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Reviewed 2 August 2015

We just returned from Secrets St. James after spending this past week there. This was a getaway for my wife and I for our 15-year anniversary and could not have imagined a better vacation. This is our first trip to Jamaica and we found it to be a beautiful place with incredibly friendly people. Just some quick thoughts and tips below from our perspective on the key features of the resort. To varying degrees, they are all pros with the only con at the end.

Location: Part of the reason we chose Secrets in Montego Bay was the proximity to the airport (without being too close). It was a 30 min on the way in due to a traffic jam (at 3PM on a Monday?) and only 10 min on the way out.

Grounds: As many of the reviews have said, the grounds are impeccable. The look of the resort is understated but very nice and the grounds crew works very hard on it (quietly) all day long.

Rooms: We were upgraded to the Presidential Suite and I have no idea why and we didn’t ask questions. However, everyone we talked to seemed to be thrilled with their rooms. Tip: The rooms are surprisingly high-tech. One thing we learned the hard way is that if your sliding doors are not all the way closed, your A/C won’t work.

Preferred Club: The Preferred Club for the St. James and the Wild Orchid are each in their own buildings. We were in the St. James Preferred Club and it was very nice but the non-Preferred Club building looked very nice too. The St. James Preferred Club is definitely the quietest part of the hotel during the day due it’s location.

Pools: This is a huge resort with 700 rooms, and it was full when we were there, but the four pools seem to handle all those people very well and don’t see remotely crowded. The pools are also all beautiful with a variety of very comfortable chairs. There is a bar at each pool and wait staff who will come around and bring you drinks regularly as well. Perfect. Tip: Each pool has a heated and a non-heated side.

Beaches: The beaches for each resort are relatively small and contained. So if you want long moonlight walks, you’re out of luck. If you want beautiful turquoise water, sand, comfortable chairs with unlimited drinks delivered to you, you’ll be happy.

Food: We’re not foodies who need five-star type meals prepared by a famous chef, which is usually not what you get at an all-inclusive resort anyway. We really liked the food we had at every restaurant. The buffet at the World Café is great for lunch. Plus there is plenty of food everywhere all the time. And I fully agree with all of the excellent reviews of the jerk chicken served by the pool. Tip: The jerk chicken line was consistently shorter on the Wild Orchid side for some reason.

Entertainment: This may have been one of the best parts of the resort. The evening entertainment was excellent every night we were there. They had a great “house band” called Pace that we really enjoyed. There was also a good cirque du soleil (obviously scaled way down) that was good. It’s just nice to have something to do after dinner each evening.

Fitness Center: While the equipment is very nice, the fitness center is just too small for a resort this size. As you might expect, it’s busiest in the morning so I would say just go at an off time, particularly if you want a cardio machine. The tennis setup was OK and they provide rackets and balls to borrow as well as a clinic run by a pro a few times a week. There is only one court but we had not trouble getting it whenever we wanted it (they take reservations).

Other tips
• Club Mobay – we paid for Club Mobay for Arrival and Departure. I would say it is worth the extra money for arrivals to expedite you through customs, especially on a crowded day. Really all it gets you on departure is access to a really nice lounge, but not much else.
• The rules of the road for tipping are very unclear. They are clearly appreciated but if you tip everyone you could (waiters, cleaning people, bartenders etc.) you’ll drop a lot of cash in a hurry. If you plan to tip, take a lot of small bills. Change is hard to come by.
• There is no real difference between the St. James and Wild Orchid as far as I’m concerned. It’s one big resort.
• If you are going with a special someone, do the romantic dinner. It’s obscenely expensive and worth every penny. Such a special experience. If you can, try to get one of the gazebos.
• Don’t do the bike tour. The resort is in a kind of industrial port area and there’s just nothing around it worth seeing.
• If you can, wait until you get to the airport for departure to buy souvenirs. The selection is better and the prices are cheaper than the shops at the hotel.
• The wifi was surprisingly good, even by the pool.

  • Stayed: July 2015, travelled as a couple
    • Value
    • Sleep Quality
    • Service
18  Thank Brent G
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 1 August 2015

We have mixed feelings but would probably return. This is gonna be long, sorry. We visited in late July 2015 for 5 days and booked very last minute. Our stressful lives just needed a break. We have been to many all inclusives including a few high end but we are not very picky, especially for these short trips. A quick note about the resort(s), they are almost identical resorts and we saw nothing to put one over the other. We certainly didn't feel that either one was quieter than the other. The restaurants are closer to Wild Orchid but it's a 5 minute walk from one end of the grounds to the other so not an issue. We did pay a decent amount to stay here, rivaling some of the higher end places we have visited so our expectations were on the high side.I'll take this in order...

We arrived about 1:30 PM and were a little frustrated with the lengthy check in. They pushed for the Welcome Breakfast (timeshare sales) and we declined, more than once. They gave us the "resort credit" coupons and explained the ridiculous way they had to be used. $40 per person per day in the spa on sessions 45 minutes or longer. $10 per day off expensive bottles of wine etc. Who buys expensive wine at an all inclusive? We were very surprised they didn't push for the preferred upgrade, more on that in a minute. We were then sent (not escorted) to our room. We were on the 2nd floor overlooking the pool and it was LOUD! Pounding music and partying people. The room was average for a resort of this caliber. Funky setup for the bathroom with a curtain dividing it from the bed, a half closed glass door with a sign that says "This door doesn't open or close" (HAHA) and a very small balcony. Seeing small balcony and loud music had me scampering back to the front desk to try and upgrade to preferred even before our luggage arrived. Full! Now we know why they didn't push us! About 5:30 the music stopped and the pool quickly emptied. We took a nap and went for dinner.

