Nicer pool and better perks reserved for "Preferred Club" guests
Nothing within walking distance
Busy restaurants and a no-reservation policy mean long wait times
Most amenities are shared with neighboring Secrets St. James making for crowded conditions
No children allowed (a pro for some)
The sprawling Secrets Wild Orchid is one of the more luxurious adult-only all-inclusive resorts in Montego Bay, and has a laundry list of property features, including 10 restaurants and cafes and eight bars, and a host of activities: a theater, a spa, a water sports and dive center, a shopping center, and a casino. But the resort shares virtually all of its amenities with the next-door Secrets St. James, and some of the best amenities and freebies are reserved only for the Preferred Club guests.
A long list of features includes a beautiful beach, 10 places to eat, and a spa -- but the two-in-one resort concept is confusing
“First time at Secrets?” the guard asked as we pulled up to the resort’s gate. We told him it was, and he hung a parking pass from our rearview mirror and pointed us toward the hotel entrance to the left. Why the unsolicited help? Because to the left, there is indeed a hotel entrance. And yet, to the right, there is another entrance, almost a mirror image of the first, but with a sign that says “St. James” instead of "Wild Orchid."
This two-resort-in-one system soon grew even more complicated, as we were then directed to yet another entrance, labeled “Preferred Club.” Wild Orchid’s Preferred Club Hotel, it turns out, has a separate, fancier lobby that features a private concierge, two computers with free internet, and a Club Lounge with a small buffet and full bar that are stocked around the clock. Preferred Club guests continue to get the star treatment throughout the property -- they have access to a separate pool with nicer lounge chairs and sun beds, free Wi-Fi access codes, free daily newspapers, and upgraded minibars and bath products in the rooms. Perhaps nicest of all are Wild Orchid’s Preferred Club swim-out rooms, which, unlike any other rooms on the property, feature terraces with private enclaves off of the Preferred Club pool.
Some may find the division between the “regular” and “Preferred Club” guests a bit classist, and “Preferred Club” guests must show a key card whenever entering certain areas. (Though if you saunter in like you own the joint, it's possible no one will challenge you.) This can be a confusing enough system for guests in itself, but compounding this confusion is the fact that most of Wild Orchid's amenities are shared with the Secret St. James next door. (And St. James also has its own VIP section.)
Both resorts use the same spa, which is expansive with a salon, boutique, and relaxation room with hot and cold pools. Also shared are a shopping complex, business center, coffee shop, casino, game room, tennis courts, fitness center, and a Promenade featuring several restaurants, bars, and a music lounge. In the end, what mostly sets the two resorts apart is decor -- Wild Orchid is slightly more contemporary in design, and also offers the coveted Preferred Club Swim-out Rooms. Rates are also higher here than at the St. James, which seems a bit ridiculous considering how much between the two properties is shared.
Situated on a small peninsula away from other Montego Bay resorts
Many guests at the Secrets Wild Orchid never leave the resort, and with 10 restaurants, eight bars, a casino, shops, a theater, and a spa on-site, there's little reason to. The resort is close enough to the airport that guests can avoid expensive taxis, but those who want to explore Jamaica outside of Secrets Wild Orchid’s all-inclusive bubble might be disappointed, as very little is nearby.
Spacious suites with sophisticated contemporary decor and balconies
The rooms at Secrets Wild Orchid have sophisticated contemporary decor, and extras such as four-poster beds, MP3 docks, flat-screen TVs, soaking tubs, massive rainfall showerheads, and stocked minibars. The Preferred Club swim-out room has direct private access to the VIP pool, as well as a whirlpool tub on the balcony, and Suites feature massive Jacuzzis in both the bathroom and on the balcony. Even the least expensive rooms, however, are attractive and high-end.
Those guests staying in the Preferred Club section of the hotel get some additional freebies: free Wi-Fi access codes, more goodies in the minibars, and access to all of the VIP areas such as the Club Lounge (which has a non-stop buffet and help-yourself bar), and the Preferred Club pool, which is quieter and nicer than the main pool.
Couples may appreciate the “Secrets box" in each room, which is essentially a non-moving dumbwaiter that allows guests to order room service without actually having to open the door for delivery. Rather, the meal is placed in the box and left for guests to access via a second door in their room.
37-inch flat-screen TVs with CD/DVD players
Minibars refreshed daily with soft drinks, bottled water, and premium beer
Unlike certain popular strips along the northern shore of Montego Bay and Seven Mile Beach in Negril, Secrets' beach doesn’t share its views or borders with any other properties. Instead, the resort’s peninsular spot is secluded and serene, and guests have the run of the shore.
