How the Other Half Lives

Half Moon resort undergoes renovation

By: Jamie Wetherbe

While the 400-acre Half Moon resort originally a combination of two hotels built in the 1950s seems to have reached its limits on expansion on the heels of its 50th anniversary, the interior of the resort, located on Montego Bay, will undergo a multi-million-dollar facelift. While renovations are part of a five-year program, many updates will be completed this month.

The resort’s children’s center underwent a Jamaican-style makeover designed so younger guests can learn more about the island’s culture with activities like Jamaican dances and games. The Anancy Children’s Village, named for a Jamaican cartoon character, now includes volleyball and badminton courts, additional playground equipment and a larger sandbox with landscaping.

The fitness center and spa will also undergo much needed makeovers. The resort invested $100,000 in new fitness gear that will replace the outdated equipment later this month.

While the spa’s treatments are popular among guests, the facilities are not as popular. This spring, the Half Moon spa will begin a $3 million renovation, and come December 2006, the spa will be housed in a private four-bedroom villa. The Royal suites will be converted into treatment rooms with ocean views, and the spa will offer clients outdoor treatments as well as a cafe and shops.

The more than 40-year-old golf course will be redesigned to create more of a challenge for players. And in 2007, the resort will also revamp its public spaces, including the lobby and restaurant areas.

Half Moon’s guestrooms are also undergoing a major makeover. Currently, the resort features about 420 rooms and suites, but officials haven’t committed to a final room count after the renovations.

The 68 newly rebuilt Hibiscus suites offer wireless Internet, and the hotel plans to expand its high-speed online services to more guestrooms. The two-level deluxe suites, which offer clients a full kitchen, are slated to be available this month and will likely be popular with families. The guestrooms in the Oleander enclave will be upgraded, including new furniture and bathrooms. Thirty of Half Moon’s Superior-class rooms will be demolished to create a garden area for wedding ceremonies.

While much of Half Moon will look quite different in the coming years, some things will remain the same. The resort hosts 52 swimming pools, a 20-acre nature reserve and three shows daily by resident dolphins. For clients really looking to relax, book them in one of the five-, six- or seven-bedroom villas that come with golf carts for getting around the resort; a maid, butler and more.

Set on Half Moon Bay, the resort also offers guests a choice of water activities, including snorkeling, paddle boats and catamarans as well as scuba diving and PADI certification. But the beach chairs seem to get most of the guests’ attention.

Half Moon Online

Half Moon also recently revamped its Web site to include a virtual tour and interactive resort map as well as a preference form allowing guests to submit special requests before they arrive. The Web site, which went live in October, also features mini-sites devoted to niche markets including weddings and honeymoons, groups and incentive travelers.

Half Moon hosts more than 200 weddings a year and the romance mini-site offers couples more information on planning their big day as well as details on Half Moon’s wedding packages which are commissionable to agents. The portion of the site dedicated to golf allows clients to tour the greens and check out the course’s ongoing renovations.

Half Moon offers a password-protected travel agent section featuring industry specials, a calendar of events and a tool to send e-postcards to clients. Travel professionals can also find information on the Half Moon Ambassador Program, which offers agents rewards based on bookings.

The Details:

Half Moon

Commission: 12 percent