Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Hedonism II: New Year’s Eve 2014



Veterans of Hedonism II have spent the past couple of years sitting back waiting and watching as the resort’s new owners have tried to revive a once-successful franchise whose previous management appeared to have forsaken.  While many and varied changes have occurred during this time period, guests have not always unflaggingly embraced them, or at least have done so with reservations.  But what of these alterations?  Have they improved the customer experience or are they merely serving as “putting lipstick on a pig”? 

As a long-time guest of the resort, I recently returned from yet another visit precisely for the New Year’s Eve celebration both for a vacation and to see if it’s now truly  …

Hedonism Version # 2.0:  The Next Generation



What was better than last year?

  • The telephone in the room worked (on my last visit, they were upgrading the phone system, which meant that all of the phones in the guest rooms were out of commission)
  • The food in the main dining room's buffet had improved selection/quality
  • New and better treadmills in the gym
  • Security (more below)
  • The bathrooms behind the pools (nude side) were renovated (they just reopened after my arrival; details below)
  • The ostentatious jewelry store is replaced by a very classy wine bar (details later)
  • The piano bar has been opened up (additional outside seating and walls have been taken down inside – photo below)
  • The espresso bar is now open (although I didn’t actually see anyone working there until the end of my stay – photos below)

 Pig CU

Piano Bar Landscape Espresso Bar Landscape

Espresso Prices Portrait 

What still needs improvement?

  • Water temperature in the shower (too hot)
  • Entertainment Coordinators (too intrusive; perhaps they should consider abandoning this concept altogether)
  • Martinis (the bartenders still don’t know how to make them; explanation below)

The Good News

The food at the buffet in the main dining room during dinner had a wide variety and was generally very flavorful, although some meat was a little dry and chewy and their attempt at risotto was anything but the soupy quality those familiar with the dish might expect. 

The treadmills in the gym have been replaced with newer models that are easier to use (feel free to attach your iPod/iPhone to listen to music).  While I don’t know how new they are, the one other positive thing about them was that all appeared to be working; although I was the only one in the gym using the treadmills at the time, none of them had an “Out Of Order” sign posted on them – something which at least one machine used to have in my past visits. 

If you read my trip report from last year about Hedo at New Year’s, you’ll recall The Big Break-In Of 2014, which had all the earmarks of an inside job.  Thankfully, no such incident occurred this year, which can likely be attributed to the new security company the resort has hired (a Canadian-based organization that hires Jamaican guards).  It was clear from casual observation that these guards were a huge improvement over what was previously there:  they were very professional in their approach, took their job seriously and didn’t miss a trick.  Late one afternoon, there was an incident at the hot tub and security took care of it efficiently and with aplomb. 

It appears I arrived at a good time – the day I checked-in at Hedo, the freshly-renovated restrooms by the nude pool had just re-opened.  As far as the men’s room is concerned, it looks beautiful and for the most part is smartly redesigned; there are two toilets (each with a door that closes) and two urinals – the sinks were moved outside, but at the time, it appeared that only one was working.  Unfortunately, the entrance appears to be something of a design issue in that it is very wide and there is no door; as a result, anyone passing by can easily see someone standing there using the urinal. 

While I did not really avail myself of the wine bar during this stay, it certainly does seem very nice.  On New Year’s Eves past, the resort typically sells bottles of high-end champagne; this year, it seems that the wine bar was selling bottles of both sparkling wine and champagne.  After checking the wine list, I saw that prices ranged from $35 for Prosecco ($30 for a Rosé version) to $300 for Dom Perignon. 

The Not-So-Good News

As stated above, the shower in the rooms continue to have issues with respect to water temperature; it was only on my final day (when I took a shower in the late morning) that I had a reasonable temperature for the water – the rest of the time, it was way too hot and on my last night, it was absolutely scalding. 

What are we to do with these Entertainment Coordinators?  While I’m given to understand that a good many guests truly enjoy their presence at the resort, I personally have always found them to be superfluous.  Seriously, do we all need coaxing to play bocce ball, trivia games or scavenger hunts?  My personal opinion is that their time for usefulness has long since passed and while I don’t wish for anyone to lose their job, it would seem that the money used for their salaries could be best spent elsewhere (perhaps on the other planned renovations ongoing at the resort). 

