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N Resort Trip Review

By: Mari Beth & Daren

Trip Dates: April 30-May 6, 2011

The transfer from the airport to N Resort was provided by the resort through Jamaican Tours. We had to wait for a few people but got off in pretty good time with 10 passengers (including us). Interestingly 6 people were headed for Jewel resort near Ochos Rios and we and one other couple got off at N which was the first stop. I would say it took 45 minutes to arrive.

I will warn you and tell you to inform any guests headed to N resort that the driveway to the resort from the main road is a bit shabby and distracts from your first impression. Once on property the entrance is nice with lots of trees and vegetation. The lobby is nicely laid out and they have cool water & rum punch at the door and also offered to take orders for red stripe and other drinks which arrived promptly. We were greeted by friends who had already checked in and they wore sarongs or towels which is acceptable attire for most every part of the resort. Check in was a breeze. The internet café located in the lobby is free and is open 24 hours – however, internet access is limited, spotty and often very slow so this could use improvement. Also, the safe’s are behind the front desk (which was a bit inconvenient at times but we grew accustomed especially since the lobby is very close to everything) rather than in the rooms – they are offered at no charge unless you lose the key and then they will charge you $100.

We were off to our room in block #7 (room 228) which was spacious and clean and probably the room we would request again or else the pool corner room of the block right in between Oceanside and the pool. The wood décor from floor to ceiling can create a bit of a dark feel but it has kind of a cozy cabin atmosphere which we appreciated but it could be lighted better in the main area. The walk in closet is great and spacious. The bathrooms could use some updating but were clean and had all the necessities such as soap, bath gel, shampoo/conditioner, hair dryer & nice towels. There is also a fridge in each room stocked with red stripe, soda and a container of purified water (which maintains the resort’s environmentally friendly “green” theme by not having bottled water which we support but guests need to be aware of that). We also really liked the wicker loungers in the room (our room had 2) which were great to relax on or to lay out clothes or set suitcases on. The ocean front rooms are (in our opinion) very much worth the extra money and offer a great view off the balcony especially if you have a second floor room. The balcony’s have either a wicker couch with a sheeted mattress and a side table (which we had and I – MB – really enjoyed lounging on in the mornings) or a wicker table with two chairs. We were told that people that did not have a room with the couch on the balcony could request one so that is a nice option.

The STAFF is one of the resorts largest assets. They are new to this transition but pretty well trained and working very hard! And the general manager, Freddie, maintains his presence on property as we saw him multiple times each day and he is making sure his staff is doing their job. He is tough but seems fair. His philosophy is that “we don’t want to be Hedo and we don’t want to be Braco – we want to be our own entity.” Freddie shared with us in a private meeting that he wants N resort to be a place where guests can feel comfortable being in a sarong or naked anywhere and anytime throughout the resort. His goal is to see a large percentage of guests packing with carry-ons only. Simple and relaxing is his goal. Freddie has been involved with many resorts over the years and has assisted in many resorts at start-up such as Hedo II and Braco plus he has worked with resorts in transition such as N is doing transitioning from family to couples only-nude. He feels very strongly that he does not want the public display of sex that is found at Hedo and told us that he has turned down groups that wanted to do a swinger take over week. He also doesn’t want people to feel that they need certain clothes (like long pants & closed toe shoes) that resorts like Braco and others have had. He also stated that since occupancy was low during our stay, lunch and dinner were only offered in one area but when occupancy is high they will have both in two locations. Lunch will be served at the pool grill with a set menu of items such as jerk chicken etc., burgers, fries, sandwiches, wraps etc., along with a salad bar. A second location for lunch will be Oceanside restaurant with soup, salad bar, buffet and a la carte items. With low occupancy they alternated each night between the Oceanside for menu ordering and Sabbia (Italian) restaurant for menu ordering with no reservations. With high occupancy they will offer Oceanside with no reservation and Sabbia with reservation each night (except for the Jamaican Buffet on Saturday in Oceanside and the Beach Party on Wednesday on the beach).

They serve purified water from large covered carafes in the lobby and restaurants and have a cooler with a dispenser filled with purified water by the pool with glasses provided. There is not a bottle of water to be found on the resort (which again we support) but in hindsight I might have packed a reusable water bottle from home had I known that.

