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Reviewed 2 April 2018

My husband and I stayed at Secrets St. James in late March, and had a fabulous time. We've stayed at AIs in Riviera Maya and in Negril, but this was our first time in Montego Bay.
Travel: I booked through CheapCaribbean by phone, and found their travel agents to be really helpful in comparing different resorts. We used Club Mobay both ways, and breezed past lines and were very quickly through customs. We had round trip private transportation with Joe Cool, and our driver was there right on time. We didn't bother with a drink in the arrival lounge- if you have to wait, that's a nice place to wait, but we would rather get to the resort. On the way home, though, we did appreciate the lounge and service in Mobay (although the food didn't appeal to us).

Room: Our room was not yet ready when we arrived, so we left luggage with the bellmen and ate lunch and wandered the resort. We did not do Preferred Club, and didn't feel we missed out on anything. Our room turned out to be 5th floor (top floor) with a beach view, which was a lovely surprise! The room itself was great- more spacious than I'd expected, with a loveseat and coffee table, plus a table for two in the room, and then a table and two chairs on the balcony. Plenty of hangers, safe worked fine, and we found the bed very comfortable. Bathrobes were not there, but I requested they be delivered with turn down service and they were. Loved the room service cabinet, which allowed delivery even when our privacy light was activated, and was a great way to get dirty dishes/glasses out of sight without leaving them on the floor in the hallway. The only negative about the room was that the loveseat badly needed to be re-upholstered and had several old stains. Draped towels over it and didn't think of it again. Maid service was regular and exactly as expected (new towels, straightened room, cleaned floor etc). The bathroom was actually different than I had pictured after reading previous reviews. A nice sized shower and toilet are both fully enclosed behind their own (very frosted) glass doors. A double vanity and large free-standing tub are more open to the room, with a curtain that can be pulled between the bedroom and the bathroom.

Resort & Beach: It's pretty large, with so many different pool and beach areas. St. James and Wild Orchid flow into each other seamlessly, and we saw no difference real between the two. As others have said, Hard Rock is at far right and the music is very loud during the day. You can hear it across the Breathless beach (designated only by different color towels and a few beach beds), and onto some of the St. James Beach area. If that will bother you, move further to the left where it can't be heard. There isn't very far that you can walk on the beach here, because of the rocks, but the beach is still absolutely beautiful. Since the beaches are broken up into several little cove areas, there are plenty of different places to sit. Some are narrow, with only room for one chaise row, others have rows of chaises. We did see that some people place towels and leave them for hours, and the staff should be more diligent about removing them when unused. It wasn't a problem for us- we came to the beach when we were ready to sit, and found spots we were happy with every day. Lots of little fish near the rocks, which was really cool to see. Service at the Marlin Bar (closest to some of the beach area) was not great- for the most part, these are not bartenders that want to help you find your new favorite vacation drink, but they will provide what you ask for. The beach service servers were nice, but there should be more of them so that they are able to be a bit quicker.

Pool: It was harder to find chairs near the edge of the pool by afternoon, but there were always still some available a little further back. The resort was not full when we were there, but with all the different pool and beach areas, it's hard to imagine any of them feeling crowded. Towel service at Wild Orchid and St. James was fine, no shortages that we saw. Pool bar service was okay, overall not as enthusiastic as we have experienced at other resorts (even after tipping). Pool bathrooms were constantly attended to and no problems there. It seems they are in the process of upgrading the cushions on the chaise lounges- some are super plush brown cushions, some are flatter white cushions, and some have no cushions. The brown ones are extra comfy, but we tried all 3 options and were fine with all 3. The pools themselves are really beautiful.

Breathless: We did venture over the bridge to Breathless to explore the foam party, and it was so much fun, definitely worth experiencing! Breathless had a very modern feel, and essentially could have been in the middle of Las Vegas- there was nothing that made it feel island-y or like you were in Jamiaca. It was beautiful, and we were glad to be able to hang out there as well. We did experience a towel shortage at Breathless on one of the afternoons we visited- no towels available and none expected when we went looking for them around 4:30pm. Pool bartenders were among the worst we've experienced (slow, kind of rude, got drinks wrong), but their pool servers were nice and lobby bar bartenders were always super friendly. Breathless events are not included in the activity info at Secrets, so you have to call concierge and ask if you want more details. For example, we saw a sign at Breathless about a beach party, and I later had to call and ask Secrets concierge to find out what time. Concierge had to call Breathless and find out, and then call me back.

Restaurants: (We did not eat at Breathless, so can't speak to those options.) Breakfast was amazing with all the options you can imagine, although often had a line after 9. We loved the french and mexican restaurants for dinner, as well as the two restaurants near the main pools. While tastes will vary, we found almost everything to be very good (slightly overcooked, as can be typical at AI, but still very good). Quality was much better than moderate chain restaurants, for example, though also not what you would find at a true fine dining establishment in a large city in the US. We were pleased. The options were plentiful, the presentations very nice, and the restaurant service very good. Bordeaux was ultimately our favorite, and felt the "fanciest." We struggled a bit more with lunch, and weren't thrilled with lunch menus at either of the poolside restaurants, where much of the seafood was fried. The Barefoot Bar snack shack had really yummy burgers, and the jerk chicken served from the rolling grill was excellent- so we often defaulted to those for lunch on the beach. Coco café- I was thrilled to find all the options for coffee drinks available 24 hours a day (basically a starbucks style menu).

Entertainment: daytime was pretty typical, and evening entertainment could be a bit improved. The resorts could benefit from some livelier shows and options. The steel drum band and dancers was our favorite night of entertainment. The Piano bar was also fun, and both that and the disco smelled totally fine to my sensitive nose. (Although the lobbies and bathrooms are often overly perfumed with incense.) There was not much nightlife here after 10pm or so.

