Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
Plenty of features for an affordable price, but most of them are mediocre
Pulling up to the Iberostar Rose Hall complex doesn’t quite elicit instant relaxation. Rather the property, which comprises three separate hotels that quite literally rate in order of approach from best to worst, is a sea of concrete, with parking lots on the right side and barren, shopping mall-like entrances on the left side.
To put it bluntly, of the three Iberostar hotels located within this complex, Iberostar Rose Hall Beach is the cheapest and the least luxurious. Still, the volume of amenities remains on par with the other hotels; there are four bars, four restaurants, water sports, a theater, a business center, and a massive pool overlooking the beach. The hotel also shares a spa with the other two properties, as well as a casino, shops, meeting rooms, and a nightclub. What places it on the bottom of the three-tiered Iberostar totem pole is the decor, which, from the lobby to the rooms to the restaurants, is uninspired; for instance, the music lounge features low ceilings and cheesy Hawaiian furnishings that, even in the lowest of light, evoke a sketchy tiki bar.
The only area that isn’t ho-hum is the infinity-edge pool, which is humongous. Quite possibly the length of a football field, it features direct views of the beach and ocean, and lovely landscaping on all sides includes a meandering river and palm trees. The swim-up bar, however, though perhaps decently sized for a normal pool, is itty-bitty given the capacity of this pool. As a result, there is a near-constant mob of half-drunk guests jockeying for the attention of the bartenders, creating a club-type scenario.
The hotel also sells day passes to cruise ship passengers who are docked for the day, making a serene atmosphere all but impossible. The mad rush of guests, after paying a fee for all-inclusive access, seem hell-bent on making the most of their money by drinking and eating as much as humanly possible. This bothers hotel guests to no end, especially at the pool and swim-up bar, which simply cannot keep up with the never-ending demand. The policy is surely lucrative for Iberostar, but no doubt leaves a bad taste in the mouths of hotel’s ‘’real’’ guests.
What further irks a lot of guests is the fact that those staying at the higher quality Iberostar Rose Hall Suites and Ibersotar Rose Hall Grand have free reign to enjoy every amenity at Iberoster Rose Hall Beach. Yet, the reverse is not true, and in fact, guests at Iberostar Rose Hall Beach might feel like second-class citizens; they should expect to be stopped at the resort’s border, or ordered back to their grounds if they are discovered at one of the fancier resorts.
Still, many will consider the tradeoffs worth it for these low rates. The resort is not only the cheapest of the three Iberostar properties in Montego Bay, it's one of the cheapest all-inclusive, mid-range properties on the island. The decor might be dull and the dining just be so-so, but the rates are low, the beach is acceptable, and the booze and food are free.
In Rose Hall, Jamaica's golf resort capital, less than 20 minutes by cab from the Montego Bay airport
Iberostar Rose Hall Beach is situated within the mall-like complex that houses all three Iberostar resorts, along the northern coast of Montego Bay, where most of the city’s megaresorts and golf clubs are located. Aside from that, there isn’t a whole lot else going on nearby, save for a few shopping plazas that definitely don’t look any more enticing than the hotel’s on-site boutiques. While nothing outside the grounds is within walking distance, the Cinnamon Hill Golf Course, Montego Bay Airport, and fun, and appropriately named, Hip Strip are a short drive away.
Generic rooms with few extras -- but nice for the price
Rooms at Iberostar Rose Hall have light wood furniture, tile floors, and red-leaf-patterned comforters that are slightly more modern than the standard-issue floral prints found at many all-inclusives.
The travertine bathrooms are rather large for the room size, but the refillable wall-mounted toiletries aren’t refilled as often as they should be, and wall-mounted hairdryers are about as effective as the room’s ceiling fan at drying wet hair.
Each unit features a furnished balcony, but the space is recessed, allowing little light in, and heavy concrete columns obscure the vistas when guests are sitting in the patio chairs. The only real way to enjoy the view is to stand up and lean over.
There are two principle room types: Standard Rooms and Junior Suites. Junior Suites are a bit larger, and have a small sitting area between the bed and the balcony. Three Presidential Suites are also available.
Kids' menus, a kids' club, a water park (for an extra fee) -- Iberostar has plenty to keep families satisfied
Iberostar Rose Hall Beach is a great pick for families, thanks to affordable rates, adjoining rooms, all-inclusive meals featuring kids' menus, and, and best of a all, a rockin’ kids club with a water park, video game center, playground pool, and arts and crafts (though extra fees apply).
Lucy’s Kids Club is for kids ages four to 12, and has a (literally) cool water park, with a playground pool showered by fountains and a giant bucket that spills over the children as they play on slides and bridges. Unfortunately, guests at the Rose Hall Beach have to purchase a day pass for the water park (it's free for guests at the Rose Hall Suites).