The set-up of the Martini bar is something that I always welcomed but they keep changing the location so it can be hard to find; sometimes it’s near the bar, other times on the main pool deck.  This year, on New Year’s Eve, it was moved to just outside the piano bar (around the corner from the wine bar), which I very nearly missed.  The other problem here is with the martinis themselves; they are inconsistently made and generally incorrectly made.  When ordering an extra dry martini, I have seen bartenders range from drizzling vermouth into the glass then dumping it into the sink (which is correct) to pouring an overly-generous amount into the shaker containing the gin (wrong); either way, the martini should never be shaken – it should be stirred.  Stirring a martini chills the base spirit (gin, in my case) without diluting it with melted ice; it also results in the cocktail itself being clear (you can see through the glass).  When a martini is shaken, however, straining it into the glass results in a cloudy mixture; in addition, shaking causes the spirit to be diluted by the melting ice, negatively impacting the flavor (also, it causes shards of ice to float atop the glass, which should never be the case). 

The Repeater Party


Normally, The Repeater Party is held on Wednesday evenings; this week, it was moved to Tuesday because New Year’s Eve fell on a Wednesday this year.  Harry, who was at the resort just about the entire time I was there, was in attendance at the party; he mentioned that further renovations would be ongoing during the off-season.  Included among them would be the lobby, the stage (including the lighting), the electrical system, the dining room and the buffet area.  He mentioned that whenever he sees the current layout, it looks a bit too much like the 1970’s; that he’s interested in updating and modernizing things a bit was somewhat encouraging. 

New Year’s Eve

The food quality and selection on New Year’s Eve has consistently been the best during every vacation and that continued to be the case this year.  As far as the entertainment was concerned, they had a total of five acts appearing onstage.  After midnight, there was a band playing in the newly-renovated courtyard; their stage was set up right by the building that houses the restrooms by the tennis court.  Unfortunately, their set kept getting interrupted due to the fact that the electricity kept going out.  The following night, on New Year’s Day, that same area was used as a screen on which to project the live broadcast of the annual Sugar Bowl college football game.  

New Year’s Eve 2014 at Hedonism II (Negril, Jamaica)


So, is Hedonism II still worth the time, expense and effort?  Ultimately, I suppose it depends on what you’re after.  During this trip, I met a couple from Alberta, Canada who were celebrating their wedding anniversary; they told me that they used to vacation at Hedonism III, then switched to Hedonism II after their original resort closed.  They spent a few vacations at Hedonism II, then stopped coming a couple of years ago because they felt that the resort was going downhill.  Then they heard that the ownership had changed hands, so they figured they would give it another shot.  She told me they were emboldened by the changes that were made here and might return next year.   

As for me, there are too many memories here to stop coming altogether; vacationing here since 1988 and spending every New Year’s Eve since 1997, it would be hard to give up.  I’ve resolved myself to the fact that it is not now and never will be a five-star hotel and that it will only go into the 21st century if it’s dragged kicking and screaming.  The one turn-off that I did have came at the end of my trip as I was checking out; the person at the front desk asked me to be sure to post a review on Trip Advisor if I enjoyed my stay.  This seemed odd and it was the first time it had ever happened to me.  Upon returning home, I checked the current ratings of Hedonism II on Trip Advisor; at the time of this writing, they have nearly 1600 reviews, over 1200 of which are rated either Excellent or Very Good.  Why would a resort that has a 78% favorable rating be begging outgoing guests for even more reviews?

Another observation:  it’s now been close to two years since the new owners of Hedonism II took over.  These new owners are successful businessmen who also truly believe in the place and have their own history with the resort.  However, as businessmen, they are also obligated to look at the bottom line.  Although they presently seem committed and sincere about aggressively improving the resort, one must realistically ask how long this will continue?  If the resort appears to be making money, then it’s quite possible that these upgrades will continue indefinitely.  However, if it merely turns into a money pit after about five years or so, will they simply decide to cut their losses and sell the resort to an organization that will bulldoze it and replace it with a more family-friendly hotel?  Perhaps that’s why their staff is imploring the guests to post positive reviews on Trip Advisor. 

Regarding the entertainment staff:  despite what I said above, I do realize that Winston is an extraordinarily talented singer – I just wish he would stick to regular singing than to perform his transvestite schtick.   During my stay, there was an employee who was leaving; on his last night, he worked in the piano bar and Winston bid him farewell by singing “Con Te Partirò” in the style of Andrea Bocelli; Winston was, quite simply, excellent.  It was an appropriate way to say goodbye to him and seems a fitting way to conclude this year’s trip report.


Time To Say Goodbye

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