As any 65-year-old will tell you, even the best bones eventually get a little stiff. So like any Baby Boomer, Jamaica’s iconic Half Moon resort in Montego Bay is getting a little work done on the eve of its 65th birthday, Half Moon’s chairman Guy Steuart III said at a Manhattan press conference this week.
The 35 acres at the northernmost tip of Jamaica bought by Steuart’s grandfather in 1954 has become a 400-acre retreat with two full miles of beachfront. By November 1, a $75 -million “renewal” will create a new Great House, the lobby and the event lawn and raise them 17 feet, giving them expansive views of the Caribbean Sea below, add 57 new rooms and a premium buffet open for three meals a day.
Half Moon also will upgrade the rooms and public spaces; expand the beachfront with an extended promenade; and add a sheltered swimming cove.
New dining options will include Lester’s Bar, with “the largest collection of rum in the Caribbean,” a beachside bar and grill on Sunrise Beach. A new pergola café with gluten-free and “spa-centric” food sits just outside the spa.
For the group and destination wedding markets, the design of the new lobby offers the option of private check-in areas, and the 40 Prestige Ocean Rooms and 12 Estate Ocean Rooms mean everyone can have a room of a similar category. The buffet is “a perfect immediate back-up venue” that can hold 200 indoors in case of rain.
Fifty-seven new guest rooms and suites will add new luxury categories, including Estate Ocean Suites and a Great House Ocean Suite.
Relaxed luxury is trending
But above all, the resort will focus, as always, on relaxed luxury. “Formality is completely gone in the luxury sector. What people want is top-quality service; it’s the little attentions that people remember,” said General Manager Sando Fabris. Beach butlers will come by to offer drinks and clean guests' sunglasses; groundskeepers will pick coconuts from the trees and offer them a sip of fresh milk as they walk past guests' rooms in the morning.
The menu, too, shows attention to small details and local cuisine. Chef Christopher Golding is “reinventing Jamaican cuisine,” with dishes like breadfruit gnocchi in coconut milk, yam risotto, jerk potato gratin with rum béarnaise sauce, and oxtail ravioli in sweet potato dough.
New activities are in the works as well, including a music academy, dance studio and possibly a swimming academy, to join such existing options as golf, tennis, and equestrian academies that offer swimming with the horses and show-jumping lessons. Steuart said he also is considering two overwater bungalows in the spa and a new yoga pavilion.
At the press conference, Steuart tipped his hat to the travel professionals who helped him shape the vision of what will be.
“We’ve been listening to what you have been saying, what you thought we should be looking at. We are not part of a large hotel group, so we will be putting in place a process that will be more supportive to travel agents, and coming up with training and fam trips as we put more focus on the North American market,” he told TMR.