worked at the property for a number of years. I found that
to be a recurrent theme the more hotel properties I visited
in Montego Bay — such as at Half Moon, where I had a
proper British lunch of Scotch eggs and salad with the group
sales manager, Damion Thompson, who said that Solomon
Gardener, restaurant manager at the property’s Sugar Mill
restaurant, has worked at the hotel for 51 years, while Wordsworth Watson, Half Moon’s estate manager, has been there
for 55 years.
Even at full capacity, the 398-accommodation Half Moon
feels wonderfully empty because it’s spread out over 400
acres. Guests get around via bike or golf cart, and the activity
options are endless — a 68,400-square-foot labyrinth of a spa,
54 swimming pools, an equestrian center, a dolphin lagoon,
and more than 27,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor
meeting space. Groups can take over one of 30 villas — private beachfront homes with multiple bedrooms — and the
staff is masterful at creating unique programs, including villa-vs.-villa cook-offs and Jamaican-themed evening barbecues
complete with a mini version of the local crafts market.
In total, Montego Bay has more than 4,000 hotel rooms,
and that number represents a wide range of
price points and property types. I spent a full
day checking out a number of all-inclusive
properties close to the Montego Bay Convention Centre (MBCC), such as the 681-room
Riu Montego Bay and the 352-room Royalton
White Sands Montego Bay, which plans to add
150 adult-only suites by summer 2016. Sandals
also has three all-inclusive properties in Montego Bay, including the Royal Caribbean Resort
& Private Island. The historic, Georgian-style
hotel is well known for its lush gardens that are
thick with pink bougainvillea as well as for its
over-the-top rooms (guests can choose from
17 different accommodation types). The Royal
Caribbean is also the only resort in Jamaica
with its own private island.
Boutique hotels and budget-conscious
options exist, too. I stopped by the Holiday Inn
Resort Montego Bay, which has 4,000 square feet of meet-
ing space and a beautiful half-mile stretch of private beach.
The 518-room hotel is the first all-inclusive property in the
brand’s portfolio, and recently added an adults-only section.
Ideal for smaller groups and room blocks, the petite and
well-kept, 50-room Coyaba Beach Resort & Club feels like a
secret hideaway I happened to stumble upon, while the Relax
Resort’s tucked-away location on a verdant hillside gives
guests a bird’s-eye view of the Caribbean Sea.
MEE T AND GREE T
When I spent a morning touring the MBCC with its senior
marketing and public relations manager, Michelle Parkes, I
was struck first by how un-convention-center-like the facility
appears. An open-air, blue-roofed complex with three buildings — exhibition hall, ballroom, and conference center — the
MBCC has a wide, resort-like layout that gives groups plenty
of breathing room. There are also two views from which to
choose: from the front, the Caribbean Sea; from the back,
steep hillsides that climb into low, rolling mountains. Meeting planners who can’t get enough of the oceanfront view
can hold a reception or special event on a 25,424-square-foot
courtyard that fronts the ballroom, or on a 17,954-square-
foot terrace that directly connects to the exhibition hall.
The MBCC, which is managed by SMG, has more than
142,000 square feet of flexible indoor and outdoor event space.
Taking up 57,525 square feet of that is the exhibition hall,
which spans the entire right side of the facility. On the left is
the MBCC’s conference center, offering nine meeting rooms
and a boardroom that come equipped with all of the technical
amenities groups could want or need — Wi-Fi, VOIP phone
systems, fiber-optic-cable infrastructure, dual-power outlets,
Convene On Location
front villa at