Negril on Jamaica’s western coast has sun, sand and sea in abundance, with reggae music and the ‘be happy’ reggae culture always in the background.
I booked a week’s stay in February at the ClubHotel Riu Negril through Thomson (now TUI Holidays). This was the prelude to a Mayan Treasures Cruise on the Thomson Dream cruise boat the following week.
The hotel is ‘All inclusive’, the first time I’d tried that option. I thought it might be a bit of a holiday camp routine with long queues for meals in self-service restaurants and crowded, over-busy bars. But, as it turned out, I was being very over-pessimistic.
The ClubHotel Riu Negril is beautifully situated on Bloody Bay Beach, with a beachfront of about 500 yards. You can walk along the beach for a mile further past small stalls selling everything ‘Bob Marley’. The palm-fringed beach is quite paradise-like, particularly at sunset.
We were initially allocated a ‘sea-view room’, but it actually looked out on a tree rather than the Caribbean Sea. The reception staff were happy to move us the following day to a room which really did have a sea view. It’s always worth it to ask.
The room was typically 4-star with signs of recent refurbishment – not total luxury but quite acceptable.
Food and drink
A wide range of food was available in the main self-service restaurant, including a variety of Jamaican food; the jerky chicken was hot enough to be very tasty without destroying your mouth. However most evenings we ate in one of the four ‘special’ waiter-service restaurants. You had to book a day or two in advance, but it was worth it for the quality of the food served.
Four optics of spirits were available in the room and the fridge was restocked every second day with beer and soft drinks.
The house wine served with meals was okay, no more. However the cocktails served at the many bars throughout the hotel were superb; my wife became quite addicted to their Mango Daiquiris.
The atmosphere in the main cocktail bar was particularly convivial, with the barman singing as he took orders; his rendition of ‘Unchained Melody’ was quite brilliant – and that was before I’d started on Margueritas and Mojitos.
It’s easy to remain within the confines of the hotel compound immersed in all the facilities, but then you could be on almost any beach holiday in the world.
We ‘escaped’ the hotel a couple of times by walking south along the beach, inland around a peninsula, and back to the seafront at the Boardwalk Village on Seven Mile Beach.
There and back was about five miles – but well worth it to see a bit more of Negril.
To reach the lighthouse in Negril and to visit Rick’s Café required a taxi ride. There’s not much to the lighthouse. Rick’s Café is quite touristy, but still well worth visiting for its great cliff top position and to watch brave souls leaping from the cliff top into the sea. Anyone can take part, but that was a bit too much of a challenge for these senior travellers.
We took one full day excursion to visit the YS Falls and to take a boat ride along the crocodile-infested waters of the Black River. It also gave the opportunity to see something of daily life in towns and villages in Western Jamaica.
Getting to Negril – Thomson Airways
We flew from Gatwick to Montego Bay care of a Thomson Airways Dreamliner 787. I found the low noise level and relatively high humidity of this aircraft helped make the flights much less stressful.
Meals on board were of the usual in-flight standard, but this was made up for by the surprisingly free flowing alcoholic drinks. One niggle with the on-board entertainment was the prevalence of Scandinavian music and films. Why, when almost everyone on board was either British or Jamaican?
Comparison with an Independently Organised Holiday
I’ve checked previously on a couple of Saga holidays to find out whether they were good value compared with independently organised travel. For both a Spanish Costa Holiday and a Sri Lanka Hotel Holiday, the independent traveller could make considerable savings.
Does the same apply to this Thomson holiday?
A one week holiday booked through Thomson at the ClubHotel Riu Negril for mid-April 2016, costs about £1,800 for two adults. If this was booked independently, then flights, hotel and transfers would cost about £1,900. A small saving by booking through Thomson Holidays. However, on other dates, there was a small saving for independent travel.
So nothing much in it, although a bit less hassle when booking through Thomson. That’s provided you don’t get the same sort of problems that I had when I booking a cruise through their website, including prices increasing as I was booking; see: Thomson Cruises: Pros and Cons.
If you don’t like reggae music, then don’t come here on holiday – you can hardly get away from it. But if ‘don’t worry, be happy’ is the way you approach a holiday, then ClubHotel Riu Negril is a great place to ‘chill’ amid the sun, sand and sea.
POSTED 21st APRIL 2016 by STE Web Editor STEVE HANSON