A new view of Jamaica

View from Hyatt Zilara

Michelle Chenery reports on an unexpected itinerary along Montego Bay’s Elegant Corridor

The Hyatt Zilara and Hyatt Ziva quality service starts as soon as you arrive at the Sangster International Airport, Montego Bay. There is access to a private lounge where guests are greeted and provided with a complimentary, smooth transfer to the two sister resorts. Invited out to Jamaica by the Jamaica Tourist Board and Hyatt Hotels, it was just 15 minutes from the airport to the two sister properties that have benefitted recently from multi-million-dollar investments.

They are the Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall and Hyatt Ziva Rose Hall. Soft opened in December 2014, the official launch party in March 2015 was attended by the Jamaican Prime minister Portia Simpson-Miller. They offer the latest in 5-star inclusive services, spanning more than 1,200ft of private coastline on what was formerly the site of the Ritz Carlton. The properties are divided into two distinct areas. The Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall is exclusively for adults, with no children allowed.

The resort boasts 234 guest rooms, including 38 resort view rooms, 18 ocean front rooms, 32 swim-up suites, 100 ocean view junior suites and 39 butler suites of varying configurations, where a butler is on call 24hrs a day. In-room amenities include king size bed, handcrafted furniture, modern bathrooms with designer toiletries, iron and ironing board, coffeemaker, air conditioning, laptop size safe, fully stocked bar, LCD satellite TV and iPod docking station and a work desk with lamp, internet and 110v electric power. Suites boast double sinks, rainfall showers and a separate bathtub, furnished terraces and a slightly larger square footage. All of the refreshment centres in the rooms are restocked every day with beer, water and soft drinks. Complimentary internet access is offered throughout the resort.

Situated within the resort’s grounds are 3 restaurants. Petit Pariz brings the flavour of Paris to Jamaica and is open daily for dinner. Flavourz, located in the lobby, offers a variety of foods from fruits and vegetables to expertly prepared entrees and is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Horizons, open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, is based on a farm-to-table concept, focusing on local ingredients, quality cuts of meat and fresh seafood.

The resort has two bars, Potionz pays homage to the White Witch of Rose Hall, serving cocktails along with a signature White Witch that can, I've been told, be very sinister indeed. At Islandz guest can swim up, sit down and sip away, as this is the resort’s pool bar. The property has four pools and a private beach, a spa and facilities for outdoor tennis, beach volleyball, water basketball and aerobics. There are live performances and shows every evening.

Guests at the Zilara also have access to all the amenities at the Ziva, where the meetings facilities are located. These measure 18,286sqft inside with a further 30,000sqft of outdoor and pool space. Of the nine meeting spaces, all featuring the latest technology, the largest, Ziva Hall Ballroom, caters for up to 1,200 delegates theatre style. It can be divided into four smaller areas. There are a further seven breakout rooms, simultaneous translation and a fully equipped business centre. Hyatt Ziva has 621 rooms, with 13 different room types, from Ocean View spanning 493 sqft to the 1,083sqft One Bedroom Ocean Front butler service rooms. Beyond that is the Presidential Suite. Some of the rooms create a plantation feel with bright and colourful fixtures. The suites have polished furnishings and ocean facing king-sized beds.

The properties offer a food and dining experience to satisfy all tastes. Choicez is a gourmet buffet serving breakfast lunch and dinner. Breakfast offers every type of dish, including local Jamaican delicacies, from separate stations dotted around in the restaurant.

I suggest guests should first take a walk round to be sure they are aware of the full range on offer when they come to choose.

Di Roza restaurant is only open for dinner and serves traditional Italian cuisine. Authentic pizzas are served alongside classic pasta and meat dishes. There is also a private dining area to cater for up 20 people.

Calypzo, in the centre of the resort, features authentic Caribbean cuisine. It has an open kitchen and bar, canoe tables and rope chandeliers. Brazil, the hotel’s Churrascaria, serves endless skewers of meat with Brazilian flair and flavour.

A true sense of Jamaica can be found at Barefoot Jerkz, located just steps away from the waters of the Caribbean. The Jerk shack provides guests with traditional spiced chicken, along with the normal Jerk sauce, or guests can choose whether or not to spice it up even more and have the full hot experience with the scotch bonnet infused sauce, eye wateringly good.

There are also a further four themed bars within the grounds. Union Jack'z, a UK-inspired sports pub, serves tavern cuisine along with a variety of beverages and pub games, such as darts and a pool table. Fez, as the name suggests, is a Moroccan rooftop bar, with spectacular views and a real cocktail party vibe. At Shakerz, an open bar, skilled bartenders serve cocktails to suit every taste. In Stirz, located in the Ziva lobby, guests can relax in more luxurious settings, listening to live piano music over signature cocktails or beers and wine. Golfers at either resort can enjoy a complimentary round of golf at the nearby White Witch Course or the world-renowned Cinnamon Hill course.

