We arrived in Exuma via Air Canada approximately 12 noon. Customs and luggage pick was a breeze and we were at the resort by 1pm. We were pleasantly surprised at how small the airport was. We booked our vacation package through Air Canada Vacations and the Sandals reps were waiting to transfer us from the airport and tag our luggage with our assigned room #. My husband and I, along with one other couple were transported in a van. It was a quick 10 minute drive to the resort without any stops! Perfect! We were greeted with a cold cloth and a glass of champagne and a friendly “welcome home”.
Rooms: We were pleased to learn there were no wristbands. We were originally assigned a 2nd story room in Bldg 4 but requested a 3rd storey in order to have a better ocean view. They obliged but we had to wait about an hour before the room would be ready, so enjoyed a lunch at the Bahama Bay Buffet. We booked a Palm Bay Oceanview room and were very happy with Room 5301 in the middle of the resort with a lovely view of the Wedding Gazebo and clear view of the ocean in the background. The bellhop took us to our room, noting things as we made our walk to our building. Our luggage went in a different vehicle at the airport so was not in the room when we got there. I believe it went to the original room we were assigned, so we had to call a few times in order to get our luggage delivered. Not a big deal. It was maybe an hour. There were elevators in every building. We had a good selection of liquor in our room (which we never opened), as well as a good supply of soda pop, water, juice and beer in our fridge. This was replenished daily. We asked for our own bottle of Baileys (as we didn’t drink any of the liquor in the room) and they obliged with their own version “Rum Cream”, which was excellent. This was perfect with our morning coffee on the balcony. Our suite was beautiful and looked exactly like all the pictures. It was an average size suite, with a lovely bathroom with double sinks, separate shower stall, and separate room with a toilet. There were bottles of shampoo, conditioner and bath gel, shower cap, soap and cotton balls. In addition to our king size bed, we had a desk area and TV/Dresser, coffee-maker, ice-bucket, as well as an alarm clock and iPod station, TV with a lot of English stations. In “his” closet there was an upper shelf, small hanging rack for shirts with a few hangers and the bottom half was the combination safe. Beside it was “her” closet with a little more hanging room, umbrella, ironing board, and iron. Maid service was great. Turn-down service was great as well but very early (approx 6pm). Air-conditioning worked great and can be regulated for your own comfort. There is an extra blanket provided in the closet. The pillows are great and if they are not to your liking, a pillow menu is available. There is turn-down service provided in the evening. They also wipe down the shower, leave clean towels, take away dirty dishes and leave you the activity sheet for the next day.
Restaurants and Bars: Café de Paris has an excellent variety of coffee/latte/cappuccinos, as well as a large variety of pastries if you’re looking for a snack (they open at 6:30am). They had 4 types of ice cream also available. If you are up before 6:30, there is always coffee available at the Il Cielo bar. Dinos Pizzaria has 4 different types of pizza you can have made or just grab a slice at any time during the day. Barefoot by the Sea is open for lunch and some dinners. They had a nice atmosphere and we had our best dinner there one night. Drunken Duck Pub offers a great pub atmosphere and great pub food. The staff was excellent and always upbeat. The Games Room is adjacent if you’d like a game of snooker or pool. Bahama Bay Buffet is open at 7am for breakfast with the usual breakfast type options. There is an omelet station for made to order omelets or eggs. There is a great selection of fresh fruit (strawberries, blackberries, blueberries were all awesome) as well as yogurt and cheese. They have different hot selections such as oatmeal, grits, potato hashbrowns, baked beans, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, etc. Of course there is also toast and buns. The buffet also offers lunch and supper options and these varied throughout the week. All were good with the best being the made to order pasta station. A la Carte The quality of food and the service was excellent at both Il Cielo and La Parisienne. Men are required to wear long pants, and full shoes. Women can get away with just about anything other than beachwear. There is a nice dessert café at Il Cielo that prepares your dessert in front of you. The Chocolate Lava Cake was to die for! Reservations are required for both these restaurants. Bars The service was great at all bars. The servers are all so very friendly! I had the best Mango Daiquiri at the main pool bar made with fresh mango! Yum!! We never waited longer than 5 minutes for service anywhere.
