Having just returned from the Halcyon staying from 18/11/2005 to 02/12/2005 I feel compelled to write this report as a true and unbiased account of our stay. I write it in no real order just as remembered.
What must be said at first is that we had a very high expectation of this holiday believing that we had booked with possibly the best company for this type of couples all inclusive holiday.
Having read all the Tripadvisor accounts prior to travel we set off very open minded as to what expect. Accepting that “we do not all see the same thing” in what we do.
Having booked this holiday 10 months prior to travel paying £3700 or $6000 we had plenty of time to build our expectations. The pages of the Sandals brochure being well worn looking at all the marvellous images of the Halcyon and watching the television adverts extolling its quality. Wrong; please be aware all the pictures have been altered and made to look much better than reality. It is hard to believe it’s the same beach( or the beach has shrunk and changed colour since the photo was taken).
Flight, Arrival and Transfer to resort
Flying from London Gatwick to the main airport on St Lucia by Virgin was possibly the best flight we have taken. From check in to landing the service provided by the Virgin staff was superb, in flight meals, drinks and films etc were excellent. Arrival in St Lucia was fairly painless, only having to queue at immigration for about 15 minutes. Taking advice from comments on Tripadvisor we carried our own bags the 20 meters to the Sandals desk just outside the main exit.
We were directed to wait with a group of other guest until a small Toyota minibus arrived to take us onward. 8 adults together with all luggage was crammed in and off we went. I did feel sorry for the man sat in the back seat when one of the bags shot forward and hit him on the back of the head. The ride to the Halcyon took about 90 minutes to cover just over 20 miles. Due to the type and condition of the roads the ride was very uncomfortable leaving some feeling sick on arrivial. Far fewer people in the bus would have made a difference. We expected a more professional transfer and not to be treated as a pack of animals.
If when reading this you take away one piece of advice, book a helicopter transfer. We paid $115 to fly back to the airport and it was superb. Flight lasted 15 minutes and covered most of the island. Luggage went on ahead earlier in the day.
Arrival and room allocation at the Halcyon.
Check in can best be described as a group event. Approximately 12 – 15 couples arrived at the same time and were seated in the reception area where cool towels and a glass of Champagne were handed out. One of the members of staff the attempted to explain the check in procedure and handed out registration forms to complete. Unfortunately some of this was missed due to other guest using the reception area with one particular loud American guest meeting travellers from our flight.
We were allocated room 812, having read the comments on Tripadvisor about 800 block being on the side of the main highway we immediately asked for a room change. We had the misfortune to deal with a receptionist who claimed to be the assistant manager who clearly was unwilling to help stating “ if you pay for the cheapest you get the cheapest” This was clearly not the case as people who had paid the same and booked a few weeks prior to arrival were allocated much better located rooms. (all rooms are identical no matter what you pay for, apparently it’s the location. One thing that was immediately apparent was that it depended on who you knew at the resort as to what type or service you received. The other point worth mentioning is that previous Sandals guests have a much higher status and are treated many times better than first timers.
We did spend that night in room 812 and the comments were right, it is on the main highway and is very noisy.
Due to a prior appointment (meeting friends off cruise liner in Castries) we were unable to follow up a room change on our first day. With many thanks to a kind couple we had spoken to about our predicament they spoke to the Virgin representative on our behalf and on our return that afternoon we had been allocated room 501.
Weather and its effects on the complex
Throughout our stay the weather was mainly very good with a great deal of sunshine and a little cloud. However one evening and night it did rain and rain and rain to the extent that trousers had to be rolled up to get to the restaurant for dinner. We later learnt that several local homes had been swept away and substantial damage caused to roads. That evening to the credit of the staff things continued as normal.
The beach can best be classed as very narrow, approximately 20 feet of sand. Which on one of the better days was an excellent place to spend time. Like around the swimming pools most of the sun beds, and there were sufficient numbers, were very old and partly covered in a black mildew caused by the almost permanently damp conditions. Water sports take place including Hobby Cat boats, Water Skiing, Water bikes. 7 of the 14 days there the sea was so dirty they closed the water sports. There was huge amounts of debris and drift wood being washed up onto the beach that at times you were unable to walk along it. The staff were directed to clear the mess but appeared to fight a losing battle but worked hard trying.
At times when sitting on the beach the sea would wash under the sun beds hitting the back wall. (You soon learn not to put anything on the sand).
Pools and Pool areas
2 pool areas, one loud with music and one quite called the Paradise pool. Having not spent any time around the loud pool I am unable to pass any comment except to say that those using it always appeared to be having a good time with loads of games being played. I understand that the playmakers were good fun with no one being put under pressure to take part. The Paradise pool was very quite except for when our friends from across the Atlantic decided to try and out talk each other at the swim up bar. The pools were spacious and very clean although as previously mentioned the beds needed a good clean. For those that want a little shelter from the sun there were very few sun parasols and unless your towel was out by 7am you sat in the sun. The staff serving at the pool bars were both efficient and helpful.
On 2 occasions they ran out of beach towels by mid morning with no explanation as to when or if any would arrive.
