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Half Moon, A Rock Resort

Half Moon, a Rock Resort Promises Continued Excellence

By Mark Rogers

Half Moon resort has been an important part of Jamaica’s tourism picture since it opened way back in 1954. Over the decades, the resort has grown to occupy a warm spot in travel agents’ hearts, especially when they’re booking an upscale vacation for their clients.

Back in January, RockResorts International, a subsidiary of Vail Resorts, Inc., added the Half Moon resort in Jamaica to its portfolio, and reflagged it Half Moon, a RockResort. When I sat down last January with Mark Jeffrey, area vice president for the Southeast and Caribbean Region for RockResorts,  at Half Moon’s Seagrape Terrace al fresco restaurant, the first thing I asked him was how agents were taking to the change in ownership.

“From an agent perspective, they embraced the change,” said Jeffrey. “Tour operators are asking, ‘What is changing at Half Moon?’ The answer is, ‘Nothing is changing.’ RockResorts doesn’t reinvent - the feeling and ambiance of a resort doesn’t change.”

Half Moon has a prime position on Montego Bay’s newly-christened Elegant Corridor, the strip between the airport and the new convention center, which is studded with five-star properties and championship golf courses.

During my stay at Half Moon last January, I noticed a very complete mix of guests. The only common denominator was that they all seemed well-heeled. There were honeymooners and young couples, families with children, groups of singles and older guests so at home that they gave the impression they’d been coming to Half Moon year after year.

 “RockResort guests are looking for an EP or European Plan vacation,” said Jeffrey. “Our guests at our Caribbean resorts could be described as affluent, experiential travelers, they’re the same type of guest that chooses to vacation at our resorts in ski destinations.”

Building on the Past
From the original 17 cottages and 30 beachfront rooms, Half Moon has expanded to cover 400 acres bordered by a private, two-mile, white-sand beach. The AAA Four-Diamond resort has 197 guest rooms and suites, as well as 33 four-, five-, six- and seven-bedroom villas all with private pools and personal staff of butler, cook and housekeeper. It’s true that in all the essentials, Half Moon won’t change under the management of RockResorts. That said; there will be tweaks here and there that will improve the guest experience.

“The kinds of changes you’ll see at Half Moon are the introduction of flat screen TVs and high speed internet,” said Jeffrey. “We’ll roll these changes in, in the fall of 2011. There are some little fixes to make, such as inconsistent Wi-Fi. Our guests might be here to play but they still want to stay connected.”

Leisure activities are a large part of Half Moon’s appeal. The resort has a Robert Trent Jones Sr.-designed 18-hole championship golf course, the Half Moon Golf Academy, floodlit tennis courts, spinning studio, equestrian center, fitness center, children's activity center, water sports and a dolphin lagoon. Rounding out the features of the resort are a shopping village, 24-hour medical center, and Fern Tree, A RockResorts Spa.

Jeffrey drew attention to the company’s Iconic Wedding brand that is offered at all of the RockResorts properties. When couples book their wedding and spend $25,000 or more on food and beverage offerings they become eligible to receive a free four-night honeymoon at one of the RockResorts destinations.

“We could double or triple our wedding business at Half Moon,” noted Jeffrey.

On the Horizon
Half Moon’s signature dining venue is the Sugar Mill Restaurant. The restaurant has stone walls and high pitched ceilings and a candle-lit setting. For me, one of the strong points of the restaurant is that it’s a stand-alone structure; you almost feeling as though you’re having an off-resort dining experience in a unique Old Jamaica location. TIP: If your clients are looking for a romantic dining experience, reserve the table a table for two tucked next to a two hundred year old waterwheel.Half Moon

I had dinner at the Sugar Mill with John M. MacMullen, RockResorts’ director of leisure sales & marketing, Florida and Caribbean. Over a superb and leisurely meal overseen by Christopher Golding, Half Moon’s new chef de cuisine, MacMullen brought me up-to-date on the company’s current portfolio, as well as filling me in on RockResorts’ expansion plans for the Caribbean.

The company’s other Caribbean resort is a well-known favorite of travel agents, The Landings in St. Lucia. Since RockResorts began managing the property, which is now called The Landings St. Lucia, a RockResort, they’ve seen a 10 percent lift in occupancy rates.