Beach/Pools/Grounds: The Resort is beautiful from the moment you drive through the security gate. It is a fairly compact resort and we found it very easy to get around and find things. We were centrally located (Bldg 5) and didn’t have to walk a long way to any of the restaurants – which could be a problem if you were wearing high heels. I did find the pathways were not lit up very well at night. They could use more lighting for sure. The grounds at Sandals are beautifully manicured and everything is kept very clean. The staff was always busy cutting down coconuts and broken palms etc, as the wind was VERY high all week. The beach is beautiful with the turquoise water and soft white sand. There were plenty of chairs but a limited amount of palapas for shade. In my opinion, the palapas did not offer much sun protection, as they are small. They did have some cocoon-type canopies that were great for protection, but only a few of these. Since the resort was only at 38% capacity, it was not an issue to find a chair at the beach any time of day, but with full capacity, I could see it being a problem to get protection from the sun. The main pool is large and has a swim up bar but it was really cold when we were there. We could barely get in and if we did, we didn’t stay in for long. They said it was heated, but it didn’t appear to be. There is a hot tub at one end and it was really hot. There are lots of chairs with umbrellas for shade as well as 16 white canopies that had curtains covering every side. These were great but were reserved early in the morning. Beach towels are readily available any time of day and they never once ran out. The “Quiet” pool is outlined with blue canopies (very pretty) and lots of umbrellas. This pool was heated to a great temperature and there is a bar located here as well. Again, there were plenty of chairs at any time of the day. There is a hot tub that is nicely tucked away as well with neat “beds” for lounging. The 3rd pool is located at the Red Lane Spa. It is small but very quaint and private. It is outlined with yellow canopies.
Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel: Nightly Entertainment We went to the courtyard area in front of the Drunken Duck Pub most evenings to listen to live bands. They had a chocolate buffet one night at 10 and it was great. They also had planned activities at the Junkanoo Lounge, but with only 38% capacity, most events were cancelled. The street party was really a nice touch. This was held supposed to be held at the beach but with the wind so high, it was re-located in the courtyard in the main entrance. Shopping There are shops outside the main lobby that carry many souvenirs. There is also a jewelry store, which I didn’t go into. There is also a nice selection of golf attire at the Pro Shop. Spa/Gym/Sports We were impressed with the Spa facility. They offer a wide range of services, but they were very expensive. They offered “specials” every day that were priced more reasonable. I had a sugar glow that was very nice. The Gym has a good variety of cardio machines as well as free weights, benches, universal equipment. They offer 7am Yoga classes at the Sandals Tower, but I don’t believe there were any going on the week I was there (not enough participants). There are 6 tennis courts as well as croquet, bocce ball, shuffleboard, as well as daily beach volleyball, water volleyball and daily fun games around the main pool. Golf This resort is a Golfer’s Paradise! They offer a one-hour golf course tour of the Emerald Reef Golf course, which is adjacent to the resort. This is a MUST for everyone whether you golf or not. The view from the back 9 holes is like no other course in the world. We participated in the couples scramble they offered on Thursday. It was 2-4pm and was conducted on the back 9. Lots of fun!! My husband also played two rounds himself (he brought his own clubs) and played 18 holes in under 2 ½ hours. He did have 1 free round (he had to pay only $40 for the cart rental) and went the second time and paid the full $175.
Other Comments: Butler Service We chose not to book a butler service room, as I had absolutely no desire to have a butler. I prefer to be independent and am so glad I made that decision. Many people like having someone wait on you and call you at all times, but others we spoke to said it was unnecessary and at times very annoying. Personal preference I guess. Currency You can pay for virtually everything in U.S. dollars. If you pay for something in US money, they will give you Bahamian dollars in change. We find it best to bring small bills for this reason. They do not take any cash in the gift shop as they do not carry a float. Everything is charged to your room. Spa charges are also charged to your room. Weather and Bugs We were there the end of November and we had temperatures of 80-85 in the day and down to 70-75 at night. It was really windy the entire week. This was nice during the day but it could be cool in the evenings. There were no bugs during our week. Summary The service was excellent. While shopping in the gift shop one day, I had someone ask me if there was anything that needed attention. I told her there was a lightbulb out in our bathroom as well as by the elevator in our building. By the time I went back to my room (2 hours later), both bulbs were replaced!! With every resort, there are unhappy people. We witnessed extremely RUDE vacationers giving the staff a hard time about ridiculous things! Over the course of the week we were there, these people continually complained. I couldn’t imagine being such unhappy people on vacation and couldn’t begin to imagine how unhappy they must be when NOT on vacation. This is why I read all negative reviews with an open mind. As an adult-only resort, Sandals Emerald Bay is the perfect choice for those who just want to re-connect and relax. At the same time, a full range of activities are also available to you. It is the perfect choice for a honeymoon or anniversary as there are many romantic areas to enjoy each other’s company. It is not a place to party, so if you prefer high energy nightlife, you may want to look elsewhere. We found the food choices very good. We have travelled to many other 5 star all-inclusive resorts throughout Punta Cana, Varadero, Mayan Riviera, and this one ranks #1 as far as location and beach, but as far as other features, we prefer the Excellence chain. We don’t usually return to resorts so we can enjoy other places, but I would not hesitate to return to Sandals Emerald Bay and would highly recommend this resort.