Noble House: Luxury not just for the very rich

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MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica -- Sometimes a vacation product really does live up to its hype.

Such was the case with Noble House, a Jamaican property and a member of the Villas by Linda Smith collection.

Having visited 10 or so of these villas on a whirlwind trip to Jamaica last January, I knew Smith's portfolio was pretty spectacular, but I hadn't stayed at any one villa for a significant amount of time.

The question was this: Would the charm of a villa vacation sustain itself for seven days? Suffice it to say -- it did.

The only problem, my three traveling companions and I agreed, was trying to articulate what we liked best. There was a lot to like about Noble House.

The four-bedroom, six-bath, 6,000-square-foot house is set on five acres overlooking the ocean near Montego Bay.

The Great Room opens onto a wrap-around veranda facing palatial grounds, a beach and water. A 2,000-square-foot pool cottage and a pool also are part of the mix.

Noble House, a Jamaican villa near Montego Bay and a member of the Villas by Linda Smith collection, is a four-bedroom, six-bathroom, fully staffed property overlooking the ocean. The house, with pavilions and peaked roofs, is decidedly grand, yet very comfortable. Its design allows a healthy share of natural light to seep into the living spaces, some of which are divided by water gardens and bridges. We loved the openness of the house and how it let us experience the climate.

The staff of seven, including a cook, butler, chambermaids, gardeners and laundress, anticipated our every need.

Valrie, the cook, prepared two different menus per meal because two of us were vegetarians and two were not.

"The vegetarian choices were excellent and much less expensive than eating out three meals a day," a nonmeat eater said.

We paid cash upfront, provided Valrie with a basic list of food preferences and left the rest to her.

For $30 a day we had three exquisitely prepared meals -- in addition to predinner hors d'oeuvres.

"What I liked best was not having to think about meals," said one of my traveling companions. "They just appeared. Often when you travel, you spend a lot of time discussing what to eat, then identifying a restaurant, and then getting there -- all very time-consuming."

We were a bit hesitant about having a staff of servants. "I thought it might be weird to have people waiting on us, but they were so nice and genuine that I felt instantly at ease," my friend said.

Linda Smith, owner of Villas by Linda Smith, said that many clients asked her what they would do with a butler.

"By the time they leave the villa, they're asking themselves how they can live without the butler," Smith said.

Indeed. Lloyd, our Noble House butler, was on the job at 6:30 a.m., preparing early-morning coffee that he discreetly placed on the verandas outside our bedrooms.

Lloyd stayed until we were ready to turn in at night, and he also served our meals and predinner cocktails.

Stephanie and Hyacinth, the housekeepers, had the daunting task of maintaining the large house, which they kept in pristine condition.

Patrick and Adrian, the gardeners, tended the grounds and the pool. Cynthia, the laundress, washed, folded and ironed our clothes. Guests actually return home with a suitcase full of clean laundry.

Our only daily concerns were what hedonistic pleasure to pursue. Should we loll around the pool, or maybe

visit the Round Hill Beach Club -- membership is complimentary to Noble House guests -- to use the fitness center, restaurant and beaches?

We came and went as we pleased, thanks to Nigel, our Noble House driver.

Although guests are not required to hire a driver for the week, I highly recommend they do so.

For a set fee of $666, which, divided by four, came to $166.50 apiece, we could go anywhere we wanted for as long as we wanted.

One day we traveled to Negril for a stroll on its seven-mile beach and drinks at Rick's Cafe, purported to offer one of the best sunset views in the Caribbean.

We missed that sunset because we knew cocktails, hors d'oeuvres and a fabulous dinner awaited us back at Noble House.

We usually dined al fresco on the main veranda that overlooks the grounds and the ocean.

On our last night, however, we opted for the villa's formal dining room, with its splashy crystal chandelier.

In the end, the only bad thing about Noble House was having to leave it.

To contact reporter Claudette Covey, send e-mail to [email protected].

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