My husband and I usually go on a Sandals vacation for our anniversary every year. Our latest trip, July 14-21, 2012, was to Sandals Grande Antigua and it was amazing. Sandals is a bit pricey, but after seven Sandals trips we know what to expect and know there will not be any hidden costs.
Part of our continued loyalty to Sandals is due to our amazing travel agent Hayley from Beach Bum Vacations. She booked our honeymoon at a Sandals and we had such a wonderful experience that we keep going back every year possible. She takes care of everything up front for us all we have to do is show up to the airport. Hayley also answered my innumerable questions after we booked, but before our trip. For about six months before our trip every day I would go on Trip Advisor and read the new reviews of others who had just been at Sandals Grande Antigua. I then went to Hayley with questions and requests that I had read about. She has a personal relationship with the GM so she clarified all questions, took care of all my concerns and even went above and beyond by taking care of some of my requests before we arrived. Upon arrival at the resort we were greeted by a staff member who said she had been communicating with Hayley and wanted to make sure that all of our desires were acknowledge correctly. Just amazing in my mind. From the moment we stepped onto the property we felt like royalty. All of our worries were whisked away by the ocean breeze to be forgotten for an entire week in paradise. We did receive little perks throughout our stay such as flowers in the room and little snacks that we think we received because Beach Bum Vacations has a relationship with Sandals. There was one small issue we had during our stay and we brought it up to two different people and after two days it was still not resolved. We sent an email to Hayley and within minutes it was taken care of. That right there is why we always book with Beach Bum. There is always someone there for you if you have ANY issues big or small.
The resort is amazingly beautiful. I love the two different sides which have different atmospheres. The big pool or all the small little pools just hidden for you to wonder around and find.
The food was extraordinary. More than one time my husband and I mentioned to each other that the food really was something that stood out at this particular Sandals. The best part was it was not just one restaurant, overall the food and drinks were excellent.
We stayed at Sandals Antigua about five years ago while the Mediterranean side was still being built. At that point there was just Bayside for breakfast. We loved having OK Corral as an a la carte option to mix it up a few mornings. Such a great view up there and it was nice to be able to sit down and enjoy instead of serving ourselves. After eating there for a week the breakfast options at Bayside and Mario’s did get a bit old. It would have been nice to have, for example, different pastries instead of the same ones everyday. I absolutely loved the huge selection of fresh fruit daily. I fell in love with mango while vacationing at St. Lucia, but there I had to hunt and sometimes request mango. It was very hard to find. Here it was readily available and always being refilled. The passion fruit was amazing. Very nice to be able to enjoy tropical fruit and not just the same things we can eat at home in the states.
Lunch was always a joy no matter where we went.
Dinner was good every night. My husband and I had different favorite dinners. He loved Kimono’s. Our waitress, Stacy, was very fun. She played into my husbands request for her to sing a soca song and show us how she dances (whines). She went and got her phone which had a great song on it and sang and danced. Pretty much just to make us happy. It worked. Thanks for going out of your way Stacy.
Another employee who stands out is Dwayne at the Caribbean pool. We told him we liked passion fruit and he made us his special drink that had that in it (addiction). After that we would go out of our way to go over to the Caribbean pool for a drink it we wanted one during that day.
At the returning guest dinner we met Dan the manager of Food and Beverage. The next day we saw him out walking and stopped him to say that he is doing a wonderful job. This was by far one of the best food we have had out of our multiple stays at various Sandals.
House wine and champagne were very good.
The one and only place we did not like so much was Café de Paris. The ladies were nice we just did not like the choices. At Whitehouse we were in the Café a LOT because there was always a case full of all kinds of yummy choices. Here there were only a few pastry choices each time and they were never that good. We would just take a bite to try it and not each the rest. Also, it would be nice if crapes were served more than just a few designated hours a day. We really like the crape place in St. Lucia that offered fresh made to order crapes verses the option here where premade ones were placed in a serving dish. The one time we looked they were smashed together.
One thing that needs to be incorporated into the new Mediterranean pool is a list of drinks hanging like the sundowner bar has. We have been to a few Sandals before so we knew some drinks, but those new to Sandals did not know what to order. There was a lot of people asking people what drinks they had or trying to order drinks by color. They do have laminated pages but because it is often windy those are kept behind the bar so they don’t blow away. I would have liked to try other drinks, but I was only aware of a few and those were ones we learned about at other Sandals. It did seem like new drinks we being created so it would be neat to have a chart that was easily updated showing new and top drinks. Then have the laminated sheet as well showing all drinks.
