This was our second visit to this resort as we stayed here when it was Couples Barbados in October 2013...we have stayed or toured all of the Sandals and Beaches properties. Our visit was April 11-18, 2015.
It took us about an hour to snake through the long line at immigration before we could get our luggage and get to the Sandals check-in area. Several flights came in about the same time we did, causing the line to extend outside the building. We did have to wait around 30 minutes to collect all the couples needed before departing to Sandals. We did see some of the people using the Fast Track service but once you get your luggage, you still need to wait for the Sandals shuttle so there is no guaranty there will be an advantage with it.
We were welcomed to the property with a group of staff including GM Joe Z, singing. Check-in at the piano bar area was slow and we were surprised that the first thing asked was if we were going to donate to the Sandals foundation. This was asked in front of other guests checking-in which was not appropriate. All we wanted to do after being up since 3am was to get to our room and have an early dinner at the Merry Monkey. We did see a photo shoot on the beach that Saturday evening. Luckily it did not intrude on guests stays as we have heard happen at other photo shoots at other properties.
We booked the Crystal Lagoon Luxury room (6304) which included a bathtub on the balcony (which we used to wash dive gear). We received no room upgrade, the first time at any Sandals properties. The room was beautifully done with modern décor with Caribbean accents but the standard size for a hotel room. Even the toilet area had a picture of an indigenous green monkey. The peek-a-boo window in the shower had a print that could wheel across the glass, if you did not want to see into the bedroom. The color scheme and fabrics were lovely as well. I loved the touches of sea green and blue in the fabrics and the art (the piece above the bed is in every room, according to the GM).
Several of the restaurants were existing structures and a few were new. Schooners, Bayside, and Portofino were previously there. Newly built were Dino’s, Bombay, Butch’s, Café de Paris and the Merry Monkey. Each restaurant had some great dishes and some just alright.
Café de Paris was actually built on the location where the kiddie pool used to be. Nice menu for crepes, coffees/espressos or ice cream drinks. There are lots of different pastry choices in the big case each day. The ice cream drinks were delicious, especially the one with espresso and ice cream (and I don’t drink coffee)
Dino’s/Mariners – these restaurants share a kitchen so you are given menus for both places. You can sit on the pool deck or on picnic benches on the beach (similar to Barefoot by the Sea). We had the jerk chicken and the fish sandwich along with sharing a margherita pizza. The jerk is definitely milder and less tasty that what we have had in Jamaica and the sweet potato crinkle cut fries looked like they were spray painted orange…they did not taste like the sweet potato we are used to. The fish sandwich was delicious with a mildly spicy sauce. The pizza had way too much sauce and cheese, making it soggy pretty quickly.
Bayside turns into a French bistro in the evening – The signature cocktail is the brandied truffle (Remy St. Martin, Crème de Cacao, Vodka, milk) which could also be a dessert. We had the escargot, mushroom tart, and salad de maison. The crepe entrée was delicious as was the braised lamb shank. The chocolate gateau and baked apple were delicious. We also had a few days of buffet breakfasts here. There was a bit more breakfast item selection here than Bombay.
The Merry Monkey was a fun place to go to, especially to try some new cocktails. The day we got there, the bartender made several drinks for us to try. The signature cocktail was a Pimm’s which was delicious, though possibly bit sweet for some people. The fish and chips were hot and crispy, a good portion, with a couple spoonfuls of mushy peas. The burger was cooked perfectly. We also stopped in to try the local Mt Gay rums which another bartender presented in cordial glasses. The staff here was fun and was enjoyable to spend time in the bar, along with the billiards area.
Portofino – the signature drink was the limoncello martini which was yummy. The apps we had were calamari (lots of people raved about this too), Caesar and gorgonzola salads. Entrées of tenderloin and fettuccine & seafood were very good. The dessert sampler and tiramisu were delicious. There were a couple black kittens that a few guests (including us) were feeding.
Bombay was great for buffet breakfast. This restaurant was beautifully decorated (have been to some tacky but delicious food India spots) and I really enjoyed sitting under the globe portion of the restaurant. I had an office mate whose wife catered Indian events (weddings, showers, etc) as well as gone to several places in NY, CT, and MA so have tried lots of Indian – The apps were a mixed bag….shrimp pakora and vegetable bullets were good but disappointed in the samosas, although the tamarind dipping sauce was yummy. The naan, poppadum and rices were excellent along with the chicken curry and butter lobster, a protein I hadn’t had in Indian cuisine before. The chocolate cardamom cake didn’t have the cardamom flavor I was expecting and rice kheer was just ok as well. The mango lassi amped up with vodka was yummy. A dinner at Bombay may be a nice introduction to Indian cuisine but wasn’t outstanding.
