Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
Just 143 low-key cottages on a small-scale resort, like a summer camp for families and couples. All-inclusive comforts for easygoing guests -- no poolside megaphones at this all-inclusive.
The Decameron's 143 octagonal cottages are tightly squeezed along the resort's 12-acre beachfront property. The beach and gardens are well manicured and fenced in by high barbed-wire walls (keeping out the riffraff). Charming details like labels on the local trees and plants and cute turtle sculptures add to the cutesy summer camp look.
Despite the crowds, the Royal DeCameron Club was surprisingly mellow -- even during spring break in March. The pool and patches of swimmable beach were crowded with chairs and groups of vacationers quietly basking in the sun. Bars and buffets were full, and guests walked the length of the property from sunup to sundown, but guests were chilled out and relaxed, not loud and hyper. Breezes Montego Bay, Riu Montego Bay, and Sunset Beach Resort in Montego Bay are all similarly priced all-inclusives with more of a party scene.
In the afternoons and evenings, a live reggae band played in the center of the resort, adding to the laid-back atmosphere. Evening entertainment started and ended relatively early (from dinnertime to about 11 most nights). Though most guests were out sipping cocktails and Red Stripes, they weren't getting ridiculous at the bar or going wild in front of the stage. From morning to late night, it was mellow throughout the resort.
It wouldn't be Jamaica if the staff wasn't friendly and warm, and this fits the bill. Staff attends to guests with care and attention -- impressive for a busy all-inclusive.
Check-in was quick, but the front desk staff made sure to explain the resort facilities, restaurants, and activities on the property. Based on the roster of guests checking in, they actually guessed my name without having to ask me. My room wasn't ready until after 3 p.m. (the standard check-in time), though, which was somewhat disappointing.
Before leaving, guest services calls guests to ask about their stay and request that they fill out a comment card. This is a nice, unexpected touch, and a likely reason why the service here is better than at most all-inclusives.
The resort is off the main highway and buffered by a short access road and security gate. Because it's on a fairly busy road, it's not really within walking distance of anything, but Runaway Bay's small public beach as well as a few convenience shops and banks in the town center are just a few minutes' drive away.
Most guests who choose to go to outside clubs make the 30-minute trip to Ocho Rios and Dunn's River Falls. For a dose of Jamaica's musical legacy, Bob Marley's Mausoleum at 9 Mile is also a popular excursion in the area.
The rocky, secluded beachfront is punctuated by sandy inlets where guests quietly chill out on loungers and soak up the sun. It’s not a long, gorgeous beach like in Negril, but it is scenic and private.
Royal Decameron's beach is a bit rugged, but the water is clear, the waves are gentle, and the sand is smooth and clean in large patches. Still, it doesn't compare to the unobstructed turquoise waters and white sand of Negril's Seven Mile Beach.
The beach feels calm and secluded. Each of the shore's sandy inlets has just a handful of guests hanging out quietly on their loungers.
The resort's 143 octagonal cottages each contain a single room with a large closet and bathroom in the back. The rooms are pretty small -- practically everything is within reach of the king-size bed -- but tall, palapa-style ceilings make them feel open and airy.
The dated décor isn't modern in the least, but in the bungalow-like setting it takes on a charming, homey quality. Simple furnishings made of bamboo and dark-stained wood provide the necessities without cluttering the room. Two chairs and a small table, a television stand, and a built-in vanity set fit comfortably in the room.
The rooms' king-size beds are reasonably comfortable. The mattress is firm, but it's not especially plush or pillow-topped, like ones you'd find at pricier resorts. The quilt's early-'90s leaf-print-and-curlicue motif lends some color to the room and gives it a certain kitschy cuteness.
There's no mini-bar, unlike at most all-inclusives, but a free liter of bottled water is provided and replaced by housekeeping each morning.
The bathrooms are clean but not special. Toiletries include a small spray bottle with a taped-on label announcing "SHAMPOO" and a mini-bar of soap--nothing else. The full bath and shower is simple, but the single-layer, clear plastic shower curtain hangs on some pretty rusty hooks. When I asked the guest services manager about it, she said the resort is supposed to provide shampoo and body lotion but doesn't like to advertise this since it may not be consistently provided. A small hair dryer is built into the wall. The fluorescent lights are an unfortunate touch, quickly transforming the cute, campy feel into a gross motel vibe, worsened by its loud buzz.
Cottages are densely packed onto the property, next to each other, and near pathways. Passersby were audible through windows on all sides of the cottage, and the main window looked directly onto a central pathway of the resort. Without the curtains drawn, you could lie on the bed and stare at someone just yards away. Or, if guests don't stick to the paths (and they often don't), you can spot a guest just feet from the window.