1. We like playing shuffleboard on vacation. We save up all year for one vacation and part of our Sandals tradition has become shuffleboard. The one shuffleboard court in Antigua seems to not be placed in the best spot. It is not lighted so we can not play at night which we have done and enjoyed at others. Our suggestion would be to incorporate another shuffleboard that is more visible and more room to play into the winding trails in the Caribbean side or one on the Mediterranean side.
2. We really liked the pool and ping pong tables at the Mediterranean pool. Although if people were playing it made it hard to walk by. More than one time people would be playing ping pong and they stopped so we could walk by without interfering with their game. It was a bit crowded. What about moving the pool tables or just one up to the area above the Mediterranean pool. It would then help protect the tables from the weather a bit more so they would last longer and make more room down below. The observation area did not seem to be utilized at all unless it was people taking pictures on their last day. Putting up a clear plastic or glass along the rails would keep the balls from falling in the pool. Also, this will gave those playing pool a break from the sun which is sometimes needed.
3. It is very nice having the umbrellas provided by Sandals and having one in your room. It would also be nice to have a few umbrellas stands or holders around the property if you are caught by surprise out in the rain. For example, after the SSG dinner it was pouring down. Since our room was on the Mediterranean side we were stuck until the rain let up. Housekeeping could take the extra umbrellas (if there is more than one) out of rooms the next day while cleaning the room to refill the stands. Along these same lines the same night we were stuck we decided to watch the entertainment in the courtyard. The table and chairs we all wet and since everyone was dressed nice for dinner nobody wanted to sit in wet chairs. My husband had to go find a towel to dry off chairs. We have been nice if an employee preemptively did that.
Upon arrival to our room we were very impressed with the room presentation. Lovely arrangement on the bed with flower petals and the towel shaped like a swan. Gorgeous flower arrangement. Very nice. We also liked having the SSG shirt in our room for us. Nice not having to go pick it up. This was the one and only time we received acknowledgment we were SSG. Other Sandals we received other perks that stood out on our mind which made it special. We go on vacation to celebrate our anniversary every year. Usually that is recognized in some way, but this trip it was not. To Karen’s (loyalty manager) defense she did call our room as we were getting ready for dinner and say that we had left our do no disturb light on most of the day. We accidentally left it on as we left in the morning and we stay out all day until dinner so the light did not go off until we left around 5:30 for dinner. Even though it was on most of the day we thought we would get something that night. Nothing at all. Just a small plate of late night snacks such as chocolate covered strawberries would have been nice. Or since we accidentally left our light on they could have put a happy anniversary sign on our door like we received in Jamaica. Or even delivering something the next day would have been appreciated. The SSG dinner left something to be desired. We spoke to other guests the next day and they said the same thing. The food was not that great and at other Sandals we remember that being the best dinner there. The layout of the tables was not conducive to talking to the manger at your table if you were on the opposite end.
This is not specific to SGA, but a complaint with Sandals SSG department. Before leaving for vacation we asked our travel agent to find out how many paid nights we had because the last SSG dinner we went to they asked us and we were unsure. She was told we had 23 nights + July’s trip =30 nights. She was also told we were currently gold but after this stay we would become Platinum so we would be recognized as Platinum during this stay. We found that a bit odd since we were never recognized as Gold and our agent could not answer why were not. All she knew was what Sandals told her when she inquired. Because of the inquiry before we left we looked on the Sandals website and it listed Spa Hydrotherapy Bath for Two for our level. Our agent told us they are no longer offering the hydrobath but in lieu of that is a thirty minute massage per couple. We were fine with that and were very much looking forward to that. Upon check in nothing was said to us about this. We looked over all the information in the room and saw no mention of it. We did, for the first stay ever, see a print out of our stays. We noticed one stay was missing. We asked multiple times at the Soon Come Back desk about fixing the missing stay. We were told they were waiting to hear back from corporate and when it was cleared up we would get a new print out. Finally, the day of the SSG dinner we bought internet to email our travel agent Hayley since we were getting no where. Within minutes she replied to us so I am not sure what was taking so long for the Sandals employees to respond to us. Our agent was told that she was misinformed the first time and we did not get the massage. A bit of a let down and disappointed. The entire week we never did hear back from anyone at SGA about our inquiry about our missing stay. At least Beach Bum Vacations responded to us.
