June 2009

Although topless sunbathing is widely acceptable in Jamaica, spots for full-on nude sunbathing are a little scarce — but there are a handful of good resort options for vacationers who prefer to tan au naturel, whether they are spring breakers or moms trying to avoid tan lines.

Grand Lido Negril

The Grand Lido Negril: Beachside body painting and late-night naked parties in the hot tub make for a nudist-friendly, and definitely R-rated, resort. On the fringes of the beach, this hotel designates the clothing-optional sections.

The Grand Lido Negril: Beachside body painting and late-night naked parties in the hot tub make for a nudist-friendly, and definitely R-rated, resort. On the fringes of the beach, this hotel designates the clothing-optional sections.

 

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Located on Casa de Campo’s property, Altos de Chavon looks like it’s stuck in a time warp. Perfect for a toga party, it’s an exact replica of a 16th century Mediterranean village, replete with a 5,000-seat Grecian-style amphitheater.  After some pathetic begging, I finally succeeded in getting the security guard to unlock the amphitheater’s gate. I mean, when else would I get to stand on the very stage where Santana once rocked Black Magic Woman and where Alicia Keys filmed part of her Karma video tapping on the ivories of a hot pink piano? I attempted to belt a tune myself – you’re lucky you weren’t there.

Commissioned by Italian cinematographer Roberto Coppa and built in 1978, Altos de Chavon’s narrow stone pathways are built to resemble an exact replica of a 16th century Mediterranean village.

Commissioned by Italian cinematographer Roberto Coppa and built in 1978, Altos de Chavon’s narrow stone pathways are built to resemble an exact replica of a 16th century Mediterranean village.

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Sometimes, it’s the little things that can make a hotel stay unpleasant — some grime under the sink, a wad of hair in the bathtub, a little bug that pops into your room. A lot of hotels have dirty little secrets, but our photos and reviews give you all the nitty-gritty details to make sure you don’t find any ugly surprises.

Grime under the sink at Casa Marina Beach Resort, the Dominican Republic

Grime under the sink at Casa Marina Beach Resort, the Dominican Republic


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A moment for Michael Jackson. A moment for the man who lived long, lived hard, lived weird. No one loves the one-gloved-wonder more than the Dominican Republic, where virtually every all-inclusive resort is not complete without its own Michael Jackson impersonation night. Take a look at these dedicated fans, squeezing so much style from a beachside rendition of “Billy Jean” in a Jheri Curl wig.
Photo taken at the Caribe Club Princess in the Dominican Republic

Photo taken at the Caribe Club Princess in the Dominican Republic

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Sipping Red Stripe in the Sea

by admin on June 25, 2009

Located miles from the mainland off  Jamaica’s South Coast, there is the unusual Floyd’s Pelican Bar. To get there, you have to take a 45-minute boat ride, which the nearby Jake’s boutique hotel can arrange. While staying at Jake’s, I had to see the place for myself.

I met my captain (and his dog) next to the hotel and we set off on a rough ride along the waves (seasick travelers beware). After boating 30 minutes out into the Caribbean Sea, it was hard to imagine I was anywhere near a bottle of my beloved Red Stripe lager. But sure enough, a crude bar appeared on the horizon. After we hoisted ourselves onto the weathered, wooden planks from the side of the boat, I opened my bottle of Red Stripe (chilled in a wind-turbine powered cooler) and took a few photos:

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The beautiful sunset, lush foliage, cushioned lounge chairs and decorative Jacuzzi tiles in the Breezes hotel website photo below look lovely and romantic — but, as our reporter found, they don’t actually exist! Staged travel hotel photos are all over the place on the web. Add enough air brushing and any hotel will look like the Taj Mahal.

Photoshopped Jacuzzi image from the Breezes Montego Bay website

Photoshopped Jacuzzi image from the Breezes Montego Bay website

Undoctred image of Breezes Montego Bay Spa from Oyster Hotel Reviews

Undoctored image of the Breezes Montego Bay Jacuzzi from Oyster Hotel Reviews

Oyster Hotel Reviews only displays undoctored and candid photos taken by our independent travel journalists. Consumers deserve to know what they are really buying when booking a hotel online.

