Sandals St. Lucia…coming soon!

Hey y’all! Forgive my absence, but I’ve been keeping VERY busy! I recently returned from 4 days on the gorgeous island of St. Lucia, experiencing all things Sandals! I have reviews of the three resorts I visited coming soon; stay tuned!

 

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Jamaica FAM Trip: Beaches Ocho Rios

Hello my good people! I know it’s been awhile, but for good reason: your favorite travel consultant has been TRAVELING! Yes, I had the opportunity to visit one of my favorite Domestic Destinations, Ann Arbor Michigan, as well as go on a long-awaited trip to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. While in the DR, I had the opportunity to tour SIX resorts and will begin posting about my experiences shortly. Hopefully it won’t take me 6 months to write up those reviews….

When I last left off, we had just toured the all-butler, all-fabulous Sandals Royal Plantation, and had boarded our bus for the final stop of our whirlwind week in Jamaica, Beaches Ocho Rios. We would be checking in and staying two nights at Beaches before heading back to the USA. (sadface).

What a view!

What a view!

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Jamaica FAM Trip: Sandals Royal Plantation

I’m back: Picking up where I left off on my comprehensive review of my Jamaica FAM trip , with only 2 resorts left to go! (You can do it, Carla!)

When I last left you all, we had just finished touring the VERY large Sandals Grande Riviera Beach and Villa Golf Resort, and were headed to our last tour of the day, Sandals Royal Plantation. Fortunately this resort was all of 10 minutes from Grande Riviera, so we arrived before we even had a chance to get comfortable.

Sandals Royal Plantation is steeped in European influence and is the ONLY All-Butler/All-Suite resort in the Sandals/Beaches family of properties. It’s located cliffside with gorgeous views of the Caribbean Sea available from EVERY suite on property. In other words, if you are looking to be pampered in an upscale setting, this would be the Sandals property for you.

Welcome

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Jamaica FAM Trip: Sandals Grande Riviera

Hi! Remember me?

Yes I’m back, and I apologize for the crazy long hiatus! Life jumped in the way of my blog, which is a HUGE no-no! (smile)

When I last left you on my amazing FAM trip adventure. I had just finished drooling all over Sandals Royal Caribbean Resort and Private Island and enjoyed a relaxing day at Sandals Montego Bay with my fellow agents. Our host had given us a LOT of free time on this day, more than we’d had all week, so a few of us tried to go water tubing, lounged at the beach, played at the pool; this was the day that truly felt like a vacation. We attended a cultural show that night in the theater and briefly participated in some karaoke. (No one can touch my Kris Kross impression!) Good times!

The next day was bittersweet. We had to check out of Sandals MoBay, but we were headed to Ocho Rios for even more fun and two final nights at Beaches Ocho Rios. I was excited about what lay ahead, especially knowing that we could potentially be given the opportunity to climb Dunn’s River Falls (which is TOTALLY on my bucket list).

We loaded the bus and drove one hour east toward Ocho Rios. The drive was scenic and beautiful, with looming mountains on our right and the impossibly blue Caribbean Sea to our left. We passed several other resorts: RIU, Holiday Inn Sunspree, Grand Palladium, and Couples (once we arrived to Ocho Rios).

Sandals Grande Riviera Beach and Villa Golf Resort was our first stop of the day. I was very excited to see this resort, as I sent a client and her husband to this same resort in 2012 for their 40th wedding anniversary and they LOVED it. (Hello Thompsons!!). We were told that this was Sandals’ largest property in Jamaica sitting on 100 acres, and once we arrived I could see that they were not lying. The place is HUGE, split up into three different areas for guests’ convenience.

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Jamaica FAM Trip: Sandals Royal Caribbean

Please excuse my unintended hiatus; some out-of-town trainings got in the way of my blogging and now I feel completely behind!!!

So when I left off, we had just settled in at Sandals Montego Bay and were preparing for 4 more resort tours to close out the week. Sandals Royal Caribbean & Private Island was the only remaining resort to tour in Montego Bay before we headed east to Ocho Rios.

Sandals Royal Caribbean is only located a stone’s throw away from Sandals MoBay, which further enhances the convenience of the “Stay at One, Play at Three” program through Sandals. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a great deal of time to explore the resort due to our late arrival for the tour. Which is a shame, as this resort was my favorite one of the entire FAM trip.Private island wm

Why did this one stand out from the others? Two words: Private Island. But more on that later.

