On September 2, 2003, my husband and I arrived at the Sandals Royal Bahamian resort, what was indicated as "the Caribbean’s Most Impressive Resort" on the Sandals website. We stayed eight days, seven nights and I would not indicate that any portion of our stay at your resort was impressive.
The resort was extremely disappointing and is far overpriced for what you actually get. We saved up for this Caribbean vacation and we would never recommend that anyone visit a Sandals resort after our experience that definitely was not "perfect in every way."
TRANSPORTATION: We booked what was indicated on your website as the Royal Honeymoon Oceanview Suite. On the website, there is a mention of a Rolls Royce VIP Airport Service when guests stay three nights or longer in a qualifying suite. This "qualifying suite" is not clarified on the site and obviously is misrepresented, as when we arrived at the airport and checked in at the Sandals desk, we discovered that the "VIP treatment" we would be receiving was an old bus that was not even owned by Sandals. We sat on this bus for at least 45 minutes since we had to wait for several other couples to board the bus for this "VIP treatment."
When I recently looked at your site again, I noticed on the main page of the website that it states that "Our inclusions are designed to take the worries out of your vacation. That’s why we include airport transfers in air-conditioned buses, all tips, gratuities and all hotel and government taxes." This is rather interesting, as on the way to the resort and upon departure, we were told that the drivers gladly accept tips; this is even on signs hanging in the buses!
CHECK-IN & LUGGAGE SERVICE: Upon check-in at the resort, we sat on a couch that was ripped and dirty. After check-in, someone took us to the Windsor building, where our first (of three!) room was located. We were taken to the floor of our room and when the elevator doors opened on our floor, the person pointed down the hallway to where we were to go, as he was escorting another guest to their room.
Upon arrival in our room, I assumed that our luggage would be inside the room or would arrive shortly thereafter, especially since the website indicates "Our exclusive Suite Concierge Service will pamper you with VIP check-in, special luggage handling." I was not aware that this "special luggage handling" really meant that we were to call three times and ask where our luggage was at and that our luggage would arrive three hours after we arrived in our room. We were hungry and just wanted to take a shower and relax, but instead became restless and irritated as we waited and waited for our luggage.
OUR ROOM: Room #1 – 1334 (Windsor) As soon as we had stepped foot in the Windsor building, we should have known that something was wrong because even the lobby had a strange smell when we walked up to our room. After entering our room, we noticed that the walls, bathtub, floors, etc. were all dirty and everything in the room smelled of mold. There was even obvious evidence of mold on the walls where the paint was peeling off. You could not sit down on any of the furniture without smelling the mold and the awful smell had even sunken into the pillows we were to sleep on, all of the bed linens, as well as the robes in the rooms. We took towels and slept on those to try to help with some of the smell on the pillows, but that didn’t even help. We couldn’t even hang our clothes in the closet because it smelled so bad, so we left our suitcases packed, but open and all of our clothes and other items ended up smelling just like the room. We tried leaving our towels and swim suits in the room to dry, but determined that there was too much moisture in the room and that nothing would dry, so we had to place all wet items on the balcony. The moisture in the room was so bad that it even ruined some of the reading materials that we brought to enjoy on our vacation. And out on our balcony, I assumed we would have a nice ocean view, after all, we were staying in the Royal Honeymoon Oceanview Suite. Instead of a big ocean view, we had to lean over the balcony to see the ocean and our view consisted of the tenant’s facility and parking lot, where they often played loud music. Also on the website when I booked this trip, we assumed we would receive room service with our "Suite," as it states that "An extensive and sophisticated in-room menu serving breakfast, lunch, dinner, appetizers and late night snacks is available for guests staying in qualifying suites." When we looked around our room, all we saw was a continental breakfast menu. After a second un-restful night in the room, we could not take it any more. We decided to complain about our room because there is no way that was the room that we paid for, indicated as a "perfect private palace" and "the finest rooms and suites in the Caribbean" on the website. When we complained, the check-in attendant seemed like she didn’t hear anything, in fact, she told us that we were actually given an "upgraded" room from the one that we supposedly paid for. She told us that we were upgraded to a "junior suite" and that the room we paid for was smaller, had a smaller bathtub and was a "level 5," whereas the room we were given was the "nicest" room, at a "level 9." If this was in fact a "free upgrade," why would they not have mentioned this to us upon check-in? If they were, in fact, giving us a "nicer" room for free, why wouldn’t they have told us this? This whole thing seemed rather suspicious. Also, when we asked about the room service, we were told that we booked a "room," not a "suite." Clearly, on the website, we selected the Royal Honeymoon Oceanview Suite. I paid more for this room, thinking we would get the room service and all we received was stale bagels and old fruit for breakfast. We stated that we wanted to see the room we paid for since we were not staying in this room another night. Once again, I mentioned all of the things wrong with the room, as well as the bad view; and finally the desk attendant picked up her phone and asked for a room with a better view. Of all of the things wrong with the room, it was just the view that she felt she could fix. Then, we were instructed to come back in three hours so we could see the new room, but never did she apologize for the awful room that we were initially given.