A small, basic tube television is provided with a good basic cable package: The 24 channels include local and U.S. news networks and entertainment channels like ESPN, the Cartoon Network, and music and movie channels.
The main pool is a medium-size, bean-shaped pool (far less awe-inspiring than pools at the mega-resorts). It's centrally located behind the lobby and next to the buffet restaurant, bar, and entertainment stage. Just beyond it is the beach, so guests can lounge on the pool deck with the sound of the ocean in the background. Occasional aerobics classes on the nearby stage and music from the bar dominated the scene here, but they were never egregiously loud like they can be at more activity-heavy all-inclusive resorts.
A second, even smaller quiet pool lies at the back of the property on the east end. The square, shallow pool is primarily an excuse to lie in the sun without the noise of water activities and music at the bar. Almost all of the lounge chairs here were full, but I didn't see anyone actually use the pool.
The Internet café has its own room next to the lobby. Two ancient Dell computers are available for Internet access at 33 cents per minute, but the require the rigmarole of buying access codes at the front desk for 15 or 30 minutes at a time.
The gym, open from 7:00AM-7:00PM., has some relatively new weight machines, but the treadmills, stair stepper, and bikes are older and less high-tech than you'd find in most American gyms. There is a balance ball, but no stretching area or mats. Buns of Steel step benches and workout posters depicting subjects in leotards and sweatbands date the gym. Still, it suffices for a group of vacationers who seem less than obsessed with fitness.
Two hard-surfaced tennis courts are also on the property, and rackets are provided free of charge for guests. Free lessons are available but must be booked ahead of time.
A large shop outside the lobby has an extensive souvenir collection, along with sundries and basic convenience-shop offerings.
Entertainment is typically mellow and ends by 11 p.m., so getting an early night's rest should never be a problem.
The on-site Kids' Club has varying activities and hours depending on the group of guests staying there at the time, but that's about it for kid-specific features -- no specialized kids' menus or kids' pool, and the main pool is better for lounging than splashing. Fortunately, lifeguards are stationed at every pool and at the beach, so parents can relax a little easier. But the small patches of sand and otherwise rocky beaches are not ideal for letting kids run wild.
The grounds were well landscaped and routinely tended, although you might find the occasional half-empty cocktail cup sitting at the pool's edge. In the buffet and a la carte restaurants, servers were attentive to the tables and food. Dirty dishes didn't linger, and the food was displayed cleanly and restocked thoroughly throughout mealtimes.
My room was cleaned promptly in the morning. Given the natural setting and rustic cabin feel, it didn't have a pristine, sterile feel, but I was more than comfortable with the bedding, bathroom, and general upkeep.
Barely decent food, and the variety is limited, so it would be boring after a week-long vacation.
The small buffet, Pick a Pepper Restaurant, has a few Jamaican and American dishes but not a lot of options. The dinner selection consists of a salad bar, two soups, bread, and two small islands containing buffet pans of meat, fish, and starches.
Reservations are required at the resort's à la carte restaurants, which serve sit-down dinners with full service, but the food wasn't particularly remarkable here, either. Jasmine Delta, an open-air beachfront restaurant, serves à la carte Asian cuisine for dinner. Guests I spoke to from Northern Wales spoke to the quality of food here frankly: "Rubbish!"
During the day, Jasmine Delta becomes the Beachfront Grill, serving snacks from noon to 5 p.m. A simple menu with typical bar food like sandwiches and nachos is served à la carte on the covered deck overlooking the ocean.
Nyaming's Jamaican-style restaurant serves à la carte dinners in a second-story dining room. The service and ambience is friendly and laid-back but not overly informal. The menu serves a great selection of Jamaican dishes, but compared with some of the local (and cheap) Jamaican restaurants, the food is subpar. It would be a shame if this were someone's only impression of Jamaican food.
Unlimited national and imported drinks flow from the pool bar and beachfront bar, with ubiquitous Jamaican Red Stripe on tap and mixers making slushy piña coladas. The friendly bartenders quickly get to know guests' drinking preferences.
For bars, the resort offers the poolside main bar Souk, seaside Jetty, and Pub Ingles in the on-site disco.
About 30 minutes outside Ocho Rios and Jamaica's busier tourist towns, the small-scale Royal Decameron and its 143 cottages offer a much quieter option for families and couples than the blasting mega-resorts. Even with its medium-size pool and barely decent food, the name-brand liquor and relaxed setting make it a good value for a low-key all-inclusive.
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