My husband and I travel frequently and while we’re pretty easygoing, we can definitely tell quality from non-quality. Those who truly want to relax, have no fear: This resort is awesome.
Our travel agent at Tripcentral.ca (Rachel) was stellar. She was thorough, always returned our calls, and even helped us get the dates we wanted even though it was technically sold out. I would return to Tripcentral anytime.
Arrival: There was a massive lineup at the Customs entry area at the airport, but we survived. We proceeded to the Sandals desk at the arrivals section and they directed us to the bus. We waited for about 10 minutes for them to fill the bus, and they did accept tips. But the driver was friendly and gave us a narrative as we drove to the resort which we really enjoyed.
Once he pulled into the resort, they unloaded all our bags off the bus. One guest started to take his bags, but the bellman admonished him (all friendly like) and said they’d be taken care of. They walked us to the lobby where we all were seated on plush couches and given champagne. They came to us and asked us for a credit card for incidentals, then brought all our information back to us as we relaxed. (Later in our trip we went to Atlantis for a day, and saw that people checking in there had to wait in line, hot, sweaty, etc. It was just like the rat race we were trying to escape, and we really appreciated the service level at Sandals all the more for having seen that.) They then walked us over to the Windsor block and showed us to our room.
Room: I had been warned by the travel agent that the "oceanview honeymoon concierge" had somewhat of a limited ocean view. She was not incorrect. The Windsor building is perpindicular to the beach, so while the balconies are tilted in the direction of the ocean, you still only get a partial ocean view. Looking straight out the window, you saw the roof of the buildings on the compound, which was rather disappointing. Personally I felt they should have at least planted gardens or something on the roofs to make the view nicer. My husband was more disappointed than I was, so he called down and asked for a room further down the block towards the ocean. We did get moved two days later, and the view was better. Still, I think they probably shouldn’t sell these rooms as oceanview.
The room was very nice. It was a standard upscale hotel room – large, with a seating area, big bed, big TV for our purposes that got lots of stations including Canadian ones (CBC and CTV). We spent one morning laying in bed watching movie after movie on HBO – hey, it’s vacation! The room also had a fully stocked bar with juice, water, beer, red and white wine, champagne, and full bottles of gin, rum and vodka. There was a safe in the closet which was very secure as you programmed it with your own code. The bathroom was nice, big tub and good water pressure. Only downside was they inexplicably kept taking our hand towels and not replacing them.
The staff were super friendly. The speed of service is definitely on Caribbean "slow down" time zone, but after a day or so you’re in that time zone too, so it worked. The bartenders at the pool bars were probably the slowest. The only bump we hit was on our day to check out. We asked for a courtesy room to change in at a specific time. When we went to get in to the room, the key didn’t work. When we went back to check, they were snippy with us for waiting so long to try to get in to the room – however, we’d asked for it for that time, so we weren’t quite sure what the problem was.
Wide and sandy with plenty of loungers and beautiful crisp clear water. Can’t say enough good about it. The only suggestion I would make would be to have more umbrellas available – we were there at the hottest time of the year and couldn’t stand laying in the direct sun for more than a few minutes, so the umbrella chairs were at a premium.
There were two main pools – the Windsor pool and the Manor pool. Both were massive and both had swim up pool bars. The Windsor pool was more of the party pool – that’s where the pool volleyball, basketball, aquacise took place. As well, there were bands beside this pool on several afternoons. The Manor pool was quieter – just background music. It was very nice to have a choice of pool ambience in that respect, depending on what mood you were in. There were also several smaller pools on the grounds in the garden, away from the beach. These were hardly ever used and totally beautiful and peaceful.
Restaurants: Each restaurant was unique – they made you feel like you were in a completely different world each time you walked in someplace new. I really appreciated that because I was afraid we’d get bored with being at the same resort all week.
Casanova – italian, and our favourite. Very good italian food – the spaghetti blew me away. Cafe Goombay – probably our least favourite. Caribbean food, but just not our style. Kimonos – the atmosphere was good, the food was OK. It was japanese, but we weren’t crazy about it. Crystal Room – fantastic prime rib. The room is like a ballroom in a fancy hotel. The wait staff were kind of slow, but the food was very good. Baccarat – our best experience. Fantastic dinner, wonderful ambience, lovely bright restaurant. Spices – Standard buffet fare, we ate here only once or twice. Cafe Grill – we ate here several times as it was open at the funny hours when we would get out of bed. Lovely selection and good food.
I only went to the spa once, for a massage. It was wonderful, although a bit pricey. If you’ve been to a spa at home, this is probably somewhere around the same level of service.
Snorkeling – book it in advance, especially if the resort is chock full. It’s a quick trip because the reef is not far from the resort, so you’re only gone for around 2 hours or less. Saw lots and lots of cool fish, including a barracuda named Bob.
my husband took the morning scuba course and then went on the dive the next day. He enjoyed trying it out, but felt he saw more fish snorkeling.
Evening entertainment: the weekly show put on by the playmakers was so awful it was funny. Poor people, they were reallly trying but it was dreadful. There was a comedy show later in the week, and it was awesome.
Overall we tremendously enjoyed this vacation and would recommend Sandals to anyone