Grand Lido Negril – A review
By Sue McGarvie and Blaik Spratt
Clinical Sex Therapists, Syndicated Talk Show Host, and Authors of The Ethical Hedonist
We’ve both had a few friends who decided to skip the big production and head down south to get married. No seating arrangements to organize, no huge expense of feeding extended relations, and no church ceremony for couples who have rarely darkened a church door. Getting married in a simple ceremony on a beach (whether you elope or drag immediate family down with you) has the advantages of having your honeymoon start immediately, and enjoying the breathtaking view of turquoise water, lush vegetation, and a sunset of pinks and purples that beat any kind of man-made decorations.
Most resorts in the Caribbean offer weddings – usually under a simple trellis overlooking the water. Sometimes they are set apart from the rest of the resort, but we’ve found many are wedged between the jet skis screaming in the background, and beach walkers tromping by. We know because we’ve accidently stumbled by a few beach weddings in the search for interesting seashells. Oops. This trip we saw four beautiful weddings far at a distance, in the wedding cabana at Grand Lido Negril over the time we were there, (and later having run into three of those brides who raved about their ceremonies). Although sold as an upscale Superclub concept, it seemed that Grand Lido is also a perfect venue for elegant and romantic weddings.
Grand Lido is a majestic resort on one end of Negril’s famous seven mile beach of white sand. The resort reminded us of one of those perfectly turned out southern ladies – well appointed, gracious, classic, and understated. Laid back with a traditional style, young couples (and parents, even grand-parents coming for a holiday or attending a wedding) will appreciate the quiet refinement of the grounds, sumptuousness of the food, and sophistication of the other guests.
Given all polish that is Grand Lido Negril, (and classic elegance really are the words we would use to describe it) what’s really interesting about Lido is its slightly flirty feel. Between the oversized drinks, the activity staff that greet you with a wink and a smile, and the fact that half the resort is clothing optional (yup, they have a nude beach), Lido feels decidedly grown up. We met a number of people who had been coming to Grand Lido for decades, loving its mix of relaxation and discernment. Many of them had started on the huge regular beach, and had migrated to taking off their wet, sandy and uncomfortable suits over the years. And as we said before, taking your bathing suit off is the second hardest thing you’ll do on vacation. The hardest thing is putting it back on. The resort didn’t have a sexual feel, just a relaxed openness about it that was nonchalant and accepting. Many had made great friends over the years as clothing optional bars, pools and hot tubs lend themselves well to starting conversations with strangers. Nudity really does lend itself to openness.
Terrific staff was mentioned again and again as the reason guests returned for an annual trek to western Jamaica. Without fail we experienced very friendly, relaxed hospitality, and the staff seemed kind and long serving. And the good service isn’t artificially enticed. Tipping at any of the Superclubs is simply not allowed, and so with the exception of paid catamaran “booze cruises” and European spa service, you don’t spend any money. The spa seemed busy (due to a plenary of weddings), and offered a variety of services at comparable prices.
We had a fantastic meal in the Japanese restaurant – which was fun and inclusive with eight to a table. They were sensitive to food allergies, and the food was varied and plentiful. The service at the French restaurant was great, although we found the food mediocre with some good dishes and some not-so-great ones. We did however enjoy the live piano dinner music that accompanied the food. During the day, we ate jerk chicken at the poolside Jamaican restaurant and it was notably tasty.
Evenings (after dinner in one of the five restaurants), a band played up-tempo reggae dance music. One of things we really loved about Jamaica was the music everywhere. All the Jamaicans moved beautifully (wish we could dance half as well), and even the lowly house bands are head and shoulders above the mediocre music played at resorts anywhere else we’ve travelled. Grand Lido is not really known for it’s nightlife (the resort is usually quiet by 10:30), but it is literally across the road from the notorious Hedonism ll resort, where you can get a night pass to see the shows, piano bar, and dancing if you are looking for more action. Lido is about relaxation, romance and fine dining, and you may be disappointed if you expect a lot more in the way of serious night life. The nights we visited the piano bar there was only guest karaoke (we couldn’t take the Tammy Wynette “Stand by Your Man” cover and left after one song), but found sitting in the hot tub with the cognac and cookies they had left in the rooms a much more typical Lido late night experience.
The thing we need to note about Grand Lido Negil, (besides the nude pool- smile) was the physical location. Lido is set on a spectacular coastline. The turquoise water that stays shallow for a good distance offers world-class snorkeling right off the beach, which can be hard to find at a resort of Lido’s quality. We saw hundreds of multi-colored fish, rays, beautiful fan coral, and even an octopus within sight of the resort. Sailing, sea kayaking, separate reef snorkeling and scuba boat trips are offered daily. We had an easy walk up the beach for a good hour of soft sand and shoreline, which was as romantic a stroll as we’ve had anywhere. Security guards are stationed at the entrance to each resort along the way and we felt completely safe, and were able to walk drink in hand.
There are a few interesting things about Grand Lido Negril that are worth mentioning. A plaque at the bar at the far end of the resort says it is home “far bar” to the band Little Feat (can you say “Be my Dixie Chicken?”) and their fans who are compared to deadheads (legions of the Grateful Dead band) for their dedication to attending hundreds of concerts. The Feats appear at Grand Lido every February and pay homage to the bartenders and hospitality of Lido as well. Grand Lido also used to have a 147-foot M/Y Zein, a luxury power yacht that was originally presented as a wedding gift to Princess Grace and Prince Rainier by Aristotle Onassis that took guests out on sunset cruises. A number of the guests we spoke to remembered it, and said it symbolized the kind of resort it was, and the honeymoon atmosphere of the place. Unfortunately it was sold as the yacht became a bit leaky and tired at the end of her life. But that majestic “Grand old Dame hotel” feel still lingers about the place. And they probably have one of the coolest trees in the middle of the property that we’ve ever seen. It is a 100 plus year old cottonwood tree that is so statuesque, and so magnificent, that it looks like a Disney caricature of what a tree should look like. And it makes a one-of-a-kind place for wedding pictures.
The casual elegance of the place really lends itself to the dress code. A bathing suit, a wrap (that turns into what Blaik calls “his man skirt”), good sun hat, fitness clothes, and a couple of evening dinner outfits, (maybe even less if you don’t go off the nude side during the day) is really all you need. We didn’t see people getting all dolled up for breakfast, and since we travel in Tilley adventure clothes (the most amazing clothes that let you wash them wearing them in the shower), they took up from excursions, to dancing, and travel. We went to the French restaurant Le Piacere for dinner with another couple from Ontario and the guys needed dinner jackets. Blaik shook out his travel Tilley blazer from the bottom of his suitcase and was complimented on his dapper look. Check us out standing in near the cool Lido tree.
They offer a decent gym (the one at Hedonism across the street however, is four times the size) and may be worth checking out if you are a serious fitness buff. Grand Lido has a tennis court and they claim they have a PGA rated course up the road that free to use for guests, but we never saw anyone playing tennis or golfing. Everyone was mesmerized by the ocean and there was lots of floating on the water sprawled on rafts. So if you’ve got a sports lover and beach book worm combination in your house, Grand Lido would make a great combination so that everyone got the kind of vacation they really wanted.
Our interactions with the water staff were pleasant. In speaking to divers, they had an outstanding experience diving on the far reefs, and the help and instruction – like all the service got great reviews.
Grand Lido is a fabulous all round choice if you are looking for water sports with its ocean bay location and one of the best beaches in the Caribbean. Or, if you are simply looking for an upscale vacation, nude or not, it is well worth putting on your itinerary.