We had such a wonderful trip to the Grand Palladium Lady Hamilton all-inclusive resort in Montego Bay, Jamaica last year that we decided to go back again this year. I had just finished a busy period at work and it was such a cold winter that I wanted a quick escape to somewhere warm. Based on how busy it was and that we were going with friends who wanted to go to an all-inclusive, we thought it was easier to go back to the same resort as last year. I didn’t have the time to research other options.
My expectations were high considering the amazing service, great food, and lovely resort and grounds last year. Unfortunately, I didn’t find that my stay this year was as good as last year’s.
Don’t get me wrong, we had a great trip with our friends. Gorgeous weather, nice beaches, lots of snorkeling, refreshing pina coladas, and great company. However, it could have been a situation of new management or the fact that the resort has grown more popular and busy, because we encountered more unpleasant staff members than last year. I also found that while the quality of the food was just as high as last year, the service towards me needing to eat gluten free wasn’t quite as good. It didn’t seem like people wanted to help as much as before.
Since I already have a detailed description of how I prepared for an all-inclusive trip, which restaurants I could eat at, and tips while at the resort documented, I thought I’d stick to focusing on a recap of my experience with the food this year and what changed to supplement my other posts from last year.
A la Carte Restaurants
The steak house was fantastic, just like last year. Great quality, great cuts, and great flavour. The chefs at the steak house were good at providing me with a gluten free meal. Salads for appetizers, followed by an amazing filet mignon, sautéed vegetables in olive oil, and potatoes for dinner. I was often too full to eat fruit for dessert. It was so easy to eat gluten free, and everything tasted so great, that we ate here three times during our stay.
The Italian Restaurant no longer had the wonderful chef from last year who was so friendly and helpful during the week that we were there. This year, the chef made me ‘pasta’ with olive oil and vegetables. Well, they weren’t exactly pasta noodles, they were vermicelli noodles. They were so thick and sticky with such a poor taste that I couldn’t stomach eating it. To make it worse, the first time they brought my food out I asked why there was tomato sauce because I didn’t think I could eat it. Our very nice waiter checked with the kitchen and told me that my meal wasn’t safe for me so they had to remake it. Needless to say we didn’t go back to that a la carte restaurant again. My, how a difference in the head chef can change a place.
We had a very kindhearted chef at the Jamaican Restaurant. He went out of his way to make sure that I got to try traditional foods, and he truly spoiled me.
For an appetizer, he made me plain spareribs without sauce (these were so good that Ry claimed they were even better than the ones with sauce). Plus, he made me freshly fried bammy in olive oil so that I could try this traditional Jamaican food. Bammy is a traditional Jamaican cassava flatbread. It’s made by grinding up the root vegetable into ‘flour’ and pressing it into round cakes that are fried. While it may not sound or look like much, it had such an addicting taste. It was crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside, and is naturally gluten free. Sometimes he also made freshly pan fried plantains in olive oil. Oh my, I need to make those at home they are so good. Truly, I think everyone was jealous of my appetizers.
For dinner, he made me jerk chicken without the sauce. The dark meat was so tender and flavourful. He specially served this with vegetables sautéed in olive oil and my own potatoes, since usually the vegetables are all cooked in vegetable oil.
For dessert, there would be a fresh fruit platter, and then of course we’d walk over to the Infinity Bar to drink some Brown Cows while listening to the live music.
I couldn’t have been more pleased with the food and service at the Jamaican restaurant. Unfortunately, there was a mishap on our third visit to the restaurant. The chef had been so pleased to see us and knew exactly what to make me.
Unfortunately, our waiter was new (we’re pretty sure it was his first day because he didn’t seem quite with it), and for my entrée he brought me someone else’s dish instead. For some reason, he didn’t know that the chef was specially making me something, so he just brought me someone else’s dish with no sauce on the jerk chicken. Since there wasn’t sauce, I assumed it was mine and began eating it. A few minutes later, the supervisor rushed over to me and said, “don’t be alarmed, but I need to take away your plate.” When she saw I had food in my mouth, she said, “spit it out”. Then she grabbed my plate and left. Well, you could only imagine what was going through my mind and the complete and utter looks of shock on everyone’s faces at our table. What ended up happening was when the head chef finished making my specially prepared dinner, the waiter said he already brought me food. This caused the quick reaction of the supervisor abruptly taking away my plate without knowing what could have been on it.
