unfortunately the recent changes to the IHG card (where the free night is capped at 40,000 points) mean that new free night certificates would NOT work here.
Getting to the Holiday Inn Resort Montego Bay Jamaica
You’ll want to fly to Montego Bay airport (MBJ), which you can do from the airport of your choice. Because we booked our trip over the long Thanksgiving weekend (AKA when the entire world wants to travel), we had to book a bit of a strange routing. We flew CMH-CLT on Wednesday night, overnighted in Charlotte (hello world’s worst hotel pillows), then flew CLT-MBJ on Thursday morning, arriving about 1pm on Thanksgiving Day
After clearing immigration and customs, we were immediately assaulted by a variety of taxi drivers. Instead, we went into the Club Mobay arrivals lounge through our Priority Pass membership. After getting a quick bite to eat, the manager arranged a taxi to the Holiday Inn, which cost $30 for the 2 of us. I get the feeling that was probably more expensive than it needed to be, but I chose to take a deep breath and think of overpaying as “stimulating the local Jamaican economy :-D”. It was about a 10-15 minute taxi ride. Here is a listing of posted prices for taxis from the Holiday Inn, which should give you an idea of taxi costs. I assume all of these prices are up for negotiation.
Checking in at the Montego Bay Jamaica Holiday Inn Resort
After arriving at the MBJ Jamaica Holiday Inn Sunspree, we went into the check-in area
A couple of bellmen tried to take our rollerboard carryon suitcases but I just hung on to them because I a) don’t like having other people touching my stuff and b) don’t like forced tipping for “work” that I would just as soon do myself.
When we went to the check-in desk, we were recognized as IHG Platinum members (which we got for free from having the Chase IHG credit card) and escorted to the “VIP lounge”
They offered us rum punch and then promptly set us through the check-in process. Apparently the “nice” restaurants onsite (see below) require reservations that you make the day before, but they had taken care of that for us and gave us 2 reservations for the 2 nights that we were there. We also received gold “VIP” wristbands.
Everyone on the property had a wristband, though it was unclear to me what the difference was between different colors – I never saw anybody actually checking wristbands anywhere.
Across from the VIP lounge is the luggage storage area. When we checked out on Saturday, we asked for and received a late checkout of 1pm, and then stored our luggage here.
At the regular check-out desk, I did see peoples’ wristbands being cut off, but that did not happen for us at the VIP lounge – so I assume that you could stay on the resort as long as you wanted to on the day of your checkout, as long as you were out of the room.
Holiday Inn Sunspree Resort Montego Bay Jamaica map and grounds
The Holiday Inn Sunspree Resort Montego Bay sits on the north coast of Jamaica. The lobby is in the middle of the resort, and there are 7 different buildings with rooms. Here is a Holiday Inn Resort Montego Bay map
As you can see, there are a variety of restaurants, bars and other buildings sprinkled throughout the resort grounds. Just about all of the beach frontage is covered with chairs, and convention is that people get up early in the morning to put out towels on the beach chairs to “reserve” them. There are also some cabanas that you can rent on the west side near the adults only section. We did not bother with either of those things and had no problems finding a few chairs together on the beach, even during really busy times. One tip was that the far eastern side of things (near the fitness center) was secluded and quiet.
Holiday Inn Resort MBJ review – room
We were placed in Building 7 which is an “adults only” building all the way on the west side of the resort. We had booked a standard room which is “oceanview”. “Oceanview” of course is hotel code for having a sliver of ocean available from a sliver of your room, if you crane your neck in JUST the right way 🙂
We were upgraded to an “oceanfront” room, and unlike most hotel “upgrades”, this actually WAS an upgrade (and as an IHG Platinum no less!). Our room was on the 1st floor and walked right out to the ocean!
The room itself was pretty basic, which was fine since we didn’t really spend much time in it. One issue to point out is that the lock on the sliding door out to the ocean was broken when we got there and would not lock. We reported it at the front desk and they had someone out to fix it within 30 minutes, which I felt was very impressive service.