The 350-unit Bimini Bay Resort and Marina is now being managed through RockResort’s property management collection, Legendary Lodging. Once the RockResorts hotel and spa are developed and completed, the entire resort will be branded as a RockResort.

There are a number of additional properties on the horizon. The Balcones del Atlantico in the Dominican Republic will open in the summer of 2011, and a Costa Rica resort will be branded in the fall. Other resorts in development are Rum Cay Resort Marina in the Bahamas, the Third Turtle Club & Spa in Turks and Caicos, and Alma Del Pacifico Hotel in the Dominican Republic.

Unique Resorts Provide Unique Vacations
Earlier, Jeffrey had positioned the company this way: “RockResorts are in iconic locations. We’re a soft brand of unique resorts. The thread that ties them together is the fact that our guests aren’t just looking for a box – they’re looking for a complete vacation experience.”

While RockResorts is a comparatively new player in the Caribbean, it’s clear that they have a well-thought out plan to aggressively grow the brand.

“The season looks very strong into 2011,” said Jeffrey. “People are booking earlier to get what they want and the booking window is expanding 60 to 90 days in advance. This is an improvement over what we saw in the U.S. during the economic downturn, where the booking window had shrunk to 21 days.”
I asked Jeffrey if there was a direct message he’d like to convey to travel agents.

“My message to agents is a simple one,” said Jeffrey. “If you have a wait-and-see attitude, you won’t be able to fulfill guests’ requests.”


Packaged Appeal at
Half Moon, A RockResort

Half Moon, A RockResort, has several attractive packages to tip travelers towards choosing the resort for their next Caribbean vacation.

Four for Three
Travelers who book a four-night stay at Half Moon, A RockResort through Apr. 15 will receive one night free. Nightly rates start at $400 per room, per night. Larger groups can also take advantage of the Four For Three offer in Half Moon’s four- five-six and seven-bedroom villas, each offering a private swimming pool, butler, cook and housekeeper. Rates for Half Moon’s villas with the Four For Three offer start at $1,880 per night for a four bedroom villa. Government tax and service charge are additional.

Guys’ Golf Refresher
Half Moon, A RockResort’s is offering a Guys Golf Refresher package May 8-14. The package includes accommodations; a 30-minute golfer’s stretch daily; 50-minute invigorating sports massage; 60-minute private golf lesson at the Half Moon Golf Academy; and golf green fees daily (cart and caddy fees not included). In addition, Half Moon has partnered with two of Jamaica’s most celebrated resorts to create the Rose Hall Golf Association.  Guests of Half Moon have exclusive access at three championship golf courses, including the Half Moon Golf Course at Half Moon, the White Witch and Cinnamon Hill Ocean Course both in Rose Hall.

Round-trip airport transfers, accommodations, meals, drinks and unlimited use of Half Moon’s Fitness Centre, use of paddle boats and kayaks are included. Rates start from $760 per night plus government tax and service charge, based on double occupancy and a minimum three-night stay. For more information, visit www.halfmoongolf.com.

1-2-3 Spa
The 1-2-3 Spa package is available at seven participating RockResort properties, including Half Moon. The offer includes 1 spa welcome amenity, 2 spa treatments, and 3 nights of lodging. The 1-2-3 Spa package is valid for travel through December (dates vary per RockResort location, at Half Moon it’s good through December 15). A three-night minimum stay is required. Nightly rates vary per property, starting at $299 for Tempo Miami. Additional nights are available at the same rate. Spa appointments are subject to availability and require advanced appointment reservation. Offer valid for new reservations only and may not be combined with any other offer. Additional fees and taxes apply.

1-2-3 Spa is available at seven RockResorts locations, including:

* The Arrabelle at Vail Square - Vail, Colorado 
* The Lodge at Vail - Vail, Colorado 
* Tempo Miami - Miami, Florida 
* La Posada de Santa Fe - Santa Fe, New Mexico 
* Snake River Lodge & Spa - Jackson Hole, Wyoming 
* Half Moon - Rose Hall, Jamaica 
* The Landings St. Lucia - Rodney Bay, St. Lucia