Hotel Review: Hyatt Ziva/Zilara Rose Hall, Montego Bay, Jamaica

Hyatt Ziva/Zilara is Hyatt’s somewhat recent venture into the all-inclusive market, with three hotels in Mexico and a new property which opened in Montego Bay, Jamaica on December 10, 2014. The property was built in 2000 and operated by the Ritz Carlton until 2013, when it was purchased, and reopened as Hyatt Ziva/Zilara the following year. The old Ritz building was augmented by the addition of two new wings, multiple new restaurants, and an expansion of the existing pool and a building of a new adults-only pool. More extensive renovations of the existing Ritz buildings will take place over the next year. Hyatt operates an airport lounge for Ziva/Zilara guests which handles complimentary transportation from the airport to the hotel. The trip from the airport takes between 10 and 15 minutes.

We spent a little over a week at this property, arriving on opening day. The hotel at this point is a mix of old a new – new Ziva wing (called Caribbean Village or building 3) with several restaurants and an entertainment area, two old Ritz buildings (building 1 and 2), which have been cosmetically renovated but still need a fair amount of work, and the new Zilara wing (building 4), which opened on December 21, 2014. As of December 2014, the Ritz buildings had mostly Ritz furniture and furnishings: of the two lamps in our room, one was the pineapple design of the Ritz, and one was a slick brushed steel of the Hyatt. The wall light fixtures in the hallways were replaced with modern ones, but the chandeliers were still old Ritz, as is the carpeting. The elevators across both buildings 1 and 2 were intermittently out of service.

The new Ziva wing looked exactly like the Hyatt website photos – modern decor, soaking tub in the bathroom, brand new construction. We have heard some guests complaining of some rooms being not quite finished, but what we saw looked pretty good.

The opening of the hotel looked rushed. There was still landscaping work going on when we arrived, and it was not finished by the time we left. The palm trees were propped up by 2 by 4s, some rooms were missing furniture, and the TV still had a Ritz channel. The hotel staff worked day and night to make the property ready for the Christmas rush, and in the days we’ve spent at the hotel, they made a lot of progress.

Even in the current state of being not quite finished, the hotel has many assets, the biggest of which is its staff. Their motto is “service from the heart”, and that they certainly deliver. Everyone from the porters to the barmen to the waiters is eager to make your stay as comfortable as possible. The entertainment crew is energetic and engaging, performing as well as chatting with guests and getting them involved in various activities (pool, dance, night time show). There are dedicated kids crew members who play with children throughout the day.

The food was very good, much better than we expected with seafood and steak options at lunch and dinner, and high quality ingredients in all restaurants including the buffet. Not all restaurants are open for breakfast, but there is a buffet and a few sit down options, as well as a 24 hour coffee shop in the Ziva lobby. Specialty restaurants are: Italian, Fusion, Caribbean, Brazilian, and buffet. On the Zilara side there is French, Steak and Lobster, and Jamaican. Zilara restaurants are adults only and are open only to the Zilara guests. Ziva restaurants are open to all hotel guests. As of December 2014, the Zilara restaurants were restricted to adults only, but I am not sure how the Zilara only rule was enforced.

Of the two pools, we enjoyed the Ziva pool more, even though there are a lot of children. It is bigger and better suited for swimming. The infinity edge Zilara pool is swanky, but it was colder (possibly a function of the fact that it gets less light). The beach on the Ziva side is sheltered by rocks from the big waves and is calmer than the Zilara beach, but both sides were getting quite a bit of seaweed which was continuously cleaned and removed by the hotel staff.

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