 


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Jamaica FAM Trip: Sandals Montego Bay

Ahhhh, Sandals MoBay. I have fond memories of this resort; I think we (as a group) really bonded during our two day stay at Sandals Montego Bay. But more on that later. This isn’t supposed to be about me anyway! 🙂

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Sandals Montego Bay is situated near Sangster International Airport. Actually; “near” is not the appropriate word. The airport is quite literally across the street from this resort. The plus side is, you don’t have far to travel to get there. The negative? Airplanes. Those guests who are looking for a soothing retreat away from the noise and sounds of the city will not enjoy their time at Sandals Montego Bay. The airplanes fly over more regularly during the day, but honestly after the first day I barely noticed them. It soon became a reflex to lift my arm up and wave at the jets as they flew over, which is customary at this particular resort.

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Jamaica FAM Trip: Sandals Carlyle

After an hour of travel time between Negril and Montego Bay, we pulled up in front of Sandals Carlyle, the next, FOURTH, and LAST resort tour of this tiring Tuesday. Those of us who managed to stay awake for the ride had a chance to see the “Hip Strip” in Montego Bay right before we arrived to the resort; we passed Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville, complete with an inflatable obstacle course in the middle of the water that rivaled that of ABC’s “Wipeout”. (Looked fun too, I MUST go back!) We also passed a number of shops, restaurants and bars; Montego Bay is definitely the place to go if you’re looking for some great local nightlife!

Sandals Carlyle’s tagline is “The smallest Sandals resort; with the Biggest Heart”; I could see why upon our arrival. The resort IS much smaller than its counterparts, presenting itself like a boutique hotel. The Sandals standards are still present however; all-inclusive amenities, Butler service (in specific rooms only), and even better – ALL rooms are eligible for 24 hour room service. Furthermore, this resort features the “Stay at One, Play at Three” option, giving guests of the Carlyle access to Sandals Montego Bay and Sandals Royal Caribbean via complimentary shuttle buses that run throughout the day.

 

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First allow me to apologize…my camera AND phone were both dying by the time we arrived to this resort, so my photos are very limited.

Accommodations: Sandals Carlyle has 52 guest rooms in 4 different categories, ranging from Seaside Deluxe to Carlyle Club Oceanview Penthouse (with Butler service). This resort does not have a Concierge level guest room. The two top tier rooms have all recently been renovated and updated. All of the guest rooms are housed within the main building at the resort, which has three stories (no elevator, just so you know!) We were shown the Oceanview Penthouse Room, which is pictured below.

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Dining/Bars: There are onsite restaurants at the Carlyle: Bay Window, Nibbles and The Carlyle. However, guests have access to over NINETEEN restaurants should you choose to visit Sandals Montego Bay or Royal Caribbean. As previously mentioned, ALL Carlyle guests are also eligible for 24 hour room service if you don’t feel like leaving the resort.

Pools/Beach: Sandals Carlyle has one main pool and a whirlpool. The resort is situated across the street from a public beach, which is accessible to resort guests as well. All of the watersports and diving inclusions that come standard at Sandals are available to Carlyle guests at the two other Montego Bay properties. There is a resort spa, but the Red Lane Spa with full services must be accessed at Sandals Montego Bay.

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Overall Atmosphere: The sales manager told our group that people who stay at Sandals Carlyle become regulars, and I certainly understand why that is the case. This is a very intimate resort where the staff will know your name very shortly after your arrival. Those who are looking to avoid a huge resort where you are forced to walk 15 minutes to dinner would thoroughly enjoy the Carlyle, as would those who are looking for a more affordable Sandals option with the same amenities as the bigger resorts. The “Stay at One Play at Three” feature gives guests the opportunity to sample what the bigger resorts have to offer,  at a lesser price. Would this kind of resort fit your personal style?

Jamaica FAM Trip: Sandals Negril

Our final destination in Negril was the lone Sandals property in the city: Sandals Negril. Also located on Norman Manley Blvd, this property is located in close proximity to Beaches Negril and Grand Pineapple, two of the other resorts I previously discussed. After all, they are all located on Negril’s Seven Mile Beach and are trying to take full advantage of the real estate!