Pretty and spacious enough, though covered in tire marks and rather crowded
Back in 2009, when Oyster first visited Iberostar Rose Hall Beach, we noticed tire tracks in the sand -- not exactly the most placid of sights to find along a resort’s beach. Unfortunately, our latest trip in 2012 revealed the same issue. The beach was also severely crowded, and activities such as water aerobics classes ruin any semblance of serenity.
Overall, the beach is one of the prettier ones in Jamaica. The sand isn’t quite powdery, but the water is warm and crystal clear. But while the beach stretches half a mile in front of all three Iberostar resorts, the beach access for Iberostar Rose Hall guests ends abruptly at the entrance to neighboring Iberostar Rose Hall Suites. Guests at the latter hotel can freely access Iberostar Rose Hall Beach’s amenities and strip of sand, but the reverse is not true; Rose Hall Beach guests will quite literally be turned away at the border.
A huge infinity-edge beachfront pool as well as a kids’ pool at Lucy’s Kids Club -- but a ridiculously early closing time and rowdy swim-up bar
For a mediocre resort with ho-hum amenities, the Iberostar Rose Hall Beach’s pool is surprisingly impressive -- and huge. To be sure, it’s not the chicest, and elements of the design are strange (a Jacuzzi located in the center spews hot water into the pool’s cold water,) but it certainly is big, which is important at a 366-room hotel. The swim-up bar is about what you’d expect, although it appears miniscule compared to the scale of the pool, and is almost constantly surrounded by a swarm of fun-loving, rowdy guests with a drink (or two) in hand. The early 7 p.m. pool closing time is annoying.
The towel huts from which guests must obtain their towels are inconvenient. Most resorts have attendants stock towels throughout the pool area, but guests at Iberostar are issued a towel card at check-in that allows them one towel at a time; guests must constantly carry it around if they want to dry off after a swim. And heaven forbid anyone lose their card -- the fee for a lost card was $25 in 2012.
The resort is advertised as having two pools, but the second pool is actually the kids’ pool, which is part of Lucy’s Kids Club and is shared with neighboring Iberostar Rose Hall Suites. The submerged water park and refreshing fountains make it very popular with the kids (and truth be told, their parents as well). Rose Hall Beach guests get access to the kids' club, but have to purchase a day pass to access the water park.
Four restaurants provide variety, but some menus leave much to be desired, and the reservation process is a pain.
For the nightly rates, Iberostar Rose Hall Beach’s restaurant variety is impressive. There is a buffet restaurant and beach grill (all-inclusive standards), as well as three specialty options: the Japanese teppanyaki eatery, Samurai; a steakhouse; and a Cajun restaurant called Jambalaya. The buffet options vary for the different theme nights, and the menu is diverse every night of the week, which is a good thing considering what a challenge it is to get reservations at the a la carte eateries. If just one reservation can be made, it should surely be at Samurai, which guests consistently prefer over the other options. The beach grill is also open during odd hours to ensure guests don't go hungry.
Though chicken is dry and dessert offerings are weak, the food rates decently. The real pain here is the reservation process for the a la carte restaurants, which requires guests to physically visit the guest services desk (phone calls are not permitted). For same-night dinner reservations, guests must arrive before noon; however, most reservations are yanked up a day in advance. Guests in relaxation mode may forget such details, and get stuck at the buffet every night.
Free room service is also available from late morning 'til night, although the menu is slim, with just a handful of generic American and Jamaican cuisine offerings. Service is just as weak; when my meal was brought to my room, the delivery woman unceremoniously dumped it on my TV stand and walked away without so much as a “have a nice day.”
Drinks aren’t weak, but only a limited number of top-shelf liquor options are available.
Four bars -- including a music lounge and a swim-up bar at the pool -- provide roughly the same drink menu and service. What varies, however, is how well the bartenders mix. Arguably the best drinks come from the lobby bar, which, though a little bit depressing due to poor lighting and crowds of guests either waiting to check-in or waiting for their taxi to take them to the airport, features the bartenders with the most skill and inventiveness.
To the resort’s credit, the drinks are surprisingly stronger than most all-inclusive resorts provide. Some top-shelf liquor, such as Dewar’s or Tanqueray, is available; however the selection isn’t quite as extensive as at the island’s Couples resorts. Still, it seems that each bartender has his or her specialty, and guests would do best to inquire when ordering -- it’s almost always the best bet at the bar.
Fun for some guests, embarrassing for (most) others. There was a talented steel-drum and jazz-guitar quintet, and painful Vegas-style dance performances.