Butch’s – the menu and signature cocktail were the same as Grenada. We really enjoyed the apps, oysters Rockefeller, crab cake, Signature salad but mixed bag on entrees. The lobster was cooked well but NY strip (signature dish) was just OK. The sides of mac & cheese and mashed potatoes were also just ok….the lobster was good but the pasta was overcooked and not much cheese flavor. The desserts were delicious - Oreo crusted marshmallow cheese cake and chocolate sin pie.
SSG Dinner – Cocktails were in the Calypso Lounge next to Bayside Restaurant and long tables were set-up in Bayside for the dinner. Joe Z, GM came and sat at our table, although he had got up and took phone calls many times to deal with issues, including water coming down right in front of us as someone in Block 1 left the tub running. The meal was wild mushroom bisque, garden salad, surf & turf (although just had the lobster), and cheesecake with berry ragout, Chantilly cream, finished with a violet fleur de sel. There were lots of recognition awards at all levels, silver sandals, gold sandals, and free weeks. As usual, the bottle of Appleton rum was given. As it was the week after Reunion week, many people were staying another week. We did meet a few couples that were here using their free week.
Entertainment / Activities
The main pool was definitely where all the activities happened, if you wanted to participate. The Weekly Activities list details this as well as the listing of restaurants and Red Lane Spa activities. The size of the newsletter was much larger than the usual 8.5” X 11” at other properties. Music in the area by Merry Monkey is pretty loud and continues until 11 PM or so most nights (not an issue unless you want to go to bed early and a light sleeper).
The dive boat is moored off property in downtown Bridgetown, about 20 minutes away. Most of the week, there are 2-tank dives in the morning (M, T, W, F, Sat) and 1-tank dive (Th, Sun) with the afternoon dives at 1:30pm. There is no set schedule for dives, although we were told they were developing one (similar to what we saw at the Grand St. Lucia). Thursday is usually the Stavronikita wreck dive which gets you back around 11am. The two-tank days could range from noon to 1pm, depending on how many people as well as how far away the dives are. On Monday, the two of us were the only ones on the boat, so we got back before noon. When the boat had 8-10 people, we got back after 1pm. The afternoon dive stays close to downtown, either Carlisle Bay or another close site. Carlisle Bay has some good wrecks only a couple minutes from the dive shop. This is the place where the catamaran takes the snorkel groups to see the turtles! There were a few concerning issues with the dive operation that indicate it may need some additional training and supervision. The days we were out with the female DM (2 days), we had no problems. The one day we were out with another DM (the other DM had the day off), one person ran out of air and another person was almost left. The female DM did several gage checks, but the other DM did only one during the dive. When the captain started the engines I noticed that one woman’s husband was not there…when they realized what happened, the engines were cut, ladder put down and her husband came up. That dive they never asked what final air pressure was, so never did a check to make sure all were on board.
Other water sports:
These activities were predicated on the weather and if it was a RED flag day. Most of the time we were there they did not take the Hobie cats / kayaks out. Between the rough surf and seaweed, not many people spent time in the ocean, although the beach loungers were quite full throughout the day.
The gym has a decent amount aerobic and weights equipment. There were a few people that used the gym during our stay.
As Platinum members, we were given a complimentary massage for 2. There is no 12.5% charge for this service but there is a sign indicating that there is this charge for all other spa treatments. We also had a spa credit of $250, so I did a massage/facial pkg for $290, with $37 service charge. I have to agree with others about having services in the outside bungalows….during our couples massage; the entertainment was performing a sound check, so not as relaxing. We were in the room that was closest to the piazza area. The day of my massage/facial I was closer to spa building, so a little less loud, but I think noise, etc. depends on when your appointment is and what is happening in the area.
Club Sandals – We received an invitation to the special cocktail party for Butler and Club Sandals guests. The party was Thursday from 6-7pm in the yoga pagoda. There were some raffles done…a Banks mug, bottle of rum and 30-minute couples massage. It was disappointing comparing it other Sandals properties that do special cocktail cruises and other events.