The pool area is certainly a focal point and it is nicely shaped with some good areas to sit and lounge on steps. The way the pool is set up there are places for lounge chairs that are in full sun and others that are shaded. There are also a handful of umbrellas for additional shade. The lounge chairs are wonderfully built and comfortable and have vinyl cushions which is great because if they get wet they just wipe them down. My only concern was how many chairs they will be able to get poolside if occupancy gets high. I estimate that they can only get 75 around the pool. However they have plenty of chairs they can set on the beach or on their very large pier that juts out over the ocean. While I agree that this is good I still feel that poolside chairs will be a hot commodity if occupancy is high (they have 96 rooms so take that times 2!) which could mean people getting up way early to throw stuff on pool chairs to reserve them (just my humble opinion). We felt the temperature of the pool was right on the mark every day and that it was well maintained and cleaned. There is a pool volleyball net and also a waterslide for entertainment. We thought it was genius that they timed people going down the slide as a race and had prizes! A swim up bar is adjacent to the pool on the ocean side plus they provide drink service to the lounge chairs. One thing missing is pool rafts (floaties). They have one cheap one plus some noodles but that is it! Floaties (like the foam ones found at other resorts) would be a welcome addition. We talked with Freddie about them and he wants to get some but they need to make $$$ first as they cost $122 each.

Drinks are plentiful and generous. Brand selection is excellent in some areas (like vodka) and maybe lacking in others (top shelf whiskey & tequila). Service is quite good.

There are 2 good sized hot tubs (each holding about 10-12 comfortably) located on either side of the pool which were nice. Some people thought they were a little on the warm side but I (MB) thought it was about right. They were not used a lot but the guests that did enjoyed them.

The beach was nice, not huge, but definitely enough room and the sand is soft. There are a few canopied beach beds at the far end of the property that were not used much but looked comfortable and peaceful. The ocean was a beautiful temperature and the bottom was quite smooth. The area is quite windy both on the beach and at the pool so you rarely feel hot. The ocean is fairly shallow but wavy due to the wind. There is a large pier off the beach with picnic tables and lounge chairs on it which seemed under used but Freddie said that some weeks it can be the hot spot where everyone hangs out.

We did not use the spa but 3 of our friends did book massages and said it was fabulous. The massages take place under a hut on a separate pier over the ocean.

The gym has a variety of equipment including cardio machines, weight machines and plenty of free weights. There is not much space and it would be nice to have more mirrors but it was certainly workable. One day a treadmill broke down and it was fixed that same day which was impressive. Some guests thought the gym was too hot but we figured since you are going to sweat anyway what is the difference? Towels and water were provided which was nice.

There are a couple of areas where there are pool tables and/or board games etc and plenty of wicker furniture. One is above the pool bar and the other above the main restaurant area I believe. Both would work well for group activities or private events.

For show time they had some good entertainment including Big Mama who you have to see to truly appreciate, a fire eater/breather/dancer, local Jamaican bands (which featured staff members) etc. One comment would be that for when they want to get couples to dance they should use more modern music.

The piano bar is gorgeous with beautiful and comfortable furniture. They set up a mini bar but also had wait staff on hand since occupancy was low. Staff pretty much followed wherever the majority of guests were hanging out. And as you can imagine Daren & I were party central so where we went the staff and guests followed.

The disco is decorated very cool and has a lot of potential to be fun! However it was used very little while we were there.

For happy hour or late evening, a couple of times we opted to leave property and go next door to Time & Place for a beer/drink. It is locally owned by Tony and has a wonderful authentic Jamaican vibe!

For special events the resort and staff went above and beyond! We had 2 guests celebrating birthdays during our stay and their chairs were decorated at dinner, champagne served and cake of their choice made and presented.

Entertainment staff is currently one guy named Leon who works very hard. He told us they were hiring one other guy and 2 girls for entertainment and that he was leaving in September.

The resort organizes an outing to Glistening Waters which is only a 5 minute bus ride away and is a very cool experience/boat ride and swim for an economical amount.

