Advantages All Inclusive, laid back atmosphere, food and drinks
Disadvantages 10 hour flight
|Value for Money|
|Quality of Rooms|
|Standard of Service|
|Quality of Food & Drink|
|Quality of Facilities|
We were barely off the plane from our Sandals holiday in Cuba when we were pawing through the newest Sandals brochure ready to book our next Sandals holiday. That is how much we loved the holiday- you can read my review on Sandals Royal Hicacos.But, WHERE were we going to go?! There were so many choices. Sandals Resorts are located in Cuba, Jamaica, St. Lucia, Antigua and Bahamas. So, we had to decide on which island to visit. We were just back from Cuba. So, that was off the list. After much debate, we decided to go to Jamaica. But that wasn't the end of the decision making as there are 7 Sandals Resorts in Jamaica!!!
BOOKINGIn the end we decided on Sandals Royal Caribbean in Montego Bay. The reasons we chose it initially was that we could get a direct flight to Montego Bay from our airport of choice- Manchester, UK and that it had a lovely looking private island with pool and swim up bar. We could just see ourselves basking in the sun next to "our" own little pool and bar!!
So, less than one week from arriving home from our first Sandals holiday, we booked our second!We had become SANDALS SIGNATURE GUESTS (SSG) after our first holiday. The SSG is very good. This returning guests programme gives discounts according to the amount of money you have spent on the previous holiday, free upgrades upon arrival at the resort, special handling on arrival, free gifts at the resort and special evening dinner. It is free to join and well worth the few minutes it takes to sign up.
You can find out more about the SSG programme on their website- www.sandals.co.ukWe booked directly with SANDALS by calling 0800 742 742. When we compared prices, we found that we could get the holiday for a little cheaper booking direct. Please be rest assured that they do everything a travel agent does as you will read about more in a bit. The staff were efficient, helpful and nice. Because we didn't have our SSG number yet, they made sure to make a note that we would be calling them when the number arrived. We paid a small deposit and we were set for the following August!
Within days we received our booking documents with details to when the remainder of the cost was due. Two months after booking, we received a call from Sandals telling us that our beloved Manchester airport had been dropped from the flight schedule and we would have to fly out of Heathrow. That meant we fly from Manchester with BMI and then connect with the Montego Bay flight. It didn't cost us any more as we had booked it with the understanding that we would fly from Manchester. A+ for customer service!About 10 weeks before the holiday, we paid for the remainder and getting set to go. Two weeks before we left we received our travel documents. We were surprised to see that our documents came from Thomas Cook. So, though we booked directly with Sandals, they have a deal with Thomas Cook with regards to the holiday documents and service. (Note however, Thomas Cook brochure quoted a slightly higher price.) All documents were in order and we started packing for the holiday.
We learned the year before you really don't need many clothes. A few nice things for the evening, loads of swimsuits and cover ups, flip flops and LOTS of sunscreen!!! That's basically it!!USEFUL HINT
Prior to our leaving for SRC, I emailed the resort and explained that we were returning guests, that my husband does not rest and relax very well but that our last Sandals holiday had seen him do that for the first time. I spoke of wanting to make this a special holiday for him and asked if we could possibly have a room with a balcony looking over the sea. They quickly responded telling us that they looked forward to seeing us and would see what they could do to make our holiday even better. As you will read below, this letter really did the job!!FLIGHTS
The BMI flight was short and uneventful. Upon arrival at Heathrow, we tried to check in with Air Jamaica. However, they were having printer problems and we had to wait a ½ hour to get our boarding cards. After that, it was smooth sailing. We had good seats, settled in and waited for the Red Stripe to start pouring. The flight was appox. 10 hours and took off on time. No problem mon! Thus, we arrived on time in Montego Bay after another uneventful flight.AIRPORT
After getting through immigration and collecting our baggage we were directed to a special Sandals Lounge that was air conditioned and had cold drinks and Red Stripe on tap. We only had to wait about 10 minutes before we were whisked away in a mini-van to resort that was only 15 minutes away!!RESORT
ARRIVALThere was one other couple with us when we arrived. My bags were immediately taken from me for the porters to carry. We were both SSG and showed our cards. We were quickly seated, given cold towels and glasses of champagne. Check in was quick and easy. It was late evening and only one porter on duty. He asked if we mind waiting a few minutes while he showed the other couple to their room. We didn't and sat taking in what would be our new home for 2 weeks.
When the porter arrived, he was smiling hugely! He said that he knew about our letter and he had a very special room for us! They had upgraded us and we were told it was the room with the best view in the resort. We couldn't tell what the view was like at that time of night. However, we were very pleased with the King Size poster bed! King Size is standard in Sandals resorts. We also had a plate of cheese, crackers and fruit at the bed side. The porter showed us around the room and explained everything worked and let us be to relax for the evening.We were a bit wound up and decided to go down to the beach grill for a bite to eat. When we got back to the room, we realised that the A/C was not working. We rang front desk and within 15 minutes someone was around who fixed it!! What service!!
