After a year of COVID lockdowns and restrictions, my husband and I were really looking forward to getting away on a tropical vacation. We’ve had an absolutely amazing experience at two other Excellence Resorts (Playa Mujeres and Punta Cana– I really should write a review on these as well lol), so we decided it was time to make a trip to Jamaica, home of The Excellence Resort Collection’s newest location – Oyster Bay. Obviously we weren’t the only ones ready for a getaway, as two other couples decided to join us in Jamaica!
I want to preface this review by saying that I’m going to be 100% brutally honest, and have come to know the service and standards of other Excellence Resort properties through our other three trips. I will also say that the resort had only been open for a few weeks after being closed for months because of COVID travel restrictions. The Excellence Collection has several types of hotel concepts, but the three that we have been to are all high-end adults-only all-inclusive resorts. In Playa Mujeres, they also have an all-inclusive family friendly resort (Finest), as well as an adults couples-only resort (Beloved).
Getting to the Resort
We flew into Sangster International Airport on American Airlines (we are from Knoxville, TN which has pretty limited flights) but saw there were also several Delta flight options. The resort was running a special when we booked our room that included a private transfer from the airport to the resort. If they aren’t running a special, this typically costs ~$60 each way (and is well worth it, in my opinion). You will be picked up by a driver in a Chevy Tahoe, Suburban, or Cadillac Escalade. The drive took ~30 minutes, and was relatively easy. We had a great driver who knew tons of history, and would point out interesting things like Usain Bolt’s high school along the way to the resort.
Upon arrival, we were offered drinks from the bar – which was a bit different than previous experiences. Typically, we would be offered a glass of champagne almost immediately after getting out of the car, while the bellhop took care of our luggage. The front desk staff seemed a little discombobulated, so it took a while for them to get things sorted out for us. We were REALLY early for check-in, since American Airlines changed our flights to an earlier time (after cancelling our original flight). We knew they probably wouldn’t have our room ready yet, so we packed a swimsuit, cover-up, shoes and sunscreen in our carry-on bags for easy access. While we waited for our rooms, we changed and headed to the pool area for some lunch – a great option if you want to squeeze more time in the sunshine out of your trip for no extra $$$!
The rooms at this resort are also structured a bit differently than what I am used to at the other Excellence hotels. All of the rooms are decorated similarly, but there are some differences in location/view and extra amenities. All rooms have a private jacuzzi tub overlooking the balcony (except for ground floor) Generally, there are three types of rooms, but the Oyster Bay resort has A LOT more options.
Junior Suite– most basic/least expensive room, but still lovely – will be on one of the middle level floors
Junior Suite with Plunge Pool– same as the junior suite, but with a private “plunge” pool on the deck of your balcony
Junior Suite with Private Pool – Ground level room, larger private pool a few steps outside your room
Rooftop Terrace Suite with Plunge Pool– Oceanfront & Excellence club only. These will run a few hundred dollars more per night. We had one of these rooms on our honeymoon in the Dominican Republic, and it was awesome, but haven’t booked that type of room since.
Excellence Club Beach House with Plunge Pool – similar to the previous room, but instead of being in the main building, you are in a condo type setup where there are only a few rooms in the free-standing building as opposed to the larger hotel structure.
Beach Villa with Private Pool– your own house on the beach with a private pool – almost twice the size of other rooms in the resort. Be prepared to spend 2K+ a night.
For this trip, we opted to stay in a Junior Suite with Plunge Pool. We had a garden view, and spent most of our time with friends by the main pool area, so we only got in the plunge pool once or twice. To be honest, I wouldn’t recommend this room. When we got the plunge pool previously, we enjoyed the fact that we were on a rooftop with a lot of privacy. The way the rooms are set up here, there were rooms above us without a plunge pool deck that could see directly onto our entire balcony/pool area – no privacy whatsoever. I’d splurge on the oceanfront version if you think you’ll use it, or just go down a level to a basic Junior Suite and save the $$$. See image above to see what the plunge pool looks like.
All of the rooms are well decorated, have a beautiful shower, jacuzzi tub, and a stocked bar & mini fridge (snacks and drinks). The bar was stocked with wine, Jamaican spiced rum, and Vodka.
Eat & Drink
Oyster Bay has several restaurants on-site:
The Kitchen Table: Buffet style breakfast restaurant. If I’m being completely honest, I thought this food was awful. The omelets were incredibly overcooked, and the bacon was often very overcooked or very undercooked. Huge pastry selection, if you’re into that. Not much in the way of fruits (only melon-like fruit, no berries). I think I was most disappointed in this restaurant because the Kitchen Table Restaurants at the Playa Mujeres and Punta Cana Resorts were so good. In fairness, those locations had a massive selection of delicious Mexican breakfast foods that I already know and love, which makes sense considering the cultural influences on food in those areas.