I thought that "At Sandals, there are no compromises and no surprises. The best of everything is included at one up-front price"? At least that’s what is indicated on your website.
Room #2 – 519 (Manor): When we came back three hours later, we were told that the new room was not ready yet. The person at the check-in desk asked a staff member to go look at the room to see if it was ready and he indicated that it was. So, he took us to see the room that we supposedly "paid for." This room smelled a little musty, but was definitely an improvement on the overwhelming mold smell of room #1. The view was better, but this room still did overlook a construction site. At least the ocean was clearly visible. We took this room and were instructed to go and pack and call the bellhop to pick up our luggage. We never really unpacked, so we were quickly out of the old room and decided to wheel all four of our bags all the way across the resort by ourselves since our initial luggage service was so bad.
After we entered the room, the phone rang and we were told that the room was not ready. We said that the room seemed "ready," but then we were told that they had to paint the ceiling. This was rather strange. So, the check-in person met us at this room and told us to go to room 619, as that would be our new room. So, we lugged our bags up to room 619.
Room #3 – 619 (Manor): This new room had a similar smell and view as room #2, but was still an improvement upon room #1. So, we started unpacking and got changed so we could try to enjoy what was left of our day. While I was changing, another couple used a key they were given and actually entered our room. They seemed rather embarrassed and confused and told us they were told this was their room, so we immediately called down to the front desk to find out who’s room this really was. It turns out the check-in desk made a mistake and told us, then this other couple that this room was each of ours. The check-in desk straightened out the confusion and gave this other couple another room. Not only is this an invasion of privacy that this other couple was allowed to walk right into our room, but it is also a breach in the security of the hotel. When we later tried to get back in our room again, to our dismay, our keys wouldn’t work. It turns out that since this other couple used their key in the door, this voided out our keys and the check-in desk attendant had to reset our keys again so they would work for our room.
And the air conditioning definitely left something to desire. The room was either hot or cold. You couldn’t even adjust the temperature on the thermostat! Also, at all times of the day, there were dogs barking outside the resort – it seems as if this happened each time we tried to rest!
DINING: As a "pampered guest" the website indicated I would "dine on dazzling delicacies" and would experience "ultra-gourmet dining." First, we were told that we needed to make reservations for three of the restaurants. We thought we would just make the reservations for our 2nd, 3rd, and 4th nights, then would make another reservation at any of the restaurants that we really enjoyed. Instead, we were able to get in The Crystal Room on our 2nd night, then we were on the waiting list for Café Goombay on our 4th night, and didn’t have reservations at Baccarat until our 6th night! In the FAQ’s on the website, it even references dinner reservations and says that "You may make reservations for each day of your vacation," yet we were not able to make some of our reservations until our 6th night at the resort.
During our stay, we did have the opportunity to dine at all of the restaurants and would definitely not say that "Sandals Royal Bahamian is an incomparable passport of excellent taste for the world’s most discerning palates." The food was average, to say the least. In fact, I got sick from the food on my 2nd day there and my husband got sick from the food on our 5th day there! And I was extremely disappointed with the limited selection of entrees available at the restaurants. There wasn’t even lobster on any of the menus and this is something I expected while staying at a resort termed as a "monument to regal elegance" with "sensational haute cuisine."
DINING (CONT’D): A few of the restaurants, namely, Spices and Royal Café, often had birds in the seating areas or even on the tables. The servers never seemed to try to shew them away. This was rather disgusting. We were very disappointed with the speed – or lack thereof – of the service overall. A few of the restaurants that required reservations actually gave you a new drink after you were finished with your last one, but overall drink service was extremely slow at the restaurants. For some reason, I believe that the lack of tips most likely does have something to do with the speed of the food and drink service received, which should not be the case at an "all-inclusive" resort. In regard to the times the restaurants were open, we were very disappointed that not all restaurants were open for long periods of time. If we wanted a late night snack or drinks, we always ended up at Cricketers Pub, which was probably the place with the slowest service out of all of the restaurants.