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This was our third resort tour of the day and after being out in the hot Jamaican sun, we travel agents were DOG tired. The kind folks at Sandals knew it too, as they greeted us with cool lemongrass-scented towels and cold refreshments (note: the cool towels are a staple at ALL Sandals resorts and have a way of making you feel relaxed instantly). We also knew that we’d be having lunch at this resort – yes, we toured three resorts all before noon – so we were definitely looking forward to some good eating as well.
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Jamaica FAM Trip: Grand Pineapple Negril

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The next stop on our whirlwind Jamaica trip was actually right up the street from Beaches Negril…Grand Pineapple Beach Negril. This resort is one of two Grand Pineapple resorts; the other is located in Antigua (my brother actually honeymooned there a few years ago). Grand Pineapple is owned by the Sandals group, but have an identity all their own. They provide an affordable all-inclusive experience to families and couples alike, allowing those who may not have the resources for a Sandals or Beaches getaway to still enjoy the Caribbean and all of its beauty.

Grand Pineapple Beach Negril is divided across Norman Manley Blvd, with security present to ensure that guests cross the road safely. Our resort tour began on the beach side, where we walked past several quaint, brightly colored cottages.

Accommodations: The cottages are free standing and house 4 rooms per cottage. Grand Pineapple does not have the various room categories like its “big brother” Sandals; the only distinction between accommodations are “Beachside” and “Gardenside”. The rooms are cozy, quaint and have a lot of personality. These resorts are not for those who wish to spend the entire day in their room; all of the cottages have quick and easy access to the beach or pool (depending on which side you are housed). IMG_2362

Dining: Orchid Terrace is the sole restaurant at Grand Pineapple. In order to offer variety, each night has a different theme and prepares food to coincide with said theme (FYI: Thursday is Jamaica night!). Orchid Terrace is located right on Negril’s famed Seven Mile Beach, giving guests an amazing waterfront view with every meal. There is also a full-service bar, which..of course…is all-inclusive. (Note: tipping IS allowed at Grand Pineapple properties).

Pools/Beach: There is a freshwater pool located on the Garden side of the property, complete with deck chairs. A self-service bar will soon be erected at the pool to give you access to alcohol without having to cross to the other side of the property. On the Beach side, you are able to take advantage of non-motorized water sports at no extra cost. The stretch of Seven Mile Beach that houses Grand Pineapple is public, so guests will have to opportunity to interact and mingle with locals. If you wish to try your hand at scuba diving, no problem mon! You can make arrangements with Beaches Negril or Sandals Negril to take a scuba class (nominal fee applies).

Overall Atmosphere: Grand Pineapple Beach Negril is a small resort with a lot of personality. This resort would be ideal for the person/family who is looking for an authentic beach vacation with a lot of local culture and influences at their fingertips. You can get serenaded by a musician who has set up shop on the beach that night. Negril’s famed Rick’s Cafe is only a short taxi ride away. Vacationers who want to experience Jamaica without all of the bells and whistles of a Sandals/Beaches resort stay would fall in love with Grand Pineapple!

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Jamaica FAM Trip: Sandals Whitehouse

Sandals Whitehouse

Sandals Whitehouse

 

After a VERY relaxing and fulfilling night of sleep, the next stop on our Jamaican adventure was Sandals Whitehouse, the only resort located in the southern part of Jamaica.  We had a VERY early wake-up call, which is why I can’t call this trip a “vacation”…I sleep in on vacation. :-/ Thank goodness that Cafe de Paris was open @ Beaches, because I needed a pick-me-up before we boarded the bus to Whitehouse.

Sandals Whitehouse is known as the brand’s “Jewel of the South Coast”, as it is the only Sandals resort on this portion of the island. It’s ideal for those who want to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life and are looking for a true retreat. Since we were coming from Negril, the ride to Whitehouse was approximately 90 minutes. If you were to transfer directly to Whitehouse from Montego Bay, it would take a little over an hour. I was impressed by the resort upon arrival,with its long winding driveway and impressive entryway.

We were first treated to a Sandals Certified Specialist class led by the warm and knowledgeable Iesha Hibbert. It was a form of torture being in a room for 4 hours when there was all sorts of resort beauty to be seen, but the class was informative and went quickly. And now I’m Sandals Certified! (Still waiting on my certificate to prove it…).
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