Golf and spa experiences
After a refreshing first night’s sleep, we had a very full day’s activities. Half of our group had a round of golf at the White Witch, the rest of us enjoying treatments in the Z-Spa. I opted for a Swedish massage indoors with a masseur who was kind enough to offer advice about my shoulders, my driving posture and how to carry heavy bags. He also informed me that my muscle mass is slightly awry on one side.

During a lunch at the Calypso of jerk burgers and red snapper sandwiches, we took in the views across the beach and marvelled at the sheer blueness of the sea.

We then moved on to the nearby Montego Bay Convention Centre. Built on 35 acres of fertile land, it is interspersed with palm trees and beautifully tended gardens. It comprises a Meeting Centre with 9 meeting rooms, a Grand Ballroom, an Exhibition Hall and the Jamaica Room. These separate buildings are connected by a covered walkway on the ground floor. The Centre has over 142,000sqft of usable space, the largest able to cater for up to 6,000 delegates. There is surround sound, built-in screens and projectors, satellite feeds and video conferencing capabilities from every meeting room. Wireless connectivity throughout the complex offers speeds of 100mb on a secure internet service.

The day was nicely rounded off by testing the skills of the resort’s expert cocktail mixer and the international cuisine at Horizons and entertainment from a singer who could range over the latest hits and the old mellow classics.

The following morning breakfast was served in Flavorz, where I enjoyed freshly cooked eggs, English sausages and a potato cake covered in cinnamon and sugar. Interesting combination but it was very nice indeed.

We were taken then to Margaritaville by Paradise Travels Tour and Transport Services where we joined the Island Routes Reggae Catamaran cruise. We had the chance to snorkel along a reef. After an onboard lunch, we set sail with the music pumping and dancers learning the latest moves to old and new reggae tracks.

On the drive back to the Zilara, we stopped at one of the best of the local jerk shacks, Scotchies. It's a no frills restaurant, with a rustic and authentic appearance, barrels covered with cushions and wooden chairs and benches at outdoor tables. The jerked chicken is ordered by quarter and half pounds, served wrapped in tin foil. There is an array of Jamaican side orders, including rice and pea, yam, roasted breadfruit and sweet potato. The meat can get a lot hotter with the addition of a sauce made from Scotch bonnet chillies.

Later We had dinner at Brazil, where the waiters keep on coming and coming with skewers of meat until you let them know that you can't possibly eat another morsel. Diners have cards with one side saying ‘Yes I'm ready’ and the other ‘Stop I'm full’.

Underground adventure
The final morning we drove inland to Jamaica's Cockpit Country to enjoy caving in the Printed Circuit Cave, organised by the South Trelawny Environmental Agency (STEA) and its eco-tourism programme Cockpit Country Adventure Tours (CCAT) . STEA offers a wide range of services that provide employment and income for local people but are consistent with conservation and the sustainable use of the natural resources of Cockpit Country.

At the Printed Circuit Cave, known as Rock Spring Cave locally, we had a safety briefing and were kitted out with helmets and flash lights, and told to make sure that our shoes were on tight otherwise we could very well loose them in the cave while wading through the water and mud. Buddy systems were used when we got deeper into the cave, warning each other of low hanging formations and slippery surfaces.

At times water came up to our waists and there were hidden rocks. A few times I stumbled along the way, but I was more worried about treading on the crayfish than the rocks.

Our guides made us aware of all of the crayfish, bats and spiders as well as a few things that I didn't recognise.

Sometimes we ended up on our rear ends, but that just added to the fun, seeing who could get up inclines and slipping all the way back down again.

Eventually we came to a cavern where we were told to sit down quietly with our head lamps off. We just listened in the pitch black darkness and the only thing to be heard was the breathing of the person next to you. It brought a new meaning to peace and quiet and also made us realise how far underground we were.

Once outside the cave we headed down to the stream to clean up. Then it was a change of clothes at the hotel and transfer to the airport for our return home. We were grateful to Hyatt Hotels and the Jamaican Tourist Board for a trip that was the very definition of the term ‘memorable’!

For more information on Jamaica as a MICE destination please visit www.visitjamaica.com
For more information on Hyatt Ziva Rose Hall visit rosehall.ziva.hyatt.com
For more information on Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall visit: rosehall.zilara.hyatt.com
To view more images from the Jamaice trip please visit our Jamaica facebook album

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