Has a misleading hotel photo ruined your vacation? Were you duped by a staged hotel photo? Tell us all about it, and send us a link here.


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Oyster Hotel Reviews just launched, but bloggers and press are already talking about our unique and honest approach to reviewing hotels. Check out the following articles written about Oyster.com:

You can also see additional buzz by searching on Twitter.

Thank you for all the kudos! What matters to us most, however, is what YOU think. Please send us feedback and let us know if you like the site, or if you have any ideas or suggestions about what you’d like to see in the future.

Start exploring Oyster now — dive in!

Cliff Jumper in Negril, Jamaica as seen from The Caves Hotel

Cliff Jumper in Negril, Jamaica as seen from The Caves Hotel


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Welcome to Oyster Hotel Reviews.

The impetus for Oyster Hotel Reviews was a trip that Eytan – our VP of Product – and I took to Alaska at the end of the summer of 2007. We had an amazing time but on the last day, arrived in Seward, Alaska, our final stop, and had that awful “Oh Sh*t” moment when you show up at a hotel and realize that what you thought you had booked is not at all what the hotel actually is. Based on that experience – and it just being too difficult to find a great hotel – we decided to start Oyster Hotel Reviews.

Our goal is a simple one: to be the site for the most comprehensive hotel reviews anywhere – on or off the web. We’ve researched the hotels we have covered from head to toe and front to back. We have a rigorous process by which we review hotels.

We do the obvious things –– like stay in the hotels, sleep in the bed, and swim in the pool. But we go way beyond that. We verify that hotels actually have all their claimed amenities. Is the “spa” really just a room with a treadmill and an old TV?

We take our own photos so that you can see if that hotel website with those beautiful airbrushed photos is really what you are going to get.

We founded Oyster Hotel Reviews in the Spring of 2008 and we’ve been in stealth mode since then. Having spent more than a year staying in hotels, we’ve learned a tremendous amount about hotels and the hotel industry. We’ve visited 100s of hotels, writing nearly a million words and taking more than 200,000 photos, of which about 50,000 are on the site. When we stayed at all these hotels, we had you in mind; our goal when we are at the hotel is try to put ourselves in your shoes. Hotel guests are a varied group: families, foodies, beach lovers, and design aficionados. We are not here to tell you what you should or should not like rather, we want to give you the information you need to make your own decision. That’s why our reviews are so detailed, our amenities list to carefully researched and verified and why we take so many photos.

You’ll see it all here – the good, the bad and the spectacular. Some of the hotels we’ve stayed in are so expensive that for most they are really a once in a lifetime splurge. But many are very affordable – even more so in these times when hotels are struggling to attract you to their properties. At either end of the price range, you’ll find great hotels to spend a night or maybe even ten. Some provide, thankfully, nothing more than great weather, a comfortable bed, and a cold drink on the beach;. Others propel you out into their locale to take in the local flavor. Whatever your mood or situation – we’ve reviewed a hotel that is right for you. Whether it’s your honeymoon, winter break with the family and kids, a trip with your girlfriends, or a staycation in your own backyard, you will find it here and hopefully very easily.

For all of us here at Oyster, today is a really exciting day and we hope that you’ll enjoy the site as much as we’ve enjoyed building it; we appreciate how fortunate we’ve been to have this be our “job”. We’ve worked hard and have had a lot of fun along the way . This is truly just the beginning for us because we are missing the most critical component – you. We look forward to hearing your feedback. Tell us what we should improve upon, what we are missing, and of course what you feel like we’ve done well.

Elie Seidman, Co-Founder and CEO of Oyster Hotel Reviews

Photo of Elie and Eytan in Seward, Alaska

Photo of Elie and Eytan in Seward, Alaska

 

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