The music was disappointing. Whitehouse is one of our favorite resorts mainly because of the music. That was one element missing in Antigua. We like to hear local soca music which we only heard for the few hours on Antigua day at the pool. The music was actually a bit annoying because as we were walking the various speakers were competing and none of them matched. We understand everyone likes different music and you have to make everyone happy, if possible For example, the speakers at the Mediterranean pool bar would play one song while the speakers outlying the pool next to the stairs would play a completely different song and the speakers along the path another and those outside Mario’s yet another. You could walk just a few feet and hear four different songs. They should be more synchronized and not such drastic differences. You should be able to walk at least a few feet and hear the same song. We were not bouncing and humming music like we do at Whitehouse. The few times there was a dj at the Mediterranean pool we could not hear the announcements. We sat on the other side of the pool and just could not hear. It took us awhile to even figure out where the announcements and music were coming from. Being hidden under a tree is not the best place. The dj should be on the patio area where the steel drums were set up for Antiguan day. Much easier to hear and see there.
If this was our first Sandals we would not have even known about playmakers. They were not present at this resort until our last few days. I am not sure if there were new staff who came in or what, but the first part of our vacation we didn’t even think they had playmakers here.
ENTERTAINMENT AND EVENTS
We have a good idea of what to expect after staying at various Sandals. The entertainment and small special events were a let down. It was not just us either. We spoke to other couples who said they were just not going to anything else. The chocolate buffet was not much. The manager wine and cheese cocktail hour was not much. Entertainment was too similar the entire week. We would have preferred to see more of the local talent. There was a band outside of Cricketer’s one night that was supposed to play jazz. They were doing great until the singer showed up late. Once he got up on stage it was no good any more. He was not needed and brought down the band. The same band played at SSG and was very good minus the singer. Also, during the performance Sandals employees would come up and ask if they needed drinks which was interrupting to the songs. That should be done in between songs or sets. The beach BBQ was nice, but we feel the entertainment should be up on a stage like it used to be so that everyone can see better.
This was a bit of a let down. We looked forward to it all week because we enjoyed it at other Sandals. There were only a handful of vendors. Other Sandals have had more vendors with better goods to buy. We normally buy our souvenirs and gifts for others at home here but this time there was nothing that interested us. We were hoping for jewelry, wood carvings or steel drums. I thought for sure a vendor would be there selling steel drums since they were part of the nightly entertainment a few days. Nothing in the resort gift shop interested us either. We ended up buying things at the airport when we would have rather not waited until the very last minute. Also, the dancers were awful. Not entertaining at all especially the girls. The boys did try. The girls just stood in a circle and bounced back and forth on their feet.
THINGS WE LOVED
• The lights saying do not disturb or make up room. These are great to have. At other resorts it seems housekeeping would always come while we were napping or getting ready for dinner and this way we were never disturbed. The rooms are very clean and roomy.
• We liked knowing the names of employees who we could call if we needed something. We never did, but it was nice knowing Karen or Jewlie were there if we needed them. They both remembered us and said ‘hi’ if we passed them on the property.
• I can not remember his name right now, but the male employee who works in water sports and drives the boats. He was also at the SSG dinner. I would recognize his name if you said, but I am drawing a blank right now. Very nice man who we felt went out of his way to make sure we were having a good time. Kudos to him.
• At other Sandals we did not walk away knowing the names of any employees. Here there were a handful who stood out to us. That is something special.
• Multiple pool tables. If one was taken we just went to another and could usually find a free one.
• Red Lane spa employees were around and did ask if you wanted a massage a few times, but not annoying and did not hound you like other Sandals. Nice presence without being overbearing.
We did notice that plans did change. For example, white night. We read somewhere it was Wednesday but then it was on Tuesday. A bit confusing. Also, we read the SSG dinner was going to be on the Mediterranean side in the conference facility. We were looking forward to that because we were sure it would be more fancy than the last SSG we were at which was at Bayside. But it ended up being at Bayside.
Once again great work Dan in Food and Beverage. He does great work. We saw him out and about every day. He has some great employees as well.
This is a nice perk to have. We did use it because we did not have to leave until 2:00. A few comments from my personal experience. The liquid in the shower is not labeled. I had no idea if it was shampoo, conditioner or body wash. It would be been nice to have towels in there. We went to the pool to find towels and there were out at the moment so that was not very accommodating since you need a towel to take a shower. Also, other Sandals have provided lotion and a few other small bathroom amenities that made it very nice which were missing. Last the temperature in the lounge is unbearably hot. After showering I went to use the restroom and was dripping with sweat. My husband said that same thing that his lounge was very very very warm.