The chef came out with my actual food and was so visibly upset that the waiter brought the wrong food to me and so terribly sorry that it happened. He assured me that there was no gluten on the plate that was originally brought to me but that the vegetables were cooked in vegetable oil. At least I didn’t get glutened and I had only eaten some of the vegetables. My stomach was upset the next day because of the soy, but it could have been so much worse. I made lengthy comments about this in my survey to the management, urging them to have better communication in the kitchen, and to have the chef, and only the chef, bring out the food that they specially prepare for guests with allergies or intolerances. That way a completely avoidable mix up like this wouldn’t happen.
If this hasn’t changed and someone other than the chef brings out the food to you, make sure you ask them to confirm with the chef that the meal they brought out is the correct one for you.
Lunch and Snacks
For lunch, I stuck to the snacks I had brought from home. Like last year, I prepared by packing a lot of food in my suitcase. That meant peanut butter and banana on buckwheat crisps, energy bites, cookies, and Lara bars, along with yoghurt to tide me over at the beach.
It was also a nice treat when the chef from the Jamaican restaurant made me extra jerk chicken and vegetables at dinner the night before that I kept in the mini fridge in our room. That was a great lunch sitting on our balcony! Definitely something I recommend doing. If you feel comfortable with a chef, ask them to make extras for you so that you can rest assured that you have something safe to eat for lunch. It helped that I brought extra containers with me on the trip.
Once again, I didn’t eat anything from the breakfast buffet except for the yoghurt cups and bananas. Instead, I asked to speak to a chef, whom I would ask to make me fresh eggs and a fruit platter. I alternated between vegetable omelettes, and over easy eggs with potatoes. The breakfast chefs varied and, overall, they weren’t near as helpful as dear Norman last year, in fact one of them was literally walking away from me as I was trying to explain other foods I couldn’t eat. For the most part though breakfast was fine and it was only the last morning that I didn’t eat what they served me.
The morning we flew out there was a new breakfast chef. I was not impressed with him even with all of his self-proclaimed accomplishments that apparently everyone rated him well online for working with allergies. You can imagine my horror when I noticed that after walking around the buffet and shaking our hands, he grabbed plates directly from the buffet with his hands all over the tops of them. Of course it made me uneasy, so when he came to serve me my food I casually asked if he took the plates from the buffet to make my meal. He said don’t worry because they’re washed in a heavy duty dishwasher. Well, my mind was made up and I didn’t end up eating my food. Since I had already been served the wrong food before and had zero confidence in this chef because if he knew I was sensitive to cross contamination, why would he take plates from the buffet where crumbs could have dropped on them, or that someone could have easily grabbed an extra plate and put it back on the pile. Plus, he had shaken people’s hands which could have had gluten on them or been dirty. I’m sorry, but that’s not the attentive care and service that builds confidence that you understand sensitive dietary needs.
As always, with any trip that you go on, it’s important to be specific about what you can and cannot eat, and to make sure that you feel comfortable. It’s always ok to walk away or to say no to eating food that you’re served if you think there is a risk of cross contamination. Your health is the most important thing. That’s why it’s always a good idea to be prepared and pack convenience foods with you so that you have granola bars, instant oatmeal, and crackers as back ups in case if there is a meal that you can’t eat.
It’s also important to enjoy yourself and make the most of any situation! Even if it means you’re eating granola bars on the beach instead of jerk chicken cooked in a drum! Hey, there’s always pina coladas!
I’d really like to hear if anyone else with allergies or intolerances visited Grand Palladium Lady Hamilton in Jamaica, and what your experience was. I’m not sure whether the change in service and the mishaps with a few of my meals this year were the result of new or unhelpful staff members, or if it is something that is becoming more common here.