The gift shop was nice and prices seemed ok but only open certain days and the days and hours seemed to vary and the staff did not seem informed of the schedule. We think the gift shop should be open at least “some” hours each day and the hours should be posted and clearly communicated to staff. This would be helpful if a guest (such as us) forgot a necessity. There is also an additional craft shop and one day they had a jewelry vendor at poolside.

Overall the food is very high quality and nicely prepared and well presented. They DO serve what some may consider as smaller portions but we appreciated the attempt at quality over quantity and to not waste (in accordance with the “green” theme). And they always asked if they could get you something additional or seconds. So it was not uncommon for Daren to order jerk chicken, finish and then order a cheese burger at lunch. The variety was excellent and there were many vegetarian options. At all of the restaurant areas small towels were provided for guests to sit on (in case they were wearing only sarongs, short dresses, swimwear etc)

Breakfast was served in the Oceanside restaurant and had a continental buffet with breads, pastries, cereals, yogurt and fruit along with coffee and teas. Other breakfast items were off menu and all that we tried (everything from omelets to crepes, pancakes, waffles, eggs benedict & quesadillas plus much more) were delicious and made to order. They also provide an authentic Jamaican special each day at breakfast. Plus they make a variety of smoothies that were really great. Table service by the staff was marvelous and they did a great job of keeping coffee, juice, etc., coming.

Lunch was served at the grill due to low occupancy but in addition to the grill items the menu also included items such as jerk fish, grilled fish and meats, roasted veggies, pasta dishes etc… And they were tasty and the menu varied each day. Soup, salad bar and assorted desserts were also served daily. Of note we loved the tuna & pesto pasta especially and the jerk chicken was a staple of every lunch although the sauce could use a bit more spice for our taste.

One very nice treat was that late afternoon baskets of freshly popped popcorn were delivered to the pool and beach areas for a great snack.

Also a nice touch was that at the Oceanside bar prior to dinner they served appetizers of chips and salsa, plantain chips and dip or fried sweet potato and dip or bread fruit and dip. This was a great way to bring people together to socialize

Dinners were equally scrumptious whether buffet or a la carte and were beautifully presented. Portions seemed to be a bit larger during dinner. One night the menu was labeled as “over proof” and served at Sabbia and all was very good. Things that stood out for dinners were the mussels for sure, the seafood medley, some of the soups, tasty side dishes and the tempting desserts. At dinners one table may be dressed up and at the next table people may be wearing only sarongs.

The resort does not offer room service and does not plan to offer it in the future. However it is available for special occasions such as honeymoon, anniversary, birthday or illness/ injury.

Activities and theme nights will certainly improve with higher occupancy. One activity I really appreciated was Jamaican fruit tasting. For as many years as I have been going to Jamaica I had not tasted many of the fruits offered to taste and learn about. Watersports are virtually non-exsistant at this time perhaps due to occupancy but more likely due to high seas and windy conditions most of the time.

There is a lot of beach to explore beyond the property and it is safe so that was fun to experience. However if you plan to venture out beyond the resort bring water shoes! One guest cut his foot badly off property. I must say though that the resort was very helpful to this person (and it wasn’t me!) in obtaining proper medical care (and he needed 6 stitches in his foot – ouch). In fact Freddie’s secretary rode with them to the hospital and helped them through paperwork, payment ect.

Check out was smooth and transfer to the airport was quick and easy.

In summary, we loved it and would go back in a heartbeat! This resort is more of a relaxed atmosphere than we have experienced at similar resorts and definitely casual – and next time I will pack lighter! There are a lot of people scouting out this resort and reporting back to friends and many of these people were Braco repeaters and it seemed looking for the next destination for recurring trips. We met some wonderful people and plan to keep in touch with them.

We think this place has tremendous potential. They just need to survive start-up, then make a little money and smartly invest it in the things that keep guests coming back.

We feel this will be a wonderful place to host groups. It should be a great fit for many of the couples that have been a part of the Braco Bunch in years past. We just need to communicate to them the differences in the properties and promote the value of the rates at N.

We shared with Freddie many of the special things we have done for guests of the Braco Bunch in the past and they are more than willing to accommodate our requests and help us execute the activities and make our guests feel special.

Did we mention that we are now booking a group tour to N Resort for January 7 - 14, 2012.

Check our more pictures, information, weather and more on N Resort Ocho Rios Jamaica.

 

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