Meet Winston, one of the great characters on an island full of storybook characters.
Winston is the majordomo at Roaring Pavilion Villa in Jamaica, possibly the best place on the planet. And Winston’s job is to keep it that way. As he leads us around the property, he notes that there are no scales or working clocks on the premises because he wants his guests to not worry about how much of chef Joanna’s wonderful dishes they might consume, or what time it is, lest you may think there is something you have to do.
Since only one party stays at the villa at a time, the staff of 12 is there to get you whatever you want, whenever the urge hits you. There is an outdoor and indoor spa, a fleet of kayaks, jet skis and paddle boards manned by a full time water sports instructor, and a waiter to serve your meals, whenever you wish to have them.
The place is beautiful, but not overdone. The view of the beach from the villa looks sanguine, like a painting. The beach itself looks like it’s out of a movie, and, in fact, it is: the scene from Dr. No when Ursula Andress and Sean Connery frolic in a beachside waterfall is no more than 50 yards from the property.
A long list of celebrities who go by only their first names have stayed here, and they come to let their hair down and be their true selves. This place is a mini, private resort.
The food, the property, and the facilities are spectacular. But the element that creates the true magic of the place is the people. Winston says, “we are all interested in only one thing, to make you happy.”
So imagine four days of being completely happy from the moment you wake up until you go to sleep. Unlike some resorts and fine hotels that can make guests, for God knows what reason, feel like they are unworthy and being judged by the staff, the Roaring Pavillion staff makes you feel like you have just been adopted by a loving family. After a day or so of this treatment, you feel a sense of gratitude to the staff. It was at precisely this moment that my friend Stuart made the suggestion that on our last evening, we should make dinner for the staff. So, off to the market we went to try and pull this off, looking for ingredients for Stuart’s family recipes that his mother taught him in India where he grew up. Luckily, we also had with us my 14-year-old daughter Remy, who was, ahem, a semifinalist on Master Chef Jr.
After dinner, we made our way to the beach for a bonfire topped off with toasted marshmallows. The evening ended with Stuart and Winston singing “Jamaica Farewell” in the yellow glow of the bonfire’s embers. The only question remaining was who was going to do the dishes (we all did).
Roaring Pavilion is run by Lacure Villas, who manage luxury properties all around the world, so I called them. It turns out that our transformative experience was not unusual. Geoffrey Williams who founded the company can reel off endless stories about the unique experiences Lacure has delivered to its guests. One that stuck with me in particular, was the time a family wanted the staff to secure a live goat and slaughter it on the beach in a certain manner due to religious guidelines, followed by a BBQ. Try getting that done at a Four Seasons. The secret of Lacure, they say, is to adapt the experience to you, not vice versa, as is often the case with many other luxury establishments. As Coco Chanel once said: Luxury must be comfortable, otherwise it is not true luxury.
The place is not cheap: Rates range from $2400 to $3250 per night depending on the season, but over Christmas and New Years are a whopping $7500 per night.
There are 5 bedrooms, 4 king-sized suites and 1 children’s bedroom, and 10 guests per stay is the maximum. Your stay includes the now de riguer butler, chef, concierge (because the butler doesn’t do that), housekeeping staff, your laundry done, a waiter, and Winston, who really does go by Major Domo. On request: spa attendant, driver, nanny and a personal trainer, not, to be clear, all the same person.