Here is some feedback you had wanted. Hope it’s helpful.
1. People flying out from the West Coast are at a disadvantage since we will most likely arrive at the Caribbean resort in the evening…late in the evening. In our case, 10pm. We touched down in St. Lucia at 8pm after a 5 hour flight to Miami, an hour layover, then a 3 hour flight to the island. We were tired and hungry on touchdown and looked forward to the champagne greeting awaiting us at the resort. But we first had to take a 1 hour shuttle ride in the blackness of night. International flights arrive at the southern tip of the island and all 3 Sandals properties are located on the northern tip. By the time we set foot on the Sandals Grande, there was no champagne greeting and all the restaurants had closed…except for one: a pub where we had over-cooked burgers.
2. Sandals is not a 5-diamond resort. None of the 3 in St. Lucia are.
a. On arrival, we had no promised champagne greeting, the bellman didn’t have a baggage dolly available so he single-handedly tried to wheel our 2 monster bags to our room, and our room was not cleaned properly (the bathroom had dirty towels scattered everywhere).
b. The food was hit and miss. Chicken was consistently (and intentionally) way over-cooked. Their top restaurant over-cooked everything, from the rice to the fish, and of course the chicken.
c. There is no 24-hour room service that provides cooked food.
d. Healthy options are sparse.
e. The music played poolside competed with the music played in the main restaurant which happened to be located next to the pool (that is, local island music playing in the restaurant and American hard rock blasted at the pool).
f. The design/layout of the property was by Hyatt and it is poor (lots of wasted space, Disneyland-like cheesy themes, and just one central hot spot on a massive property…the main pool).
g. The main pool was not meant for those looking for peace and quiet and local culture music (it was obnoxiously loud with a chattering disc jockey who turned the volume on the PA up to 11, and a wondering hostess wheeling a drink cart around and screaming her offerings not 5 feet from your ear as she passed).
h. Going on any excursion requires a 1 – 1.5 hour ride on twisting mountain roads. Dinner trips to the 2 other Sandals properties during rush hour can easily take 1 hour (normally it would take 15 minutes).
3. St. Lucians are incredible and vacations are what you make them.
a. To make amends for the unready room, we got another one with a killer view of the Atlantic.
b. The property general manager (Nicolas) loved us. He was exceptionally cordial, engaging and enthusiastic to provide whatever we needed.
c. Some staff went seemingly way beyond the call of duty to help us (e.g. getting us an entree from a different restaurant or providing something off-menu).
d. The property was clean and well groomed.
e. The variety of food at breakfast and lunch was enough to pick and choose somewhat healthy fare (beware the omelets for they use a cup of oil in every one). However, the dinner menus are very limited.
f. Scuba is included!!! Snorkeling was great. The staff is well trained to provide instruction and help with everything from sailing to waterskiing.
g. The excursion to the rain forest for mountain biking was unforgettable. Zip lines and the waterfall mountain bike trip are located together and the guides are pretty cool. For us, they picked fresh fruit (best grapefruit I have ever eaten), they took tons of pictures with our cameras, and helped us portage the river to the falls. All without seeming to milk a beefy tip.
h. Our 4am departure back to the airport was well organized and catered with coffee and pastries.
i. The beds are super comfy. The complimentary shampoos and lotions top notch.
a. Use sunscreen liberally, even when there’s cloud cover. I thought everyone knew that, but almost everyone was fried to a crisp. Painfully.
b. If you want peace and quiet, you can find it in charming little huts on the beach or at a pool on the far side of the property. But the main pool is the central watering hole and it’s not meant for the genteel country club type. The customer base is primarily young newlyweds from the South. About 20% are in their 30′s to 50′s. About 3 weddings a day are performed. All together, not your Ritz Carlton crowd.
c. It’s the tropics. It rains. In our case, a lot. Ali and I loved it. It was warm and refreshing. Those from the East coast trying to escape the rain were not happy.
d. Service can be slow at an all-inclusive where there’s no tipping. I didn’t mind, but those living by the New York Minute will not be happy.
e. At the mountain bike/zip line place, bring about US$40 in cash. The tours can be charged from the hotel, but once there you’ll need cash if you want to buy anything. The grilled chicken was good, but we scored in buying fresh spices like whole nut nutmeg, cinnamon sticks, and other spices. All freshly cut and ground there and easily brought back home to the States. Oh, and try the banana ketchup. Unbelievable! (We bought 4 bottles.)
Lawrence Heltzer and Ali Dello Russo,
clients of Linda Lewis