The Star Friends, an energetic team of hyper-friendly young men and women, wander about the hotel behaving like camp counselors. Think sing-alongs and spontaneous dancing. They host daily games at the beach and in the pool, generally requiring some coerced participation. For success in physical feats such as running across a floating raft, the hotel awarded bottles of rum or T-shirts (but only if the guests returned to the evening cabaret and were willing to pick up their prize on stage).
In the lobby bar, in the afternoon, I heard a very talented, mellow steel-drum and jazz-guitar quintet. It was easily the highlight of the stay.
The evening entertainment, however, was a painful spectacle. To put it politely, for a highly pretentious New York observer, the Vegas-style dance performance was awful. Throughout the audience, I heard whispers of "What is this? Is this supposed to be funny?" The slightly eroticized ladies in Spandex and granny panties were applauded, if merely out of sympathy.
The following was the comedy performance: a man dressed in a flashy Elvis costume (circa Vegas) was interrupted by a member of the Star team (posing as a member of the audience), who explained, "Elvis, you have my shirt." He then walked to the stage and fought Elvis in order to remove his shirt. This was then followed by someone stating, "Elvis, you have my pants," "You have my underwear," etc., until eventually there was a near-naked Elvis on stage covering himself with an oversize cardboard guitar. The only laughs came from a few children and the German man sitting behind me, who I can only hope was under the influence of humor-enhancing drugs.
A small fitness center for hotel guests only, as well as a larger fitness space shared with guests at the adjoining hotels
The main fitness center, located within the spa and shared with guests at Iberostar Rose Hall Suites and Iberostar Rose Hall Grand, features a Pilates and spinning studio, a juice bar, and a small cardio and weight area. Since Rose Hall Beach is slightly farther away from the spa than the other two resorts, it also has its own smaller gym, which is adequately furnished with treadmills, spinning bikes, free weights, and weight machines. Both fitness centers are manned by a member of the resort’s blue-and-yellow clad Star Team; however, like the pool, both fitness centers also close inexplicably early at 7 p.m.
Expansive spa with hydrotherapy room, salon, juice bar, and an outdoor treatment room
Spa Sensations is shared between all three Iberostar properties in Montego Bay. It has a salon featuring hair, make-up, and nail services; a relaxation room with Jacuzzi and hydrotherapy pool; a boutique featuring a variety of products; and extensive fitness center that includes a juice bar and a Pilates and spinning studio. Signature treatments incorporate local ingredients such as coffee, cocoa, and oranges, and span a variety of specialties including Shiatsu, Swedish, and Turkish massage. The spa’s outdoor treatment room is located on a private balcony overlooking the pool and the Caribbean Sea -- not quite as serene as, say, the tree-house treatment rooms at Couples Negril, but soothing nonetheless.
All-inclusive rates include food, drinks, and water sports
Iberostar Rose Hall Beach is an all-inclusive resort. Rates cover all meals (including specialty restaurants and room service), drinks, and non-motorized water sports.
A doctor on call and 24-hour front desk staff
Plenty of activities, both land- and water-based
In addition to the small fitness center located within the confines of Iberostar Rose Hall Beach, guests also have access to a second fitness center at the spa, which includes a spinning and Pilates studio, a juice, bar, and a weight and cardio room.
Other activities include free non-motorized water sports (windsurfing, sailing, snorkeling, kayaking, and catamaran cruising) and free classes and events such as aqua aerobics on the beach and beach volleyball tournaments. Scuba diving and parasailing are also available for an extra fee.
Land-based sports include tennis, billiards, foosball, and ping-pong, as well as golf at the nearby Cinnamon Hills Golf Course (Iberostar guests receive preferred rates).
A small casino and lounging area
Shared with the Iberostar Rose Hall Grand and Iberostar Rose Hall Suites, the casino is nothing special, with a dozen or so digital gaming machines and an adjoining room that attempts a sports bar vibe, with a dart board, TVs showing sports, and a card table.
Wedding packages and on-site planners available
Iberostar Rose Hall Beach offers plenty of options for weddings small and large. Enclaves throughout the resort offer private locales for intimate nuptials, and several meeting rooms are available for cocktail hours and receptions. The resort has an on-site wedding team that assists with details, such as the wedding cake, bouquet, music, photography, and catering.
The least expensive of Montego Bay’s Iberostar trio, this upbeat, and at times rowdy, all-inclusive megaresort features tons of amenities -- four restaurants, four bars, water sports, a spa, a theater, a casino, a nightclub, and an awesome kids' club -- all for seriously affordable rates. The rooms may be small, the decor may be outdated, and the grounds may be packed to the brim at times, but it's one of the best values on the island.