OCHO RIOS, Jamaica -- Royal Plantation is not a new hotel. It opened its doors in 1957 as the Plantation Inn.

But behind Royal Plantations latest reincarnation lies the handiwork and detail of managing director Jaime Stewart, daughter of Gordon Butch Stewart, chairman of Sandals and Beaches Resorts.

The 74-suite Royal Plantation, although related to the Sandals portfolio, is its own separate brand and resort, and indeed, the first in a line of exclusive, deluxe boutique retreats in the Caribbean.

Dragon Bay Resort in Port Antonio, Jamaica, will be the second in the boutique resort group.

Jaime Stewart likened Royal Plantation to a grand and gracious lady, and its storied past may be the thing that most attracted me to this project.

And its past is indeed storied. The property, which was built by Cy and Gloria Elkins, owners and operators of the well-known Jamaica Inn, also in Ocho Rios, quickly attracted the celebrity A-list of that time, including the British royal family, Winston Churchill, Eartha Kitt, Ian Fleming, Grace Kelly and Noel Coward, among others.

Restoring Royal Plantation to its former plantation-style elegance, coupled with Jamaican service and modern luxuries and amenities, has been the driving force behind Stewarts project.

She was hands-on in the $10 million renovation program that rejuvenated the luxury property when it opened in 2001 and has spearheaded Royal Plantations current upgrades while directing the propertys branding and marketing.

Its all in the details, and they tell the story: Italian Mascioni bed linens; private airport transfers; a new champagne and caviar bar aptly named C Bar; an extensive pillow menu; and en suite butlers who not only unpack guests luggage but also decant their wine, supply them with a pager and handle all special requests.

Royal Plantation also offers a Beach Butler service where no request is considered either too small or too grand, Stewart said. Any chaise lounge craving can be satisfied.

Accommodations include seven categories of suites and the three-bedroom Villa Plantana with a private pool, butler and chef.

Royal Plantation in Ocho Rios, Jamaica has two beaches fronting the Caribbean.All suites have ocean views overlooking two beaches, custom mahogany furniture, king-size beds, data ports, safes that will accom-
modate laptops, satellite TV, VCR and CD players.

The most passionate aspect of this restoration project for me has been the return to the genuine Jamaican service that evokes the hotels original roots and history, said Stewart, who was raised in Jamaica.

That Jamaican service includes an English tea party at Bayside Terrace at 4 p.m. each day, complete with local storytellers, white-glove service in Le Papillon seafood restaurant and outdoor dining at the new Flambe on the Terrace.

Stewart said that the Royal Cafe & Royal Grill on the Beach turns nocturnal this season, using the name Royal Grill and offering surfside grilled dinners four evenings a week.

Although Royal Plantation is not an all-inclusive property (the traditional European Plan includes accommodations with continental breakfast, tennis, golf transfers, taxes and service charges), guests can opt for the inclusive Royal Plan with accommodations, meals, a selection of house wines and greens fees.

Complimentary inclusions for all guests range from private transfers to the use of nonmotorized water sports, the tennis courts and the fitness center (services and treatments at the Royal Spa carry a charge); a welcome champagne cocktail; hors doeuvres and 50% off all martinis on Fridays from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the lobby bar; and Caribbean cooking demonstrations.

Every day is interactive, Stewart said. We want our guests to soak up Jamaican hospitality and history, not just sea and sun.

Golf is included for Royal Plan guests; those on the room-only plan are offered a reduced rate of $70 per 18 holes, including roundtrip transfers to the course.

EP rates start at $320 per room, per night, single/double through Dec. 18. Winter rates through March 31, 2006, range from $450 in a deluxe oceanfront suite to $840 in the Prime Minister oceanfront one-bedroom suite. Royal Plan prices are an additional $160 per person, per night.

Royal Plantation has been named a member of the Leading Small Hotels of the World and Leading Spas of the World. It is also a recipient of several hospitality awards as well as being Green Globe Certified.

For more information, visit www.royalplantation.com.

To contact reporter Gay Nagle Myers, send e-mail to [email protected].

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