We just returned from our trip to Sandals Grande Antigua, stayed Nov 24th-Dec 1st!
I have to say, this being our 3rd Sandals experience and our 1st in Antigua my husband and I were expecting the "Sandals feel." There is a distinct reason why we keep returning to these resorts and its the feeling of luxury, over the top amazing staff, excellent food and grounds. We like the Sandals resorts because there is a little extra dazzle in the way they treat you, the feeling you get while you are vacationing and for some reason, this resort lacked that extra dazzle.
We are in no way complainers, we have gone on many vacations, Sandals or not and are very easy-going and not nit picky but that is why this will be a detailed review, an honest one so you can make the right decision for your trip!
When we first arrived, having read numerous reviews about the staff and lack of service, i was very very nervous, service makes a huge difference in the way you enjoy your trip. We originally had booked the Sunset Bluff Honeymoon suite on the Carribbean side. We were taken the the special club level office for check in and were greeted by the staff at the Red Lane spa. Because this resort is so packed, they had to ask them to help with check in. My husband and i were just so happy to be there that we over looked the confusion and rush. We had some champagne and waited for about 20 minutes to be shown to our room. Danesha was very nice and we loved our room when we got there (ROOM #831) at the end of the hall on the 2nd floor. Our balcony though was covered by trees and the bathroom was quite small which we didn't like but didn't want to complain.
The first two nights in that room were not good. We had sand fleas and misquotes everywhere, my husband was killing them every 5 seconds. We each woke up with over 40 bites on our body and we were shocked as to how that happened...it was the room!!!!
On the 2nd night around 2:30am we were in so much pain and so upset we called the night manager Steve and asked to be moved immediately. We were bit everywhere and did not want to stay in that room another night. The greenery from the balcony and the cold location of the room attracted all the bugs inside! We asked for the Med side on a higher level which was completely sold out but he offered us a room on the Caribbean side, but on the other end of the lobby about a 5 minute walk where the balcony was completely clear of trees and greenery (it was an ocean view room above the Bayside restaurant) called the Grande Luxe Beachfront ocean view room I believe. He said we could leave all of our stuff and just come over to sleep and he would get a bellman to move our stuff the next morning. We walked into the room (#121) and were immediately happy, it was clean, bigger bathroom, more modern but most importantly there were NO BUGS (WE CHECKED!). After that night we didn't get bit once so we knew it was the room.
We weren't happy with the bites, they hurt so please make sure to bring Hydro cortisone and Benedryl or any other antihistamine (OFF does not work so please if you get bit, even on the ocean, bring that kind of stuff for you, it will be a life saver), but we were happy with the quick service from Steve to move us, so thank you for that!
The restaurants are good, we had some great meals but it was not as good as Emerald Bay and the Royal Bahamian, which are the other two Sandals we have been too. The food was excellent at Bayside for dinner, it is French cuisine but A HUGE WARNING, the wait is 2 hours. I am not sure if it was that night or every night but you have to wait. We are not difficult so we were patient and when we did get our apps and dinner, we were amazed! The duck and steak, mussels and asparagus soup were out of this world so go early and be patient. The breakfast here is buffet, it is ok, nothing out of this world.
Mario's- the apps are ok, the steak and pork are horrible, but the Risotto was good. The breakfast here is buffet, but I liked it.
Eleanor's- I loved the lamb, the lobster was raved about but we found it just OK since we have tried better at Emerald Bay, do not have the pumpkin soup, it is tasteless, but their breakfast is amazing.
OK Corral-The mexican restaurant, the best chilli ever, I loved the Mahi Mahi and the Chimichurri steak is amazing as well, no complaints with this restaurant.
Drunken Duck- This pub that was open until 2am we found very boring, the activities or performances were boring, the dj was just ok and there was not enough going on to have fun there. We met some couples so that is the only reason we were entertained but the entertainment is very lacking here and throughout the day as well. We played pool most of the time. The food here tho- excellent!
Soy- it was quiet, no music, dead basically and the sushi was not good. It is pre cooked and the chef just cuts the orders for you. The soy ceviche though is worth a try!
Kiminos- We liked the experience, the waitress and cook (Sugar) were entertaining, the food is great as well, they cook good portions and I was stuffed when we left!
Alcohol and wine- I found the house white wine both Pinot and Chardoney very good and they always poured a great amount! The drinks are great, top shelf and many options so no complaint there and all the bars were good with service.
Service- This is where I felt the Sandals experienced lacked. The service is hit and miss, some people, like Violet at Bayside are SO nice and others didn't care about you, didn't smile, didnt greet you well, didn't really care about you, were too quiet, distracted or seemed upset. I read about this and was very nervous, thinking people are just being picky but its true. You want to feel like you are in a 5 star luxurious paradise and they kind of make you feel like you are at an other resort. The size of the resort doesn't help either as it is very big so again, you are lacking the romantic, serene paradise you get from Sandals and what you get from a vacation in general.
The beach is great but the water is NOT crystal clear which was unfortunate and the vendors are relentless, we stayed by the pool most of the time because of this. The pool though was great, we didn't have a hard time finding chairs like people had suggested, but they never had lively music so it felt a bit dead, but the nice water, drinks, company and weather, you have a good time.
One thing I have to say, this is NOT the most romantic resort and i am not sure how it could be voted this, With murky water, and vendors bothering you every 5 seconds and because it is public, sometimes kids running around, how can you find time to be romantic by the beach? If you want romance, serenity and paradise, go to Sandals Emerald Bay!
I know this sounds like I am being nit picky but for someone who loves Sandals, i was really expecting much more, this is truthful, from a person who was expecting a SANDALS experience, what we pay for and what we love from the other two we have visited. The resort is nice, we DID have a good time, but for what we paid and for what we expected, we were a tad disappointed. Trust me though, if you make the most of it, you will have a good time here, we just thought that dazzle was missing.