As previously mentioned we were allocated room 812 which backs onto the main highway out of Castries heading towards Rodney Bay. This is an extremely busy road at times bumper to bumper. We only spent the Friday night in this room and suffered on the Saturday morning. It can only be worse on a weekday. Unless you live on a busy main road do not accept a room in this block. Moving to room 501 was much quieter. We very disappointed in the condition, we expected as described in the brochure a luxury room. What we stayed in could be described as far from luxury. The room was very dated possible having not been updated in the last 15 years. The whole room felt permanently damp. Taking birthday cards out of suitcase after 8 days were found them to be damp. It was impossible to dry towels and swimming costumes. The air conditioning was either on full or off all the controls were seized and could not be altered. The bathroom was in a very poor condition with black mould on much of the tile grouting around the bath and shower area. The shower water was one jet, the sprinkler was seized.
Estate and Gardens
It would be impossible to criticise the gardens and paths at the Halcyon. The care and attention to the grounds is impeccable with numerous gardeners working full time. Because of this there appears to be thousands of birds living within the foliage including humming birds.
The rest of the estate again may be regarded as very dated and in need of urgent updating.
Most of the evenings entertainment took place inside a room dedicated for this function called the Mirage. For those from the UK that understand this concept it reminded us of “Butlins” from the 70’s. Small outdated stage in the corner with a big silver ball on the ceiling. Some of the entertainment was good,(limbo dancers, reggae group and steel band) however I did not expect to see a guest juggling 3 balls accompanied but his friend playing the spoons !!!.
Our expectations were of quality where couples could sit and be entertained during the evening. This clearly is not part of the Sandals concept at the Halcyon.
From the senior managers (with the exception of the female assistant manager) to the gardeners and chambermaids we could not have been treated better. Everyone was extremely polite, courteous and helpful. All had a smile on their face and always asked if everything was ok. Our one very small criticism would be that they did not appear to care who arrived in what order, they spoke or served whoever was next to them. Maybe it’s this British thing of queuing but it is very frustrating waiting patiently to be queue jumped several times.
Did not take any formal excursions that can be booked through the hotel as we thought they were expensive. We did with another couple hire a taxi for a tour of the island. We used a chap called Hugo Acide (contacted through the concierge) who was brilliant. Took us to all the places worth seeing and was happy to answer all our questions. Cost for 4 of us was $140. Hugo suggested a restaurant for lunch over looking the Pitons that was excellent.
Bars and Drinks
One main bar in the evening plus the piano bar. Very little outside seating. All the drinks are branded with very generous measures being served. They claim to provide champagne but we suspect it was good sparkling wine (which was good). 2 types of beer one local and Heineken.
Possibly the most disappointing aspect. Anything you read about Sandals states that there is a strict dress code in their resorts with men expect to wear long trousers, collared shirts and closed shoes. Ladies are expect to wear smart evening dress. Having spent months buying and planning the appropriate attire. Yes several pairs of long trousers and numerous dresses we even took proper shoes. We were gutted to sit in fairly smart restaurants with loud Americans who looked if they had just come off the beach or football pitch.
It appears that smart casual to the Americans means, tee shirts, shorts, flip flops or sandals, complete with a baseball cap. Never did we see or hear of anyone challenged about dress code but then the over riding theme was that the Americans could do what they wanted.
If going to the Halcyon please don’t take loads of decent cloths as you will almost certainly look out of place.
If you travel by Virgin take advantage of their “Check in and Chill out service” absolutely fantastic service. Bags collected by the bell boy at 10am go to reception at 11am and check in with the virgin staff. First time we have ever checked in still wearing swimming gear. Whole check in took about 5 minutes back around the pool for the rest of the day. Arrived at airport spent about 20 minutes in departure area before boarding. Cannot rate this service highly enough.
Our holiday was just about ok but very disappointing. It was certainly nowhere near what we expected from such a reputable company. We have asked ourselves if we expected too much in light of the positive reports on Tripadvisor. Our conclusion is that Sandals at the Halcyon is highly overrated almost to the point of making false promises and certainly the description and photos in the brochure do not bear any resemblance to the real thing.
I can not argue about the other comments written about this hotel and accept that we all expect different things from holidays.
Having spent that amount of money we expected a lot better. The Halcyon is best described as an adults Butlin’s but 20 years out of date.
If you do have this amount of cash to spend on a luxury holiday I would suggest looking elsewhere.
- Also Known As:
- Sandals Halcyon Beach St. Lucia Hotel
- Sandals Halcyon Beach St. Lucia Hotel Castries
- Sandals Halcyon Beach Castries
- Sandals St Lucia
- Sandals Halcyon Beach Hotel
- Sandals Halcyon
- Sandals Halcyon Beach St. Lucia Castries
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- •Friendly to the physically challenged with low rise architecture •Fully air-conditioned Caribbean cuisine restaurant on its own 150 ft pier over the •Caribbean Sea •Houses 169 Rooms with true personal service and intimate experience •English-style afternoon tea served at the Paradise pool •Tableside service at the Beach Bistro •“Stay at one, play at three” free shuttles to Sandals La Toc Golf Resort & Spa and Sandals Grande St. Lucian Spa & Beach Resort•Sandals Resorts “World’s Leading All Inclusive Company” 16 years in a row •Sandals Resorts “Caribbean’s Leading Hotel Brand”, 18 years in a row ... more less
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