Sandals' original Montego Bay resort gets a makeover

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As part of its recently completed renovation, Sandals Montego Bay added its first swim-up suites.
As part of its recently completed renovation, Sandals Montego Bay added its first swim-up suites. Photo Credit: Christina Jelski

MONTEGO BAY -- "We have a saying that if you stand still long enough here, you'll probably get painted over," said Carl Beviere, general manager of Sandals Montego Bay in Jamaica. 

While said in jest, there's a kernel of truth to the statement. After undergoing close to four years of renovations, nearly every surface across the 26-acre resort -- built in 1981 and the first property within the Sandals empire -- sports a pristine coat of fresh paint.

Beviere, who has served as the property's general manager since 2014, showed off the resort's myriad upgrades on a recent media tour, which offered a firsthand look at the transformations.

A first-hand look at Sandals Montego Bay

Among the more notable changes is the property's expansive, sun-filled lobby area. Once topped with a leaky, canvas roof, the space now features a white, vaulted ceiling with skylights as well as open-air ocean views. Groupings of cozy seats give the lobby a living room ambience, a feeling enhanced by the many guests curled up on couches or sitting with their feet propped on coffee tables.

The bright and airy aesthetic extends to the resort's 272 rooms and suites. Guestrooms feature white walls and linens and splashes of sea-inspired hues; the rooms are also outfitted with updated bathrooms and sleek, modern furnishings.

"We wanted the rooms to have a bigger, roomier feel," Beviere said, adding that the room revamps included a removal of dark, mahogany elements. 

The vast majority of accommodations now offer oversized outdoor tubs on balcony or patio areas, while select premium room categories also feature the property's first swim-up suite options, offering direct access to small, heated pools.

Another highlight is the recently completed Latitudes Over Water Bar, which sits just off a new pier and showcases 360-degree water views. When lit up in the evenings, the space is particularly warm and inviting, with fire pits adding to its charm. 

Also of note is the resort's new overwater wedding chapel, which is similarly situated at the end of a long pier. The all-white venue, which debuted in January as Sandals Montego Bay's second on-site chapel, can seat up to 40 guests. It can be booked for $750 per hour. 

According to the property's wedding manager, Nickalia Kinkead, the overwater chapel is designed to cater to today's "social bride," who scours social media sites like Pinterest and Instagram for wedding inspiration and favors more unique, photogenic spaces.

Meanwhile, among the biggest culinary changes at the property are the addition of two restaurants: Soy Sushi Bar and the reservation-only Butch's Steak & Seafood.

Housed within a space formerly occupied by a racquetball court and generator storage area, Soy is an elegant, high-ceilinged space anchored by a long marble bar and understated, Asia-inspired decor. 

Butch's, meanwhile, offers a more energetic setting, drawing the eye with bright-red upholstery and large color and black-and-white photographs of Sandals chairman and founder Gordon "Butch" Stewart and his family.

Both restaurants promise upscale, full-service dining experiences, with Soy specializing in fresh sushi and sashimi and Butch's serving up surf and turf classics such as filet mignon with lobster tail and pan-seared scallops with beef brisket. 

Over a three-night visit, it was clear that the venues were a hit: Soy was bustling at dinner time and reservations at Butch's were relatively hard to come by. 

The new food and beverage offerings bring Sandals Montego Bay to a total of 12 restaurants and six bars, with guests at the resort also welcome to access restaurants, bars and other amenities at nearby sister properties, Sandals Royal Caribbean and the Sandals Inn, via a free shuttle service. 

As a result of the various upgrades, Beviere said, the resort has seen a sustained surge in occupancy as well as a high percentage of repeat guests. Late last month, he reported that occupancy was at nearly 100%; repeat guests accounted for about 50% of bookings. 

"We're getting really good feedback," he said. "And now you have people who always stay at other hotels in Montego Bay or have thought about coming to Montego Bay that are giving Sandals Montego Bay another look. There's definitely been more interest." 

But while the major components of the resort's renovation are now fully up and running, a handful of areas still await updates. They include a small, poolside piano bar and the Bayside restaurant as well as the property's Red Lane spa, which still features mahogany furnishings and other traditional design touches. 

Those spaces are slated to begin receiving face-lifts later this year. Beviere also hinted at the possibility of more accommodations being built, suggesting that 300 rooms could be the resort's "sweet spot."

"We never stand still here at Sandals Montego Bay," Beviere said. "We're always looking and planning for this year, next year and the year after."

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