All the restaurants are in one area and there were lots of people milling about. It felt crowded. We entered the Mediterranean place and were seated quickly. We ordered drinks and 90 minutes later as we were leaving the drinks came. Oh boy... Next morning we realized that there was only one breakfast venue. They were pushing 700 people through ONE buffet? Oh boy again... Afterwards we went to the beach and had no trouble finding chairs together under an umbrella. Towels were plentiful and no towel cards or anything. Take as many as you like! We settled in and started to finally unwind a little. Then two couples set up their iPod and speakers and started blaring European Techno, mixed with the pool music we were fit to be tied. At the resort less than 24 hours and ready to leave! We decided we would just have to make the most of it, and then the magic started. The couples were asked to turn their music down, a breeze picked up and the pool music switched to classic Caribbean. Then a server asked up what we would like to drink. Ahhhh...... Everything got better from that moment on.

You can see (not hear) planes landing in the distance steady from late morning until early afternoon. That's when the airlines like to come in, drop off, reload and go home again. That puts a huge amount of people at the resorts at the same time. No wonder check in was slow. The pool is loud from about 11 to 5 but guess what? You aren't in your room at that time anyway. Two gripes settled already!

Beach service was terrific and you could choose to be as far away or as close to the pool music as you liked. We spent our days on the beach wandering over to the pools occasionally. Later we went over to the "crowded" restaurant area with a whole new attitude. We strolled around casually deciding where to eat. No reservations except one venue so you don't have to decide ahead of time. We went Mexican and had AWESOME service! We quickly forgot the first nights experience and had great service the rest of the stay. Next morning back to the breakfast area and guess what? They may move 700 people though there in a few hours but they do it well! The buffet is huge and varied and the service is good. You don't feel rushed but when you leave your table is quickly reset.

Some people have said they felt the grounds were expansive but we didn't think so. They were immaculate though and although there are people pretty much everywhere it doesn't feel crowded. The staff were some of the nicest we have ever met.

Toughing on a few points seen in other review:
Bugs - NONE (in or out)
Staff - Super
Food - Above resort average
Loud - From 11-5 ONLY and only by the pools
Preferred - Didn't get to find out but saw nothing special walking through
In Room Fridge - not nearly cold enough
Noise from other rooms - non-existent
Local vendors on the grounds - none (nice)
WiFi - Free and very fast! (download their app to view activities and menus)

The only thing that stopped us from giving it 5 stars was them trying to sell you stuff everywhere. From spa service, to tours, to motorized water sports. In line for breakfast there is a desk and they are trying to sell you stuff while you wait in line. For the amount we paid and being an ALL inclusive we didn't appreciate this.

Bottom line - wait 24 hours to judge this place. Once we lost our attitude and adjusted to island pace we had a great time and would probably return.

  • Stayed: July 2015, travelled as a couple
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
14  Thank Mark G
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 31 July 2015

My niece stayed here she said it was like a dream land everything it stated on the brochure was there which helps if you've never been before the drinks were cool in the fridge all rooms which were refilled daily had air con staff were very friendly and welcoming... Beach close by... The hotel consists of 7 restaurants on site sheets changed everyday if your looking for luxury this is defiantly the place for families couples you name it very clean and tidy five plus star rating

Stayed: August 2014
3  Thank campbell19692015
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 31 July 2015

My husband and I take vacations every year, and we have been to some very nice resorts. When we arrived at Secrets (St. James) we both looked at each other and said "This is it?!. We didn't know what all the hype was all about, we saw nothing special or different and this was our most expensive trip!!. The sheets were dirty, so I had to call room service to have them changed. The food was ok, I gave the appearance an A plus, the gardens were will taken care of. But that was about it. May because it's located in Jamaica. But yea, nothing eye catching. I don't think we will be back....especially for the price.

Room Tip: Make sure you sheets are clean, all the rooms might all be the same
  • Stayed: July 2015, travelled as a couple
    • Sleep Quality
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
10  Thank Nicole F
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 31 July 2015

Everything about the Secrets St. James hotel was phenomenal!! The scenery, the staff, the restaurants and food, the beach and pools, the service, the rooms, and the amenities - were all AMAZING!! Everything about the resort was fantastic! There is free WiFi throughout the entire resort, as well, which I thought was a great added touch. There was always something to do on the resort; the entertainment schedules were extremely well put-together, too, and if you wanted to join a tour or some sort of excursion, (either on the resort or off the resort), the staff in the lobby are more than happy to assist you and get you all signed-up. I had a ton of fun, and an overall, extremely relaxing vacation!! I definitely plan to stay at the Secrets St. James hotel, again, the next time I visit Montego, Jamaica!

Room Tip: The staff are great, and they will make sure you get a good room.
  • Stayed: July 2015, travelled solo
    • Location
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
5  Thank Stephanie W
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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