More relaxing and family-focused than other all-inclusives
Unlike Jamaica's many hard-boozin' all-inclusive resorts, the Hilton's Rose Hall Resort maintains a more sober and relaxed sense of luxury. On the whole, what you get here isn't too different from what you might find at any family-friendly upscale resort in the United States. While the largely European-based chain hotels that surround the Hilton tend to skimp when it comes to bedding and technology (in favor of poolside dance contests, perhaps), the Hilton provides all the elaborate niceties U.S. travelers have come to expect in recent years, such as high thread-count sheets and wireless Internet access in every guest room. In fact, its kid-friendly atmosphere, consistent service, great golf course, and up-to-date guest rooms are more in line with other large-scale top-quality Hilton properties in the United States, such as the Hilton Hawaiian Village near Waikiki and the Hilton Bonnet Creek near Disney World in Orlando, than they are with other resorts in the Caribbean. And it is for these reasons that it becomes a stand-out value in Montego Bay. Its only real competitors -- the Ritz-Carlton and Half Moon resorts -- both tend to cost considerably more money.
More professional than the typical all-inclusive staff
While some resorts can feel a bit bureaucratic, the service at the Rose Hall Resort is a bit more personable. There is always someone willing to help with a bag or open a door.
On-site car rental desk
Foreign currency exchange (though U.S. dollars are accepted and often preferred throughout Jamaica)
In-room dining (room service)
Full range of business services, including a notary public
A 15-minute ride from the airport, and golfers don't have to go anywhere once they have checked in.
There's no complimentary shuttle, but it's a short, $25 taxi ride to the airport. It's also a major plus that the golf course is actually on the main property. Guests at many other hotels have to arrange transport to get to their greens. Here, you can walk right over!
Stuffed with options (including a water park!) without being overwhelming.
Rose Hall's main feature is the Sugar Mill Falls complex of waterslides, waterfalls and swinging bridges, all in a massive lagoon-shaped pool. The whole area is well planned, and there are several private perches for parents to keep an eye on their kids.
I didn't see any dirt anywhere. But I did have a fly buzzing around my room all night, and a huge roach poked its head out of the sink just as I was about to take a shower. Issues like these, however, are very common in the Caribbean and the hotel is otherwise very clean.
Mostly mediocre, although the Italian fare is surprisingly authentic.
Fresh, the large, open-air restaurant on the ground floor of the main building, has an uninspiring buffet (though I loved the soft-serve and Nescafe machines). Here's a tip: Fill your cup with the vanilla latte, pour out a bit, and then add a spot of espresso.
Luna di Mar, the hotel's Italian restaurant, is more formal (meaning you can't wear shorts), and the food is excellent. The pesto and olive oil combo served with the bread was great, and my shrimp scampi was perfectly cooked. The house wine was poor (as is common just about anywhere in the Caribbean), but when everything on the menu except for the steak is part of the all-inclusive package, it's hard to complain. Similarly, the Three Palms restaurant on the golf course is very good.
There are basically two actual bars at Rose Hall. The laid-back Bar King Frog is by the lobby and overlooks the pool. It is where just about every adult at the resort gathers in the evening. There is another bar in the nightclub, but neither the club nor the bar seem to get much attention (especially in the off season). And of course, you can get drinks anywhere around the pool or at the Sugar Mill Falls complex.
A modern, large-scale family-focused resort with above-and-beyond service
The gazebo, one of many possible ceremony locations
Wedding Size: Up to 500 people; up to four weddings performed daily
Wedding Packages: The basic package starts at $1,200 and includes the ceremony, location, license, officiant, one-tier 10-inch wedding cake, a wedding planner, and a bottle of champagne. Alternative packages range from $2,500 to $7,500.
Ceremony Options: Couples may choose between the beach or the gazebo for receptions included in the packages; Aqueduct, the Ruins, and Ocean's Edge may also be booked at an additional $2,500 fee. Decorations at any space cost about $380.
Reception Options: Receptions can be held in the Rose Hall Ballroom, the Three Palms Courtyard (the golf course), a central lawn that overlooks the ocean, the garden, the Falmouth Room, the Negril Room, the Port Antonio Room, the Trelawny Room, and Sugar Mill Falls. For guests staying on the property who opt for the all-inclusive plan, the standard menu starts at $45 per person, but customized menus (plated or buffet) for off-property or non-all-inclusive guests range from $90 to $130 and a three-hour open bar can cost upwards of $650. Decorations cost between $65 and $150, depending on the number of guests.
Photographer and Videographer: Photo packages range from $290 (for 18 5-by-7 prints) to $720 (for 48 5-by-7 prints); videographer rates range from $300 for just the 30-minute ceremony to $500 for the ceremony and key reception moments, like the cake cutting and the first dance. Outside photographers and videographers are permitted, but there's a steep $350 vendor fee (more than most other Jamaican resorts).
Music Options: Live band ($3,500 for three hours, which is much more expensive than at other resorts); a DJ ($300 per hour); a stanadrd PA system for your own music ($192); a solo musician ($400 per hour). Outside bands are also permitted, though there's another steep, $350 fee.
Cake: Small 10-inch strawberry cake included in each wedding package, though each additional tier costs $80. Couples can also choose a Jamaican fruit or rum cake for $300.
Spa treatments: The spa offers a full range of services, including waxing ($10 to $65), hair styling ($60 and up), manis/pedis ($10 to $80), and makeup application ($45).
Honeymoon Suite: The hotel doesn't have a special "honeymoon suite," but the Caribbean Royal Suite is a popular choice for the bride and groom.
Airport transportation: A hotel shuttle to Montego Bay International Airport costs $11 per person; some packages include airport transportation.