The secret about Secrets is that it is definitely not what it advertises itself to be. Time to expose Secrets.
The only reason for a second visit to Secrets, Montego Bay in March 2011 was that so many problems were experienced in the first visit soon after it opened that the general manager gave us, and many others, a free week. So, about eleven moths later we gave Secrets another try. Overall, there were some greater deficiencies. Secrets sells itself with the phrase “unlimited-luxury” as if it is a four or five star property. It is not. This phrase of theirs should go down in history as one of the biggest lies and consumer frauds. No one in their right mind, who knows, appreciates and expects four or five star luxury and amenities at a resort should go to Secrets.
For some 30 years I have been vacationing in Jamaica at all inclusive high end resorts, so I really know what luxury is. If a crucial aspect of a luxury vacation for you is fine food, then Secrets is a failure. Everyone we spoke to agreed that the food in the specialty restaurants and buffets was disappointing. Food was lacking in quality, taste and variety. Some dishes were so over salted that they could not be eaten. Of the five restaurants the best is the Japanese.
Now let me be clear that there are always people who rave about a place like Secrets because primarily they have not experienced a truly top grade luxurious resort so they have no accurate basis for comparison. Let me give more details about Secrets.
I have stayed at hotels and resorts worldwide for many decades. The room service menu at Secrets is an insult; absolutely the worst, most meager one I have ever seen. It is the only resort that I have seen in recent years that does not provide a card to put outside your door at night to have a wake up breakfast delivered the following morning. Unlimited-luxury!! Are you kidding? At a real, luxury hotel it can be a pleasure to order a wonderful meal through room service, but not at Secrets. The mini bar service was one star, with no first rate liquor available.
The hotels that offer true luxury where I have stayed offered many things not found at Secrets. Here are some things that I have routinely enjoyed at Jamaican all inclusives that are truly luxurious: single malt Scotch whiskey, lamb chops, jumbo shrimps, lobster tails, thick first grade steaks. I had none of these at Secrets. Most of the food could be considered hotel institutional. Not only does Secrets need new management it desperately needs a new executive chef. Also, I enjoy many Jamaican foods, fruits and vegetables, but these were mostly lacking at Secrets, though there was good jerk chicken offered in various places. Specifically, I love Ackee which looks like eggs but is a kind of fruit and in the week I was there it was available only once at the breakfast buffet.
One morning at the breakfast buffet when a lot of people were still coming in a large fraction of the many plates with food were entirely empty! This is just one example of the serious lack of effective supervisors and managers at Secrets.
As to rooms, I heard a number of people complaining about toilets that did not work. In our room the privacy door to the toilet area was missing and the Ipod dock did not work. Repeated requests to fix them failed. Here is a fascinating quirk with the technology used in rooms. When electricity fails, which it did about a dozen times in the week, the room air conditioning system shuts down permanently, leaving guests to become smart enough to turn it back on and reset the desired temperature, or otherwise wake up to a hot room. I think many guests do not necessarily figure this out. Also, the pillows were awful and there was, unlike other hotels, no pillow choices.
As to all that luxury service at the beach I was amazed to discover that there was no one on the beach first thing in the morning to assist guests obtain lounges, towels and get situated – no service whatsoever. To be fair, the later service to get bar drinks was pretty good.
A nutty thing I saw was widespread tipping for ordinary services, at the beach, bars and restaurants. At Secrets as with all such all inclusive resorts gratuities are included in the price paid. To constantly shell out cash is sheer stupidity and an indication that many of the guests are quite inexperienced with such resorts. Worst of all, the tipping is quite out in the open which tells me that management is either encouraging it or sanctioning it at the very least. Some hotels have very explicit no tipping policies that are clearly communicated in various ways to guests.
If you want a truly luxurious, four or five star all inclusive in the Montego Bay area you have a terrific alternative. I strongly recommend going to IberoStar Rose Hall Grande which has superior food, room furnishings, service and amenities. It is absolutely gorgeous and brilliantly designed inside and outside and, like Secrets, relatively new. For an even higher level of luxury and personal service go to the Royal Plantation in Ocho Rios.
As for Secrets it is at best a three star resort, no better than the typical Sandals or Couples resort, with the food being two stars, the room service one star, and most other aspects three stars, with the exception that the outside pool and beach areas are five stars with respect to beauty. However, the beach itself seems totally manmade with a lot of rocks, shells and small pieces of coral that make walking on it barefoot unpleasant. You also cannot take long walks on the beach at Secrets because it is very discontinuous. In contrast the beach at IberoStar Grande is very long and marvelous for taking long walks.
You have been warned! Do not get suckered by the Secrets website and advertising or by travel agents. Do not waste your money or your precious vacation time on Secrets, and by the way we stayed at the highest level preferred club on the Wild Orchid side of the resort. This means that there are even fewer amenities in regular rooms and on the St. James part of the resort. All guests access the same set of restaurants and buffets.