Overall- we had an amazing time, and I am so glad that I wasn’t scared off by some reviews I had read. Service was not as enthusiastic as we’ve experienced at other resorts, but was adequate (with the restaurant service and bellman service notably the friendliest and best). The resort is stunning, the beach is beautiful, the rooms are luxurious. Restaurant options are plentiful, and all serve very different food in different atmospheres. I’d recommend this resort to even picky travelers, and would be happy to return.

  • Stayed: March 2018, travelled as a couple
    • Sleep Quality
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
3  Thank kec2222
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 1 April 2018 via mobile

Spent a lovely week. Staff are generally friendly and helpful, service is good for drinks and food. Of the restaurants, the Jamaican is best. Mexican was also surprisingly good. Beaches ok with pkenty of shade for those who want it. Excellent snorkeling within swimming distance of beach so strong swimmers don’t need to wait for groups or pay extra for the boat to reef. If you are looking for quiet, ho elsewhere. Lots of bar and activity noise at main pools and for those upgrading to Preferred Club, you hear music from neighboring Hard Rock Cafe all day. Phones were out of service for 3/7 days and there were issues with batteries in safe and door key card. But they were prompt and helpful sending repairmen.
Loved the many beautiful flowers and variety of palms; upkeep of grounds is excellent. Gorgeous peacocks and an exotic parrot are on the grounds as well.
It is a quick easy ride from airport. All in all, you can have a great vacation here if you aren’t expecting perfection.

Stayed: March 2018, travelled as a couple
2  Thank braces2go
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 1 April 2018

My husband and I are not well traveled when it comes to caribbean vacations, this was just our third trip to this part of the world. However, I can not imagine a nicer resort. The resort was perfectly appointed, all of the food was excellent and every single staff member was exceptionally friendly and accomodating. We appreciated having multiple pools to choose from each day and both pool side or ocean side lounges were always available. We really enjoyed all of the evening entertainment. The sunsets were incredilbe. We had a wonderful experience and hope to travel again soon to Secrets St. James.

  • Stayed: March 2018, travelled as a couple
    • Sleep Quality
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
1  Thank ESM14580
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 1 April 2018

Only posting and only a caution if you are vegetarian. This hotel has everything and caters for everyone's whim. Except if you are vegetarian, has seven restaurants and usually 4 or 5 are open for evening meal. Meals are from fixed menu and restaurants have either one or even no vegetarian options for main course. Not even salad option available. There is no buffet service style restaurant which would be ideal. There is a 24hr cafe but who wants coffee and cup cake for dinner!

Room Tip: Preferred club garden view.
Stayed: March 2018, travelled as a couple
2  Thank tutfut01
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 31 March 2018

My husband and I went to Secrets St. James with 2 other couples to celebrate our 50th birthdays. We were greeted by warm check in staff who welcomed us with a scented, cool towel and a delicious glass of rum punch. Only 1 of our 3 rooms was ready, as we arrived before check in time, so we put all bags in that one room and headed out to explore the resort. We started with lunch and drinks at the pool bar restaurant. Our server was so nice and the food was very good. We spent the rest of the afternoon hanging on the beach until we were able to get into the rest of the rooms.

The rooms, junior ocean-view suites were lovely. They were clean and well appointed and we had an amazing view of the St. James pool and the ocean. The soaking tub was calling my name and the dual shower head (one regular and one rain) made for a super-relaxing shower.

The resort has a nice selection of restaurants and bars. The restaurants are themed by cuisine, and I think the French was the most delicious of all (although we didn't get to try the Italian as it was closed the night we were going to go - that was a disappointment). The French restaurant had a wonderful goat cheese cake appetizer that I could eat every day, and the lamb chops were cooked very nicely. One of our other favorites was the jerk chicken cart. It was a delicious lunch option and a nice surprise to find it outside of desires after a night out. We also loved the chips at the Barefoot Grill - made fresh and super yummy.

The drinks are well made and the bartenders are pleasantly heavy-handed. There are several, so drinks are never too far away. We did find that the beach servers were not as attentive as we'd like, but having to walk the 20 steps to the Marlin bar gave us a chance to burn a couple of calories. The bartenders were very friendly and we loved talking to them about life in Jamaica. We had an especially great conversation with Ricardo at the Oceana restaurant bar.

A couple of things that we found a little frustrating...we love to snorkel, but didn't pack our gear, assuming that the resort would have some we could borrow. It turns out that you can only use theirs if you are on an organized snorkel trip. I think this is done purposefully so that you go to the gift shop and buy the ones there for $30 US each. I've never heard of an all inclusive island resort that didn't let guests use that equipment when ever they wanted to. Also, housekeeping was a bit inconsistent. We were very diligent about turning out our privacy light, but some nights we had turn down service and some nights we didn't. It doesn't really bother us, but it would have been nice to know what should have been done. I also saw pictures from other travelers who had towel folding done in their rooms and that was not done for us, so not sure how you get that service. We never did get our robes - they weren't in the room and we didn't know that we had to request them (we did finally request them but didn't get them, still), but we did have some nice slippers waiting for us in the room.

All in all, it was an excellent resort. We were spoiled by the staff and the beach was beautiful. I would highly recommend this resort for well-deserved couple time!!

Room Tip: They are doing some roof work on the St. James building and it was right over our friend's rooms. I would ask about that when booking.
  • Stayed: March 2018, travelled with friends
    • Value
    • Sleep Quality
    • Service
3  Thank Stacey D
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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