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.

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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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Ya’ Mon: My Tour of Jamaica

We went. We toured. We conquered. And now, Jamaica has shot up to a very high ranking spot on my list of Favorite Places!

Over the next few days/weeks, I plan to review and recap each of the TEN Sandals, Beaches and Grand Pineapple Resorts that we visited while on our FAM trip. These resorts were (in order of visitation):

1. Sandals Whitehouse European Village

2. Beaches Negril Resort and Spa

3. Grand Pineapple Negril

4. Sandals Negril Resort and Spa

5. Sandals Carlyle

6. Sandals Royal Caribbean Resort

7. Sandals Montego Bay

8. Sandals Grande Riviera

9. Sandals Royal Plantation

10. Sandals Golf & Country Club ** not a resort **

11. Beaches Ocho Rios Resort and Spa

We managed to visit all of these locations over the course of 5 days. Those of us who were feeling adventurous were also given the opportunity to climb Dunn’s River Falls with Island Routes (YES, my hope became reality!!!).

The beauty and people of Jamaica caused me to fall in love with the island. I’m so excited to return, and have been sharing my wonderful impression of the island with anyone who will listen. The Sandals family of properties truly have something for everyone, making them an excellent choice in planning your next getaway. If you’re looking for romance, relaxation, nightlife, or fun for the family, there IS a resort for you.

Contact me for more information, or keep your eyes open as the reviews start to get posted!

 

Sandals’ new Grenada resort!

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photo credit: Sandals

On December 12, 2013, Sandals Resorts will open their newest (and pretty freakin’ awesome) all-inclusive resort on the island of Grenada: Sandals LaSource Grenada. Featuring 3 distinct villages (Pink Gin Village, Tahiti Village, and Italian Village), 9 restaurants including Sandals’ first prime Steakhouse, 5 pools including 2 river pools, and countless other luxurious all-inclusive amenities, Sandals LaSource is “The Most Alluring Destination in the Caribbean”. Known as the “Island of Spice”, Grenada offers an unspoiled paradise as your own lover’s playground. (source: Sandals.com)

The resort will offer 75 butler suites (a lovely amenity already present in sister resorts) and will introduce three new levels of suites: the Millionaire Suite (I’m already interested..), Rondoval and Skypool Suites. Plus, all of the rooms in the Tahiti and Italian Villages will have en-suite soaking tubs.

Sandals LaSource is already open for booking and they are offering Grand Opening specials, with steep room discounts and airfare credits. Why not be one of the first to check out this amazing and luxurious new spot?

Weekly Deals: April 21-28, 2013

Still looking for that perfect getaway? Here are a few of the travel deals available for the upcoming week:

Cruise Norwegian to Alaska

NCL alaska offer

Book an Alaskan Cruise aboard Norwegian Cruise Lines and you could be eligible for the following offers:

*Up to $500 in Air Credits

* 50% off of kids’ fares

* Reduced prices for solo travelers

** Add a pre- or post-cruise tour for an all-encompassing Alaskan adventure!

Explore New York and Bermuda with Celebrity

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Celebrity Cruise Lines just introduced their “Book and Go” packages to Bermuda, which offers travelers a two-night pre-cruise stay in New York City before sailing 7 days roundtrip to Bermuda. Prices start at $1549 per person (if booked with Celebrity’s ChoiceAir Program).

Free Upgrades with Funjet Vacations

Hard Rock Punta Cana

Hard Rock Punta Cana

For a limited time, you will receive a free room upgrade when booking a resort stay at one of the following properties (based on room reserved) via Funjet Vacations:

* Hard Rock Hotels: Dominican Republic and Mexico

* El Dorado Spa Resorts and Azul Hotels, by Karisma: Mexico

* Palladium Hotels and Resorts: Dominican Republic and Mexico

Specialty Dining Promo on Royal Caribbean

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Book a balcony or above category stateroom by May 19th, 2013 on select sailings, and receive a specialty dinner for two! Book by April 30th, 2013 and receive an onboard credit of up to $100 in addition to the specialty dinner for two!

Save up to 65% Off at Sandals/Beaches Resorts

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For a limited time, receive up to 65% off at select Sandals and Beaches resorts in Jamaica, St. Lucia, Grenada or Antigua, along with $555 in Air Credits and free nights! This deal is too good to pass up!

A Weekend in Puerto Rico, Part 1

Last month, my BFF and I decided to do something relatively spontaneous and find a cool place to go for a Besties’ weekend. She had been yearning to visit Puerto Rico, so we decided to bite the bullet and book a quick 4 day trip. I’m a bit of a PR veteran, having been there many times in the past to visit family. However this was my first time going as a “tourist” and I was excited about experiencing the island from a different perspective.

Granted, four days is not enough time to complete a comprehensive trip to La Isla Boricua, but we made the most of it. There are a few “must sees” for any first timer to PR; I’ve decided to point out a few of those, as well as highlights and pointers that made our trip so much fun!

Beautiful Puerto Rico

Beautiful Puerto Rico

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