We were also very surprised that we were offered a wine list of bottles of wine we could purchase. We purchased what we thought was an "all-inclusive" vacation where "everything’s included." So, why would we have to purchase beverages? Especially because certain types of alcohol were not listed on the website in the "What’s not included in the all-inclusive package?" area. My husband also stated that the overall quality of the liquor that was included was lower than what he expected, since the "top-shelf" brands were not available.
WATER ACTIVITIES: Prior to leaving for vacation, my husband and I read the information on scuba diving on your website and knew that we wanted to scuba dive while at the resort. So, we went to the doctor (per the instructions on the form) and made sure to have our Medical Statement Participant Record filled out and ready for when the instructor asked for them. On our first morning at the resort, we called for reservations for scuba diving, as this was what we were instructed to do. To our surprise, they told us that we would not be able to go because it was booked for the entire week! We later found out that scuba diving isn’t even available on Sundays! If phone or fax-in reservations would have been available, I would have done this before we left so we could go scuba diving, as this was a big disappointment for us. The website even states "Guests must arrange this [Scuba Diving] upon arrival at the Water Sports Center for the following day," so we never thought we just wouldn’t get to go over our eight days at the resort.
While on the phone with the water sports reservation desk, I asked about snorkling and was shocked that we even needed reservations for snorkling! We weren’t even able to go until our 4th day there because that was booked up too. And when we went snorkling, we couldn’t believe that we could only use the equipment during the time that the ferry took us to the spot to go snorkling and that we couldn’t just take it and use it ourselves in the water offshore or across on the offshore island.
POOLS & POOL BARS: In regard to what is listed on the website in amenities, it lists "2 swim-up pools," "7 pools & 6 whirlpools." Then, on the fact sheet that we were given upon arrival, it actually stated that there were "3 swimming pools, 3 mini-pools, scuba pool, 6 whirlpools." Based upon the initial information from the website, we imagined a vast array of large pools that we could frequent. Instead, we really only had access to two main pools on the main island and these were always extremely crowded and dirty (the pool itself, as well as having plastic Dixie cups, straws, and cigarette butts all over the place – sometimes even in the pool!). In fact, there were a few nights that the main pool closed for some reason, so it wasn’t even useable. In regard to the whirlpools, they were often either uncomfortable, as they were either scorching hot or cool/lukewarm in temperature.
The pool bars were very disappointing as well. Since there was no drink service to us poolside, we all had to wait in lines at the pool bars. And while standing or sitting downwind of the bars, you pretty much lost your appetite for a drink after smelling how bad the area smelled (potentially another mold issue).
POOLS & POOL BARS (CONT’D): On occasion, my husband and I wanted to take a swim or sit in the whirlpool in the evening and the pool bars weren’t even open after the sun went down!
Regarding the pool towels, I don’t see how you can even call those towels "beach towels." They were thin and raglike pieces of cloth that barely absorbed any water. Since the website stated that "beach towels are provided by the resort," we didn’t bring any beach towels and definitely regretted that. And when we did turn our towels in during the day to get our evening towels before 5 p.m. each night (since that is when the towel area closed), our maids took the clean ones from our room! They never took our used ones, but did manage to take the clean ones we were going to use.
Due to our slow luggage service on the first night, we missed what we found out was the only show (Ooh La La) during our entire stay. We expected more shows and entertainment from a resort claiming "Sandals Royal Bahamian satisfies your desires to be endlessly entertained. Whether it’s sharing intimate conversations at seven bars or applauding the nightly shows at the impressive Royal Theatre, the pleasure of choice is already yours." We expected more than boring contests (in fact, they were begging people to participate!) and the same band every night at the Royal Theatre. The only other entertainment was the Piano Bar, but you can only listen to the same songs so many nights before becoming tired of it.
The beachfront was definitely smaller than I expected. We tried taking a moonlit stroll one evening and the beachfront is practically just a few steps, then you turnaround and come back. And the offshore island is stated as having "2 beaches," per the fact sheet we received, but one of the beaches was really where we docked and shouldn’t have been considered a "beach."
THE PRIVATE OFFSHORE ISLAND:
We visited this "private" island on one of our first days and were instructed to stay on the "Sandals side" of the island because the cruise lines use the other half. This is very misleading, as your website specifically states that "Within minutes of the shoreline lies our magnificent offshore island." If this is really the Sandals’ island, why are cruise lines using half of it? And on the Sandals side, the pool was filthy, as if it had not been cleaned in days.
The Sandals website states that "At Sandals you get more than you ever dreamed of…not only in quantity, but in quality." This was definitely not the case at the Royal Bahamian resort!