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In Falmouth, Jamaica, a Different Kind of All-Inclusive Resort

By: Bob Curley - December 10, 2022

Resorts with superlatives in their names don’t always live up to their promises, but there really is a lot that’s excellent about the Excellence Oyster Bay, an adults-only all-inclusive resort located on a private peninsula just outside the town of Falmouth, Jamaica. Accommodations are spacious and well designed, the food quality is consistently excellent, the daily schedule is packed with activities, and the staff is friendly and responsive to guest needs.

The combination makes the Excellence Oyster Bay a lustrous pearl among Jamaica’s luxury all-inclusive resorts.

If you look out the window as your plane lands at Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay, you might get a glimpse of one of Excellence Oyster Bay’s main rivals: the Sandals Montego Bay resort literally sits across the street from the runway. Alas, while ads for the Excellence Oyster Bay also place it in Montego Bay, it’s not even in the same parish. Rather, a nearly 45-minute taxi ride awaits before you pull up to the imposing gates of the resort, which is actually a bit east of the cruise port of Falmouth.

all-inclusive jamaica resort falmouth

With 315 suites spread over a private peninsula, the resort occupies an isolated spit of land jutting into Falmouth Harbor, adjacent to the famous Glistening Waters bioluminescent bay. The main building contains an attractive, high-ceilinged lobby, martini bar, several of the 10 restaurants at the resort, including the Kitchen Table buffet, an indoor-outdoor entertainment venue, and a sports bar.

Guest rooms are mostly contained within modernistic four-story buildings, separated from the ocean by pools, well-maintained grounds, and other bars and eateries. At either end of the resort are more exclusive Excellence Club accommodations, many of which have direct access to the shoreline; a lineup of two-story Beach House suites also fall into this category.

all-inclusive jamaica resort falmouth pool

Guest suites are accessed via long covered walkways on the non-beach side of the resort; the back side of the resort can occasionally be a bit stinky, although its unclear whether its a septic issue or a product of being surrounded by wetlands. Design elements are relatively consistent across room categories, highlighted by hexagonal wooden panels resembling rippled waves separating baths from bedrooms. All have king beds, separate sitting areas with comfortable modern furniture, and bathrooms with double sinks and large rainfall showers. Ground-level junior suites have private plunge pools, hot tubs, and day beds tucked into a private corner; upper-floor suites have balconies and standalone tubs. Beachfront suites have glass-walled balconies for unimpeded views.

True 24-hour room service is one of the highlights of the dining options at the Excellence Oyster Bay: you can order anything off the menu (via a resort app uploaded to your mobile device at check-in) at any time of the day and night and get it delivered to a warming cabinet just inside your room’s front door, usually within an hour.

We didn’t get to eat at every restaurant during a relatively short stay at the resort in November 2022, but we got enough of a taste to be really impressed with the food quality. We made a beeline to the poolside Jerk Hut soon after arriving, and were pleased to find some freshly grilled jerk chicken, peas and rice, and burgers and fries waiting. The jerk sauce was perhaps toned down a bit for tourist tastes, but excellent nonetheless.

We were even more impressed the next day when we ate at Caribbean Grove, a island-themed restaurant and rum bar that hit all the right notes with Jamaican standards like beef patties, curried goat, conch fritters, and ackee and sailfish served appetizer style atop plantain slices. And while the bar was oddly short of coveted Appleton rum, alternatives from Plantation, Monymusk, and Worthy Park filled in reasonably well (rum snobs take note, however, that the main pouring rum found at the bars, Diamond, is a Demerara style from Guyana).

all-inclusive jamaica resort falmouth

Resort restaurants excelled at international cuisine, as well. A teppanyaki dinner at the Spice  Asian restaurant was almost indistinguishable from hibachi-style restaurants back home, right down to the chef catching spinning eggs in his hat and juggling utensils. Snacks served in the sports bar ran towards snacks like pizza, egg rolls, and chicken wings: during a lively showing of the FIFA World Cup matches, the resort wisely laid out a buffet so that fans could snack at their leisure. Other a la carte dining choices including The Grill steakhouse and Chez Isabelle French restaurant, the latter the only one of the non-Club eateries with a dress code (collared shirt, long pants for men, dresses or resort wear for women).

At the center of the resort, the Lobster House and Mediterranean restaurant Oregano share the ground floor of a freestanding building topped with a lounge and infinity edge pool. An appetizer of diced squid over sliced Sicilian potatoes drizzled with pesto at Oregano was easily as good as anything we ate during a recent trip to Spain and France.

The resort has a busy tour desk in the lobby, but also offers enough on-site activities to make it easy to just stay put. A large board in the theater is updated daily with a dozen or more daily activities such as yoga and fitness classes (held in one of the biggest resort gyms you’ll see or, more seductively, in a beach pavilion), pool volleyball, dance lessons, “paint and sip” sessions, and a weekly rum demonstration and tasting that draws a large and enthusiastic crowd.

Aquatherapy and body treatments at the Millé Spa generally require an extra fee, but if you’re in the mood for some extra pampering both are worth considering. Attendants lead participants through the aquatherapy course, which includes stops in a hammam and sauna as well as plunges into hot and cold tubs and luxuriating under a variety of showers. Massages are expertly administered, and the relaxation room features beds that rock you side to side like a boat: if you didn’t nod off during your treatment, you probably will here.

Water sports include stand-up paddle boards, kayaks, and Hobie catamaran sailboats. Boat trips to the nearby bioluminescent bay can be arranged through the tour desk and depart right from the resort. Nightly entertainment is an eclectic mix: we saw a classical violinist play a warm up set for a high-energy Bob Marley reggae tribute band, for example.

A boardwalk runs much of the length of the beach in front of the main resort buildings, with cushioned lounge chairs offering the option to recline along the walkway or right in the sand. There are times when the tide reduces the beach to a sandy sliver, but the water is clean and inviting.

Without a great staff, all these bells and whistles could add up to a hollow shell. But we found the workers at the Excellence Oyster Bay to be among the best we’ve encountered. Bellhops and bartenders remembered guests’ names even after just a day — no easy task at a resort with hundreds of rooms. Servers did their work with a smile and with just the right mix of easygoing informality and professionalism. Empty glasses rarely went unfilled for long at the pool, and the staff was in constant motion of cleaning, trimming, and sprucing up when they weren’t taking care of the customers.

All in all, the staff were excellent ambassadors for Jamaica, just as Excellence Oyster Bay met or exceeded all of our expectations of a Spanish resort brand that’s growing its reputation day by day, new resort by new resort.

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