It’s May 22. It’s 3 degrees outside. Two days ago it snowed. A lot. I am screaming internally.
How has it been a full month since my little voyage to Jamaica? My dear sweet freckle tan has nearly disappeared. I thought I’d take some time to talk about my experience at the Grand Palladium in Montego Bay.
This was my second time in Jamaica, but my third resort visit. I loved every second of it – there’s no better way to take a vacation than spending a relaxing seven days at an all-inclusive with 20+ of your dearest friends (the ones you rarely see, because they’re scattered all across the country).
I’ve stayed at both Sunscape Splash and Sunset at the Palms (Negril) in the past, and preferred both of them to the Grand Palladium (despite Sunscape only being a 3-star). The cost different was huge too — $1800 for my week this year, but only $1400 in the past. Sign of the times, I guess.
So here’s a rundown of the experience. Not everything was sunshine and mozza sticks.
I shared a regular ‘ol room with two girlfriends, Danielle and Lesley. It was large and gorgeous, and always clean. There was a massive spa tub (which none of us had time to use), and a similarly large shower. We had plenty of space between the three of us, and a neat little balcony on the first level.
The other side of the resort, where the Lady Hamilton suites are, is for all the rich folks. My friends who were getting married were upgraded to this room, and Christ on a cracker, was it ever beautiful. There’s a real noticeable hierarchy though. Like, the carts wouldn’t let me and my plebeian friends tag along for a ride because they were for the rich folks only. Ah, capitalism.
The downside of our room: to accommodate three of us in one room, we had a pull-out couch. I slept there on my first night and the steel rod in my middle back made me wonder why I’d spent $1800 to sleep on a godforsaken piece of metal. I would have preferred a larger bed to share with someone.
About halfway through the trip, we all ditched the enormous swimming pool (the focal point of the entire resort) in favour of other bars where waiting for a drink didn’t take five years. Mainly, two bars: the one at the quiet adult pool, and the one at Sunset Beach.
The staff at the Sunset Beach facilities was the absolute best – charming, kind, and smiley. Overall I was really put off by the unfriendly attitude we received at almost every venue, especially in the restaurants. I usually felt like I was a burden, and my friends agreed. It was a 100% turnaround compared to my previous experiences in Jamaica, where I ended up making friends with staff members.
I think perhaps the resort is horribly under-staffed, considering the long wait times and how much stress the servers seemed to be under. The room cleaners were always bubbly and friendly to the extreme, so there’s that. And the staff members that were good were really, really good.
It feels weird even commenting on this. My morality here is at odds with my privilege.
The Grand Palladium is most famous for its epic circular pool that dominates the entire resort…and that makes sense, because it’s glorious. It’s also crowded as fuck, and I prefer the beach anyway.
Except there’s very little beach space. We didn’t discover Sunset Beach until our full second day, and then forever onward we dubbed it as “Secret Beach.” IT WAS THE BEST. We spent most of our time there, by far. It was less filled with screaming children, people were more relaxed, the sand was great…and the drinks were so much easier to grab.
My favourite day was our final full day. Me and my friends were half drunk on mojitos by noon, but we decided to keep the good times rolling rather than breaking for lunch because it had rained every single afternoon between 1-2PM. Except for this day. Instead, it was 6PM before we finally ate. Worth it!
My friends Coady’s and Melissa’s wedding was absolutely stunning. The rain forced us to all move into the spa area rather than the gazebo overlooking the sea, but the columns and green foliage really made it special anyway.
The dinner reception was at the Poseidon restaurant, and it was equally as beautiful. But there were so many little errors in between – including tons of miscommunication that forced the entire ceremony to start about two hours late.
By the time our dinner was finished, we only had about 30 minutes to make use of the dance floor. When we asked to stay open later (we even offered to pay them $300, which they asked for), they refused.
In the end, the day was still magical. But man, we sure would have loved a little more extra time with R. Kelly’s “Ignition.”
I enjoyed pretty much all the food at the buffets and restaurants at the Grand Palladium – as evidenced by my 3-lbs weight gain.
But I only ended up eating at two of the a la cartes – the Asian themed restaurant, and the traditional Jamaican one. The service was so slow, and I hated wasting 3+ hours of my evening waiting around for food when there was perfectly fine buffet stuff available.
Wow I’m nit-picky.
Me and my friends popped into the disco a few times, but mostly ended up spending our evenings sitting around a table at the Sports Bar being drunken idiots after a long day of margaritas and warm beer.
The upper level of the Palladium also features musicians and bands, but the selections were kinda weird. One day, while in the main pool playing inflatable beer pong, the happy upbeat pop music was replaced with Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven”…and continued to be mournful for the rest of the afternoon.
I don’t know. It seemed like an odd choice for a swim-up bar.
I maybe wouldn’t stay at the Grand Palladium again, although I’ll happily revisit Jamaica. Nothing could ruin an amazing week in paradise with great people. I’m just a spoiled Canadian, after all.
Tips for making the most of it
- The Beer Hut has coconuts, and the bartenders will happily free-pour rum into them
- Beat the excessive line-ups at the bars by heading to the Sunset Beach
- Don’t worry about making reservations for the a la carte restaurants – just show up and see if there’s space
- The Sports Bar is open late with really delicious pub grub (MOZZA STICKS!)
- Bring along $130-150USD for tipping
- Stay drunk. The entire time.