We had the pleasure of staying at the Grande Riviera from July 26 - August 2 (not nearly long enough) on the Butler Villa side. Despite this being our 7th Sandals trip, and 7th time to Jamaica, this was, quite honestly our best experience yet. To break it down in sections:
First, the food in general was by far the very best we've had of all our trips. Our last visit to the Grande was prior to the extensive additions, so we were impressed at the expanded selection of restaurants. The breakfast and lunch selection were all excellently prepared, and the variety was great. Just about every dinner we had was delicious and we were thrilled to hear that we made it to Sabrina's during lobster season.
Soy? Wow! Fantastic sushi (and considering it is not to the Jamaican taste we were impressed with the quality!)
The returning guest dinner was also the best we've had (and since we don't eat meat we were very excited that it was a fish dinner!) In addition to the food,the entertainment was great and the energy at the dinner was really high which added to the evening.
The only dinner that wasn't up to par was surprisingly at Kelly's! I hear from our friends that travelled with us, the filet mignon was excellent, but my husband and I were not impressed with our dishes and the waiter was probably the first Sandals employee to tell me not to get what I ordered (in fact he made a face when I asked for it), and tell my husband he couldn't have a salad and an appetizer! He was not attentive either and we were without wine refills for some time.
As always, the steel drum band and talent show were a blast, and the chocolate buffet never disappoints. I was saddened to see the lack of other entertainment hosted on the Villa side though; this may have been based on occupancy and it being the off-season maybe? We missed a good bit of the daytime and evening activities and entertainment though since we didn't feel like travelling to the beach side. Don't get me wrong though -- this did not impact our overall trip in any way! Just something I wanted to mention.
The management team here is impressive. They are always present, quick to respond, personable, and very guest-focused. In particular, Caren and Tamon, who we've known from prior trips always ensure a positive experience and are one of the reasons we chose to come back to the Grande this year! Tamon even made it a point to seek us out on our arrival day to be sure to welcome us back in person, despite his crazy schedule. That definitely started our trip out "right." Mr. Roper is approachable and always visible throughout the property. His leadership really shines bright at the Grande.
The staff is absolutely, positively amazing. Some definitely rose above the crowd and I hope that they are appropriately recognized for their outstanding service.
Butlers Marvin and Ricardo - there is no way I can put into words how fantastic they were. We do not utilize the butler service as heavily as many do, and these guys found just the right balance with us to be helpful but not "in our face." They really learned our preferences and desires within the first day of our trip, frequently surprising us with a delicious lunch treat that we didn't even know we wanted! They were prompt to respond, always available, and their personalities are amazing. We had so much fun getting to know them, and them us, and just chatting and laughing with them. To be honest, I fully believe that they made our trip everything that it was and I don't think it would have been the same without them (still amazing, but not our #1!) In addition, Melissa, who is training to be a butler accompanied them some nights, after she'd worked all day at the Beach Club! Upon my first interaction with her I knew she was a great fit to be a butler! Her personality is exactly right, in addition to her willingness to help and her ability to also get to know my likes/dislikes as quickly and willingly as she did. I sincerely hope that she is able to successfully finish her butler training and move into this role as I know she will make a great addition to the butler team under Tamon.
Playmakers Romario and Jason - again, I can't put into words how fantastic they were. I wish we'd met them both earlier in the week, but we were thrilled to be entertained by them for our last 4 days. They made all the pool activities incredibly fun and entertaining, encouraged participation, and got to know us really well. They were somehow able to spend the day with the tons of other guests at the Great House pool area, but still make us feel like we were the only ones they were entertaining - talk about talent! I know the Playmakers work long hours, and have to deal with some crazy guests and their requests, but these two had a smile on their face no matter what time of day it was, and always came through on the planned activities. Again, these two made our trip the #1 that it was.
Bartender Kirk - Great House pool - very infrequently do we come across a Sandals bartender that truly carries the Sandals spirit of service. Kirk is the exception. We were drawn to him our first day and requested drinks specifically from him because of not only the better quality, but also his creative twists in ingredients and more importantly the personable service he provides -- always smiling, getting to know the guests, etc.
By the end of the week, we considered these 5 employees "friends." They made lasting impressions on us that we'll keep close forever and reminded us of why we love Sandals so much.
Chef Arturo - Soy - the entire Soy experience was great and we loved being able to watch Arturo make our order fresh (which as I mentioned was delicious). In addition, we loved being able to talk with him and he was more than happy to discuss his creations with us and take a few minutes to converse between orders.
Interns - Sara Minott and Toni Lewis - I didn't realize how many interns Sandals employs but we were fortunate enough to get to know these 2 young interns, ripe for a future career with Sandals. They were so willing to tell us about what brought them to Sandals, get to know us at the SSG dinner, and then after only spending a couple hours with us that one night, recognize us in the following days, remember our names and what we chatted about, and spend some more time with us.
This vacation was truly an amazing experience from beginning to end and I cannot recommend this resort enough. From the delicious food, to the beautiful grounds, and to the truly spectacular staff you will be blown away. We are already counting down the days until our return trip next year!!!