Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
Put the kids with a sitter; Mommy's coming home without tan lines.
Unlike most resorts in Jamaica, the Grand Lido is more indulgent -- better food, better liquor (and lots of it). It is more serene -- bi-level buildings, gardens, friendly cats wandering the property, and cognac served at the Amici piano bar. And it is more R-rated -- body painting, hash pipes in the gift shop, slot machines, and late-night naked parties in the hot tub. To put it plainly, when I asked one guest about his least favorite part of the hotel, he explained, "We came to Negril to get laid and get stoned. Who cares about anything else?"
The Grand Lido is not PG-rated. Across the road (and in audible range) lies Hedonism II, a hypersexual couples resort with activities that include a "party with the Penthouse girls" or "69 degrees of Kama Sutra." Hedonism shares the Grand Lido's clothing-optional beach in exchange for an invigorating level of nudity on the shores. The same spirit carries into the resort itself -- one of the resort's organized games involves blindfolding guests and asking them to drink from a beer bottle between their partner's legs -- and the overall environment acts in many ways to liberate an otherwise traditional crowd of 30-somethings and vivacious retirees (mostly from the United States).
The servers and bartenders are fast on their feet, and housekeeping is quick to address any issues.
The check-in process begins several weeks prior to arrival. The hotel sends you a welcome packet, some luggage tags, and a pre-registration card that needs to be filled prior to the trip. On arrival, a porter greets you at the entrance and offers you a chilled towel. Unlike at most other all-inclusive resorts, guests don't need to queue up at the front desk to check in -- you can just sit down, sip on a free mimosa with a wet washcloth stuck to your forehead, and wait for the receptionist to approach you with the room keys.
Located on the northern outskirts of Negril, a 90-minute, $80 taxi from Montego Bay International Airport.
Aside from the beach, there is little else near the Grand Lido. A gas station is down the road -- a dark, 15-minute walk away -- where you can buy phone cards or cigarettes after the hotel gift shop closes at 8 p.m. Otherwise, a taxi to one of the clubs or downtown Negril will cost $10 to $20 each way (depending on your bargaining skills).
The main beach features soft, white sand. On the fringes, the daring sunbathe in the nude.
Stretching the length of the resort, the beach covers a lot of ground. Beyond the beach (outside the resort), there is a Rasta-dominated jungle with sharp coral cliffs. The beach is used almost exclusively by guests of the resort, though there might be a few pot dealers on jet skis (something that is extremely common in Negril).
On the fringes of the beach (next to the garden view suites), the hotel designates its "clothing optional" sections. Before entertaining fantasies of the Playboy Mansion, consider that the nude beach here is more like a coed locker room at the YMCA.
All of the guest rooms are large, and the standard, Junior Suite includes one of the greatest eight-head showers on the island. But the splattered paint, tasseled curtains, plaid bedspreads and fractured, mismatched tiles are a far cry from the sleek luxury that one might expect at one of Negril's most expensive resorts.
Despite small efforts to modernize -- such as the small flatscreen implants (all satellite equipped with full premium cable channels) -- much of the room still needs replacing. My phone stopped working after the first night (the long unused bathroom phone saved the day), the toilet hardly flushed, and the hard-wired Internet didn't work (no surprise). Though the eight-head shower is incredible, one of the heads just drooled a bit in my room.
All suites have a balcony, but the small square ledge is only about six feet from a neighboring ledge. In order to open the doors completely, you need to first move the chairs into the room, then open the doors, then move the chairs out again. And, since there are no windows on the opposite side of the room to create a healthy air flow, it can be difficult to dilute some of the cigarette smoke and air-freshener smell.
The basic facts are these: The resort allows guests 16 and older, so technically parents can bring their older kids along (though no rooms have more than one bed, so junior's either sleeping on the couch or getting his own room). The resort offers an eye-popping array of activities, and mothers and daughters can even bond over mani-pedis at the spa. But again, this is not a place for kids. Between the nude beaches, the adult games, and emphasis on drinking, there is very little here that most parents would want to expose to their teenagers.
Overall, an average all-inclusive level of cleanliness. The bathroooms are pristine, but the bedding is questionable.
The property was generally maintained to the standard typical of all-inclusive Jamaica -- clean sheets, mopped floors, dead bugs in the pool, slight overflow of plastic, piña colada cups across the premises, and neglected room-service trays lingering overnight. However, I was at once overwhelmed and appalled by the Grand Lido.
Overwhelmed: The bathroom was about the cleanest thing I've ever seen, easily on par with the Ritz-Carlton -- no mold, well-polished marble and eight glimmering shower heads.
Appalled: My comforter contained a very suspicious white stain -- I ignored it, moved the blanket carefully to the sofa, and never touched it (or the sofa) again. Below the comforter, on the soft foam blanket, I found additional firm white crusts that reminded me a little too much of the kinds of stains one might find on a sock hidden under a college kid's bed. When I called to complain, someone came up in about 30 minutes and replaced it with a brand-new blanket. But I don't want to necessarily condemn the hotel for this. It seems like the pad was washed, and this kind of mishap could happen at any older hotel. There's a reason most hotels stopped using the foam blankets; they are like semen sponges.
Like most all-inclusives, the food is good, but not great.
Branding itself as the hotel for foodies, the Grand Lido justifiably generates harsher critics than other all-inclusives. Though a retired couple I spoke with from about an hour east of Edmonton found all the food "just lovely," a couple from Denver with an interest in organic farming found the entrees overcooked, the fruit unripe, and the buffet options limited, if not boring. I found the food average, and about on par with most of the other, less expensive all-inclusives in Jamaica; a few signature favorites and a whole lot of underachieving items prepared in bulk. (For the best food in Jamaica, you either need to pay top dollar, or just find a jerk chicken shack or beachside lobster grill -- just look for dreadlocks surrounding a cast-iron drum and a cooler of Red Stripe.)
Your money's worth in top-shelf liquor.
After spending the better part of a week searching Jamaica for some decent whiskey, I finally found some aged Chivas Regal, Johnny Walker Black, Jim Beam and Crown Royal at the Grand Lido. In addition, the hotel offers premium mixers like Frangelico, Cointreau and Grand Marnier as well as Stoli, Tanqueray, and aged Appleton Rum -- basically all the brands one would expect to find in the United States but that are in rare supply in the Caribbean. Better yet, all of the top-shelf liquor comes free. Be sure to specify what kind of liquor you want when ordering at the bar. Otherwise, you'll get the same cheap stuff found everywhere else.
The wedding package here is pretty standard, and they don't seem to mind you adding your own personal touches (although there are some related fees).
The Grand Lido's great liquor, decent food, 24-hour room service, intimate setting, and naked hot-tub parties bring a little grown-up indulgence to the more traditional, family-focused all-inclusive resort scene. However, that indulgence comes with a rather over-inflated price tag and the guest rooms are showing considerable wear -- Couples Swept Away is often the better deal.