Chez Isabelle: Fancy French food. If you like snails, duck, liver, etc, this is for you. For me, the food was so-so.
Oregano: Located over the main pool area (outside) open for lunch/dinner. Italian food like sandwiches, pizza and pasta. Great lunch spot!
Caribbean Grove: Local Caribbean flavors of food, open sometimes for lunch and dinner. One of our favorite restaurants – we went for lunch and it was my favorite lunch we had all week. I didn’t get the chance to eat dinner here, and I’m a little bummed about it.
The Lobster House: Located over the main pool area, open for lunch/dinner. Seafood and traditional American food like burgers/sandwiches. There won’t be any actual lobster served unless your visit is during lobster season – check the dates if this is important to you.
Spice: Hibachi/Japanese food. The Hibachi here is probably the best of all the Excellence resorts that we went to. Absolutely amazing, but you’ll need to get a reservation as soon as they open up since seating is very limited for the hibachi tables. Japanese food was just so-so. Sushi was just meh.
The Grill: A nice steakhouse dinner. One of our favorite meals at the resort! Everything we ate here was awesome, and the service was great as well.
Jerk Hut: poolside snack bar, open for lunch. Great if you want a quick bite – stick to the chicken and French fries though. Beware – the jerk sauce has some serious heat.
There were tons of activities on-site for daytime entertainment. During the day, there are cooking classes, yoga classes, beach volleyball, water aerobics, as well as some water sports like kayaking and paddle boarding. For an additional fee, you can also rent jet skis, parasail, or take boat excursions. There is also a fantastic gym on-site if you are looking to get a good workout in. Most days we settled ourselves on the plush loungers and enjoyed poolside cocktails and entertainment, read books and napped in the sunshine.
In the evenings, there is always a show in the theater. Shows could range from Burlesque, Michael Jackson tribute, Motown, etc. There was also a karaoke night – it was pretty entertaining to see some guests get on stage! If you are a big time spots fan, they will have all your favorite games on in the sports bar, located right next to the theater. You can get drinks, late night food, and cheer on your favorite team!
During our stay, we indulged in a 75-minute massage and hydrotherapy treatment at the Mille spa. We’ve gotten massages everytime we’ve visited Excellence resorts, and they never disappoint! Even if you aren’t big into facials/massages, etc., I’d highly recommend trying out the hydrotherapy treatments. They are so much fun to do with your significant other!
This is the category that is the hardest for me to write. If I’m being completely honest, I was underwhelmed with the level of service at Oyster Bay. At Playa Mujeres or Punta Cana, if we were poolside and our drinks were half-full, someone would be back with another one immediately. I understand that the resort closed during COVID, and some of the staff probably quit/took another job because of it, but you could just tell they were not as well trained or as mindful as the staff at the other properties. We did have a few servers who were phenomenal – including Nicholas at the Caribbean Restaurant and Marcos at the Sports Bar. To be clear, everyone was polite and kind, it was just not the “above and beyond” incredible level of service we are so used to receiving at the other locations.
There are specific dress codes for dinner for men/women. Men have to wear pants, a collared shirt and closed toed shoes to dinner at all restaurants (although that didn’t seem to be enforced at the outdoor poolside restaurants). Women can pretty much wear anything (except swimsuits), but the dress code specifically states women should wear “elegant sandals”. The girls in our group wore dresses/skirts/sandals/heels pretty much every night. If I find the time, I can put together another blog post featuring our outfits/swimsuits for the trip 🙂
You’ll also want to be sure to pack a beach bag to haul your belongings to the pool/beach, and good sunscreen. The sun in Jamaica is no joke, and the gift shop has sunscreen, but it is EXPENSIVE. Be sure to bring a coverup if you plan to dine at one of the poolside restaurants for lunch. I also highly recommend a hat to protect your face while relaxing by the pool as well.
If you’ve never been to or heard about an Excellence resort before, you’d probably be blown away with everything at Oyster Bay – we chatted to loads of people who were there for the first time, and everyone seemed impressed. After talking to a handful of people who had been to the other resorts though, they came to the same conclusion as us- this was their least favorite of the Excellence properties they have been to. Although I think Oyster Bay is the newest, most modern, and best landscaped/prettiest, it ranks the lowest for me in food, drink and service. In my opinion, if you are going to spend the money on a bougie all-inclusive vacation like this, you should go to Playa Mujeres, or Punta Cana instead. It feels harsh to be so blunt, but when you spend thousands of dollars on a vacation, I’d recommend going for the best service, food and drink you can get.
I hope you found this review informative. As always, feel free to reach out with questions/comments.
Until next time,
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This is NOT an affiliate/partnership/sponsored post. All opinions are my own.