ROOMWe had booked a Premium Room. However, they upgraded us to a Grande Luxe Beachfront Room located on the 3rd floor of the Windsor Buildring. (There are only 2 rooms on this level.) The room had a king sized 4 poster bed, side tables and lamps, a fridge, coffee/tea making facility, table with 2 chairs, tv cabinet with drawers, makeup/dressing area with sink and a separate toilet and tub/shower. We found the room itself to be very room and nice with it's tiled floors and rugs. The bathroom area was on the small side. We had been spoiled by a HUGE Jacuzzi tub in Cuba and this one was just a small basic tub and shower. The BEST part of this room was the view! It was spectacular!!! The morning sunrise and evening sunset was just amazing. You had a perfect view of the private island, the beach and the sea. It was just perfect and we would request this room again if we go again. Except for the slight glitch with the A/C on arrival, the A/C worked wonderfully and kept the room very nice and cool. We never had any bugs or ants in the room. This could be that we were located on the third floor and less ability for them to get into the room.
PRIVATE ISLANDIn the end, we had decided on this resort because of it's private island. In Cuba we had enjoyed the secluded pools where we were usually the only ones around and had read that this occurs a lot on the island. We were not disappointed with it! The island serves 3 purposes. The Thai Restaurant is located on the island, private nude sunbathing on the far side beach and then the small pool and swim up bar. We staked out our chairs on the first morning we were there when we arrived on the first boat around the pool. This is where we stayed almost the entire 2 weeks. There were a few people, drinks on tap and a lovely pool and whirlpool to take a dip in. The boat runs about every half-hour to the resort. We made some great friends at this pool and bar that we have stayed in touch with and will be making a holiday together next year!
EATTINGThere are 4 restaurants and a Beach Grill at this resort. There is also 5 other restaurants at Sandals Montego Bay and 2 at Sandals Inn. Both are about 10 minutes away by free shuttle. Sandals offers stay at 1 play at 3 for free and you can eat at any of the restaurants. These are the SRC restaurants:
ROYAL THAI- Located on the private island and requires a reservation. There is a limited seating twice a night on the nights it is open. I suggest that you book this one as soon as you arrive as sometimes it books up quickly. We ate here 3 times and enjoyed it every time! We have been to Thailand and enjoyed the food. We found the food to be just as tasty as it is in Thailand. Just realize that the food can be spicy. We found it not too spicy, but others in our party did.THE REGENCY- They have an international menu and does not require reservations. We ate here several times and my only complaint was that the portions could be TOO BIG! However, my husband found them to be just right. It is in the Regency that they have a buffet breakfast and lunch. We enjoyed both of these and found a very wide and varied selection.
THE PAVILLION RESTURANT- This is the place for a Jamaican menu and does not require reservations. We found the food nice and loved the outdoor, candlelit atmosphere.THE COURTYARD- They serve a variety of grilled foods and do not require reservations. However, we never ate here for some reason. There were so many choices around that we didn't get a chance.
There are 2 swim up bars that you can also walk up too as well as a piano bar. We never had any problems with service and they always strived to do our order as specified. Brand name spirits were used and we found the drinks usually to be very strong. The swim up bar really made strong drinks with a RUM straw!!! WOW!!! My favourite drink was a Hummingbird and my husbands favourite drink was the Miami Vice. However, EVERYTHING we drank was very nice! Ask the bartender for his/her signature drink.ACTIVITIES
There is a wide variety of activities ranging from scuba diving to beach volley ball. You can do as much or as little as you want. We found this resort to be very laid back and many people choose to just lay back and relax. We were one of these people who did not do any of the organized activities. However, we watched those who were partaking in the activities and they seemed to really be enjoying themselves.BEACH
The beach is a small but nice one. It has plenty of shade and sun and loungers. We are not beach people and did not spend any time on the beach itself except to go to the Beach Grill for a bite to eat.
There is a desk near the main pool with people there to help you book off site tours. My husband loves deep sea fishing and that is what we booked. It cost us approx. £200 for the day. We met the boat at Sandals Montego Bay. Because it was so early in the morning, they also sorted out a taxi to the resort that cost us about £5. All drinks were provided on the boat- beer and soft drinks. We had booked the entire boat so we were the only ones with 1 captain and 3 crew. They baited all the lines and put them out. We had a wonderful time catching barracuda and landing a MARLIN! I was sitting in the chair when the line took off and scared me to death. I allowed my husband to fight the 400 lb. monster. Seeing it jump out the water was fantastic!OVERALL SERVICE
We found the overall service to be spectacular. They really bent over backwards to help us. One day my husband got a bit too much sun. The boat man saw this, went home during his break and came back with large leaves of Aloe Plant for my husband! Another time, one of our party ran out of cigs at 11 pm and asked if the bar sold any. The guy said no but he would go get some for him. 30 minutes later, he was back with the cigs for our friend. What service!!!COST
For 2 weeks, All Inclusive, flying from Manchester, England, this holiday cost us approx. £4,000. I know that it sounds like a lot. However, if you start figuring out how much it would cost us in total for a holiday to the Caribbean with the room, flights, transport, food and drinks (We like to dine out on holiday and not do McDonalds, etc. and we like to have a few drinks and enjoy ourselves. This really adds up!!), we found that it didn't cost us anymore than it cost for a holiday to Majorca we had taken the year before!!!CONCLUSIONS
We were sold on Sandals after our first visit to Cuba. This stay just sealed the deal. We loved the resort and the staff. The food was very good and the service fantastic. We were treated like royalty by all and had a very relaxing holiday. It was sooooooo relaxing that we came back with an extra souvenir….. Our little boy was born 9 months after our trip!!! He is our little Jamaican Sandals Baby!We definitely would recommend this resort for a couple who wants a lovely relaxing time without all the hassle of thinking about money, food or drinks.
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