Fall Travel Guide: Custom Weekends: I Need a Beach Butler

Ocho Rios, Jamaica

It was in the spa that I realized: Not only was the setting of Royal Plantation as improbably upscale as some glossy 1950s movie starring, say, Elizabeth Taylor; we were literally in a soap opera. For one thing, a star from the The Bold and the Beautiful was chatting with me sweetly about the French pedicure she’d just gotten. A team of florists was rushing about, dressing an oceanfront


It was in the spa that I realized: Not only was the setting of Royal Plantation as improbably upscale as some glossy 1950s movie starring, say, Elizabeth Taylor; we were literally in a soap opera. For one thing, a star from the The Bold and the Beautiful was chatting with me sweetly about the French pedicure she’d just gotten. A team of florists was rushing about, dressing an oceanfront pavilion with $10,000 worth of roses and orchids for the intimate wedding of a Washington Redskins player. And I couldn’t stop musing about the provenance and off-island “real” life of a Truman Capote look-alike guest who took the same lounge chair on the perfect little beach every morning, smiling quietly as he sipped his first scotch-and-water at 10 a.m., and continued the day from there.

[sidebar]The set, as I’d come to think of Royal Plantation, in Ocho Rios, was opened in 1957 in haute-Caribbean-glam style, all columns and black-and-white marble floors and sweeping staircases, and has been beautifully updated, its indoor-outdoor living rooms framed by fluttering white curtains and filled with chic daybeds piled with pastel cushions. Still, Royal Plantation feels very Noel Coward (once a frequent guest), despite the highly functional air-conditioning, new marble bathrooms and cable TV. White-gloved waiters and those khaki-clad beach butlers are constantly handing you mimosas or offering to mist you with rose water while you hang out at the beach below a bougainvillea-covered hill or at the impeccable pool surrounded by hedges of hibiscus.

In the evening, there are drinks in the lounge with Mr. Fraser, the hotel manager, and handsome Andre, the wedding planner/concierge/cruise director, and my husband soon became a favorite of Gladstone, the bartender, who liked to challenge him to gin- and rum-tastic cocktails like “The Boomerang.” Then there was that lobster-and-filet dinner lit only by candles and torches on the beach, attended to by yet another butler. We can’t wait to get back there and find out where this soap opera is headed next.

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