Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Round Hill Inspection - by Cliff

I recently returned from a short visit to Montego Bay and Round Hill. After all the years of hearing how great Round Hill was, I was very glad to get the opportunity to see it for myself.

Not having been to Jamaica in many years, I had the common impression that it is somewhat dangerous and you would be confined to your resort. On arrival I found an extremely modern and efficient airport. While a car and driver from Round Hill was there to meet me, common travel sense would tell the independent traveller to go to the Authorized Taxi Desk located just outside of the Customs Hall. Yes there are many "independent" taxi drivers that one should avoid for obvious reasons.

Round Hill is a 25 minute ride from the airport and is a 40 acre complex of villas as well as the 36 unit Pineapple House hotel section. The Pineapple House units designed by Ralph Lauren using a very simple white and blue color scheme framing the huge windows (on the upper floor) or balconies (on the main level), all looking out to the sea. Scattered around the hillside are the 27 villas each decorated by the individual owners. 22 of these villas have their own full sized pools and all are staffed from 8am to 2pm. The villas are a great spot for families or several couples who want to share the experience. Unless requested in advance, televisions are not in the units--at first a sort of strange experience, but ultimately a plus. The hotel is over 100 years old and has the feeling of a very comfortable club. Many guests return year after year. While many owners and guests are wealthy and celebrities often vacation there, Round Hill does not have a feeling of pretense. These are people who could spend their vacation time at any resort in the world but enjoy the relaxed style of this singular location.

If you are looking for flaws, they are there. As I said earlier, this resort is over 100 years old and you can see a bit of rust here and there, but it is part of the charm. Maintenance seems to be constant with the large staff pruning and painting etc. The public areas are clustered around the beach and consist of 2 restaurants, the beach bar and the main bar which was designed by Ralph Lauren who lives at Round Hill several weeks a year. The main bar has wonderful photographs of past celebrity guests from the hotel archives. The food is very good. Do note guests are not permitted into the restaurant in shorts after 7pm. The chef is a 33 year old local who is a James Beard award winner. Jamaican buffets and beach dinner parties are offered twice a week.

During the day the beach is the center of activity as well as the newly constructed infinity pool. There is a spa located in a very quiet area as well as a full fitness center. The resort faces The Tryall Club across the bay where Round Hill guests have privileges. Other daytime activities are water-skiing, scuba diving and deepsea fishing. We took a ziptreking trip which is always a fun adventure and it is only 25 minutes from Round Hill. One night we went to downtown Montego Bay, or MOBAY as they call it, to sample a local restaurant. The venue called "Wine With Me" was a really modern, local restaurant with extremely attentive service. Again the trip off property was a really good option as it gives you a taste and feel of the local fare and culture.

There are many non stop flights from New York to Montego and it takes less than 4 hours to get there. Travellers can leave NYC in the early morning and be on the beach by early afternoon, making Jamaica a good choice for a short vacation as well. While not the newest and most high profile resort, Round Hill is a historic, still much in demand, resort with many unique features.

Cliff Morgan, Manager Leisure Services
Travel Exchange - A Virtuoso Agency
2 Sconset Square
Westport, Connecticut 06880

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