Room Service: We ordered room service for breakfast a few days since as we dove a few days. We ordered for 7am and first day the food came about 15 minutes past but other times came a few minutes before 7am, so pretty good. We got a phone call prior to delivery to let us know and to take off the “Do not Disturb” light, if it was on.
Manager's Cocktail party
This event is definitely a great way to talk to the manager’s and hear about the resort. We really enjoyed speaking to General Manager and the Operations Manager. Unfortunately, not many people attended this event.
Pools / Beaches
The main pool is definitely where most of the guests congregate, although the spa pool as well as the lagoon pool got quite a bit of use since the beach had quite a bit of seaweed on it and the surf was rough. Spent more time at spa and lagoon pool and never had an issue finding a pool float or a chair, even in afternoon.
Island touring – As our last visit, we did a tour of the island, this time traveling counter-clockwise around the island. Sanjay (Taxicabby) was gracious and informative as last time. In addition to taking us to the places we wanted to go to, he did take us to Hackleton’s Cliff and Codrington College for some beautiful views. He provided some information about the island which we enjoy learning. For example, cotton grown on island is exported to Italy. He also talked about local that is leasing the Almond Beach Village until Beaches takes it over next year. This local is also operates the buses/trucks used to shuttle Sandals guests to and from the airport.
The stops we planned were Four Square Rum, Bottom Bay, Crane Beach, St. Philips Parish Church (beautiful stained glass), Sunbury Plantation House, St. John's Parish Church (great view), Bath Bay (torn up but did find some sea glass), Bathsheba (some sea glass found here as well), St Nicholas Abbey (tried the new rums as well as purchase some of the beautifully package mango chutney), Almond Beach Village (wanted to see the beach where the Beaches property looked like), Harrison's Cave (informative and fun tram ride) and Earthworks Pottery Mural (WOW, absolutely beautiful).
Back to Airport – Our USAir flight along with a couple other flights all left at noon for the airport. We had the three hour usual time frame but we did talk to others that had a 2:40pm flight. There was definitely some confusion on departure regarding luggage. The luggage was put into this holding room before being brought outside to be put onto the luggage truck. Each couple was asked to identify their luggage. There was a small van along with two large buses going back for the noon meeting time. I watched our luggage go onto the truck, but it appears that some people did not properly identify. A Sandals rep came onto our bus three times to check to see if everyone saw their luggage. The other bus was asked as well. The only ones that weren’t asked were the small bus that left minutes before two large buses….so it was speculated that some of the leftover luggage could have been theirs…..so, FYI, make sure your luggage is placed onto the truck.
Overall, our stay was very good, despite a few issues. The majority of the staff we encountered were friendly and made you feel very welcome, most asking if you were enjoying your visit. The big disappointment, not within Sandals control, was the seaweed and beach erosion. The price point of this property is a bit high, even for a base room, so there are better Sandals options available. When we went to Grenada last April (a few months after opening as well), from the greeting upon arrival, we were made to feel special, even with lots of repeat guests and several groups of TAs on property while we were there. When we were at the Sandals Barbados property last time (as Couples Barbados), we were in the oceanfront block for half the price we paid for a room category a couple levels above the entry level category. We really enjoyed the island of Barbados, so we hope to return when the Beaches property is ready for guests.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Located on pristine Dover Beach where the Caribbean meets the Atlantic and endless sunshine is accompanied by gentle ocean breezes, Couples Barbados invites you to surrender to the calypso rhythms of paradise.As the only resort on the island dedicated exclusively to couples, Couples Barbados provides an idyllic refuge for you to recharge and reconnect with the one you love. And with more inclusions than anywhere else on Barbados, your worry-free holiday begins the moment you land on the island.So why not spend your days with white sand between your toes. Learn how to kayak, scuba dive or snorkel in azure blue waters. Get lost in 10 acres of tropical gardens. Play golf amidst tropical surroundings. Play tennis under the stars. Indulge in an invigorating or romantic massage for two. Enjoy the freshest seafood and best rum punch this side of heaven. Or simply relax to the sounds of Green Monkeys playing in the palm trees at sunset. After all, this is paradise Couples Barbados-style—where every enchanting day and magical night encourages you to live life well. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Sandals Barbados St Lawrence Gap