Royal Plantation

Royal Plantation Ocho Rios Jamaica (www.royalplantation.com) now stands on its own reputation, having moved away from its former Beaches branding and into a new life as a member of the prestigious Leading Small Hotels of the World.

What’s different at Royal Plantation, a 77-suite boutique resort? Management now provides an à la carte dining plan that complements its original all-inclusive offering. Subtle changes, such as an upgraded pool and beach furniture, evoke a more luxurious feel; guest room design has moved from bright colors to softer tones and bedding is more sumptuous.

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What has stayed the same? The resort, which opened in 1957 as the Plantation Inn, still evokes the glamour of an old-time James Bond film, with its hilltop location with meandering, wooded pathways that lead down to the sea.

Luxury moment: Upon arrival, guests are seated in an intimate lobby area to be checked in; they are immediately offered champagne and cold, wet towels infused with lemongrass, a pleasing scent that is prevalent throughout the resort.

While all suites have ocean views, the Premium Oceanfront Junior Suites are the favored accommodations; we also like the Honeymoon Grand Luxe Suites (rooms 155, 255 and 355) with expansive outside areas, and even a wet bar. The same room category on the opposite side of the “house” has a different configuration; for example, Suite 301 has a sitting area that looks out through sliding glass doors, and a side door that opens to a private and spacious corner balcony.

The 3,000-square-foot three-bedroom Villa Plantana provides optimum privacy. It’s set a distance from the main house and has its own pool.

Contact Heather Elliott (heliott@jm.royalplantation.com) on property for VIP visits; Peter Fraser is the general manager and Suzanne Millwood is the hotel manager. For $300 a day, personal butler service may be reserved for deeds such as packing and unpacking, liaising with housekeeping and arranging transfers.
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The resort has a variety of elegant restaurants; reserve Le Papillon and Flambé on the Terrace ahead of time, as they fill up quickly. Remind clients to select their menu for Flambé before 2 p.m. on the day of their reservation. At Le Papillon, request a table outside; there are three choice spots that overlook the intimate plaza where guest musicians often perform.

While the mood is low key and elegant at Royal Plantation, there always seems to be something going on, such as cigar rolling in the lobby or Afternoon Tea  (served from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m.).  Local vendors also set up their wares in the gazebo and stay until the evening musicians arrive to set up. For a change of pace, clients can take a shopping tour that visits local art galleries and stores. For luxury outings, contact Imani Duncan at My Tropic Escape (www.mytropicescape.com).

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Concierge Supervisor Dwight Douglas (ddouglas@jm.royalplantation.com) has a structured “Anytime, Anywhere” program designed to accommodate any request, including a champagne-and-caviar picnic at 2 a.m. or a moonlit massage on the beach.
Advise clients to show up 30 minutes early for their treatments at the charming Royal Spa, if only to enjoy the steam room which is infused with the scent of eucalyptus. Clients consult with therapists before entering one of the multiple-use treatment rooms (there are two couple’s rooms, one with a huge hydrotherapy tub for two). Ask for Claudette McDonald or Marve McDonald, the most popular therapists. Tanya Vassell gives a powerful Swedish Massage.

The resort is a two-hour drive from the Montego Bay airport; limousine transfer can be arranged on request; an aerodrome 15 minutes from the resort accommodates private aircrafts.

Lisa Hoppe of Lisa Hoppe Travel Consulting in Wauwatosa, WI, just returned from the resort. “Royal Plantation exudes quiet elegance and romance where you can be serenaded by a flutist playing contemporary music, dance under the stars, pick your pillow from a ‘pillow menu’ and doze off to sleep to the sounds of the sea lapping the shore,” she says. “For your active side I recommend scuba diving at “Dickies Reef” just minutes away from the resort, with huge sea fans and an abundance of fish and sponges. Other watersports activities such as kayaking and sailing are welcoming, as the water is clear and calm inside the reef area,” says Hoppe.

Those enamored of Royal Plantation’s style can look forward to the opening of Dragon Bay Resort, which is being redeveloped in Port Antonio, Jamaica, as the second in the boutique resort group.