The beach has fine white sand and clear, warm water, and numerous wicker lounge chairs are on offer, as well as palapas for shade. Activities on the beach include beach volleyball, badminton, and horse shoe. Certain sections of the beach are quite narrow.
Though part of the beach is exclusive to the Preferred Club, no one was enforcing the separation.
A main pool, a Preferred Club pool, and a pool at neighboring Secrets St. James -- all with beach views
The main pools for both Secrets Wild Orchid and Secrets St. James are open to guests at either property (or at least, no one was stopping guests from moving between the two). Both are rather crowded, and each features its own swim-up bar and open-air restaurant.
However, the Preferred Club pool, which features swim-up guest rooms, an interweaving river-like design, and super-close proximity to the beach, is off-limits to non-VIP guests. Placards stating that guests must prove their Preferred Club status (via their labeled room card key) upon entering this fancier pool area are scattered around the perimeter, ensuring everyone knows their place.
Expansive spa with extensive treatment menu and tons of extras
The Secrets Spa by Pevonia's treatment menu ranges from traditional facials and massages to mud baths and hydrotherapies. Perks include a relaxation room with hot and cold pools, a yoga garden, a hair salon, and a boutique. Locker rooms also include saunas, steam rooms, pressure showers, and Swiss showers.
10 restaurants -- most with no-reservations policies that mean extra-long waits
It might be hard to imagine that a resort boasting a total of 10 restaurants would have a problem with crowds, but there's typically a wait for eateries on the restaurant promenade. The restaurants are shared with the neighboring Secrets St. James resort, which effectively doubles the number of guests trying to get a table. Most of the restaurants do not accept reservations, so guests wishing to avoid a wait might want to eat early.
The food itself, however, is impressive for an all-inclusive. There are Mexican, Italian, Jamaican, Asian-fusion, and French a la carte restaurants, as well as the obligatory buffet restaurant. Unlike a lot of other all-inclusive resorts, the atmosphere doesn’t feel strip-mall-esque; each restaurant is housed in its own freestanding structure and has distinct decor.
Even top-shelf drinks are free, but the bars get packed
Secrets Wild Orchid has eight bars, including the main pool’s swim-up bar, a piano bar, a music lounge, and a lobby bar. Drinks are covered in the all-inclusive rates, and that goes for the top-shelf stuff as well as the cheap rum punch and Red Stripes. Crowds jockeying for the bartenders' attention start to form in the late afternoon, and it only gets worse as the evening wears on. The Secrets Wild Orchid shares its bars with neighboring Secrets St. James, and guests often take to ordering two (or three) drinks at a time to ensure they don’t get too low while waiting for their next opportunity to order another round.
Top-shelf liquor included in the all-inclusive rates
A fitness center and plenty of water- and land-based sports
Secrets Wild Orchid shares its tennis courts and fitness center -- which includes cardio equipment, dumbbells, free weights, and cables -- with Secrets St. James.
Other activities are abundant, including free non-motorized water sports, dance classes, chess, darts, board games, croquet, billiards, yoga, aerobics classes, cooking classes, ping-pong, and jogging trails. There are also activities that come at an additional cost, such as scuba diving (first pool lesson is free), horseback riding, deep sea fishing excursions, and golfing at a nearby championship course.
Free non-motorized water sports, and motorized sports for a fee
More than 17,000 square feet of meeting, event, and ballroom space
Secrets Wild Orchid provides on-site planners that can coordinate events and meetings both large and small. There are nearly a dozen different spaces that can be used for cocktail receptions, banquets, performances, business retreats, or classes. Packages are available, and guests can also create custom events.
Several on-site pavilions and a host of indoor venues for island nuptials
Weddings are big business in Jamaica, and Secrets Wild Orchid is definitely in on the game, providing an exhaustive list of services ranging from on-site wedding coordinators to pressing and steaming the bride and groom’s gown and tux. Three packages are offered, and made-to-order weddings can also be arranged. All packages include a wedding cake, sparking wine, a bouquet and boutonnière, an officiant, and free nights that go toward a future anniversary stay.
While ceremonies generally take place in one of several wedding pavilions along the beach, a vast array of meeting rooms and ballrooms are available for cocktail hours, receptions, and rehearsal dinners.
Secrets’ website also features a registry option in which marrying couples can request gifts be given in the form of credits toward a honeymoon at the resort.
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