The room also has a minibar, and all items in the minibar are also complimentary
Holiday Inn Montego Bay Jamaica review – restaurants
There are a variety of Holiday Inn Montego Bay Jamaica restaurants on the resort grounds. The main restaurant is called the Portside, and is located on the 1st floor of the main building.
The Portside restaurant serves a buffet-style breakfast, lunch and dinner at various times of day – here are a few pictures of the food that was offered.
In addition to a variety of different foods, at each meal they had a made-to-order station which had an omelet bar at breakfast, a fajita bar during lunch and a pasta bar for dinner. There was also a kids station which had basic food so your kiddos wouldn’t starve.
The dress code at the Portside was basically “no swimsuits”
There were a variety of “nicer” restaurants on the grounds as well – Sorrento (Italian), Sea Breeze (seafood), Kenko (Japanese; $20 additional charge applies), and Port Royal Pub.
These restaurants require “Resort Elegant” dress code, which is pants and a “collard” shirt for men
From the dress code pictures indicated, it is unclear to me whether this shirt would qualify as acceptable dress code 🙂
As I mentioned earlier, the VIP staff had made reservations for us, but we chose not to eat at the seafood restaurant on our first night; instead just eating at the Portside restaurant. We did eat dinner at Sorrento on our 2nd night at the Holiday Inn Resort Montego Bay Jamaica.
As you might imagine, the food at the sit-down restaurants was quite a step up from the buffet food in the Portside restaurant. I found the buffet food to be okay, but the food at the Sorrento was actually good. Here are a few pictures of what we ordered
And of course a shot of the classiest girl in the whole place
Holiday Inn Resort Montego Bay Jamaica review – other food
In addition to the actual restaurants, there are several other popup stands that serve different food. The Barefoot Bar and Grill is poolside and serves burgers and fries. The Jerk Hut serves jerk chicken and pork, and there is also a stand that serves hot dogs, nachos and ice cream.
Generally those places are open from about noon to 6pm, though the Barefoot Bar and Grill also opens again at 10pm.
My favorite meal was a concoction I made up of a hamburger from the Barefoot Bar, jerk sauce from the Jerk Hut, and sliced smoked Gouda cheese from the Portside restaurant.
You can also order room service at any time (up to 10pm). We ordered a few things late at night which arrived about 30 minutes later
Should you tip at the Holiday Inn Montego Bay Jamaica?
The Holiday Inn Resort Montego Bay Jamaica is an all-inclusive resort, and tips are encouraged and expected. So if you’re wondering how much to tip at the Holiday Inn Resort Montego Bay Jamaica I will share what we tipped.
- $1 for the buffet servers at the Portside Restaurant
- $1-2 for the bellmen
- $5 for housekeeping for the 2 days we were there (we had the do not disturb sign so they came and cleaned the 1 day when we checked out)
- $3 for the lady who brought our room service
- $6 to our server at Sorrento where we ate one night for dinner
Theoretically I’m not a big fan of the concept of tipping, but I’m also not (usually) willing to stick it to people who are counting on tips to make a living, especially when I’ve reached a point in my life where a dollar or two won’t affect my ability to put food on my kids’ table. We did definitely see people that were not tipping at all.
Amenities at the Montego Bay Holiday Inn Resort
There are a variety of amenities at the Montego Bay Jamaica Holiday Inn Resort. Several tennis courts, an outdoor basketball court and mini golf are on the far east side of the resort
The fitness center is also there, which is pretty nicely equipped with a variety of cardio machines, free weights and weight machines
There is a kids area (you can pay for babysitting)
And an indoor area for teens with games and such
There is a complimentary laundry area in Building 5, and supplies can be purchased if you didn’t bring any (SEE ALSO: 4 tips for doing laundry while traveling full-time)
There were 2 swimming pools – the main one right to the north of the main building
And an adults-only pool with a swim up bar near Building 7 on the far west side of the resort
And of course, one of the best amenities is just the fact that you’re sitting on the beach with amazing views of the sunset, sunrise and Caribbean Sea.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this Holiday Inn Resort Montego Bay review – I know I enjoyed my time here!