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Sandals South Coast
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Reviewed March 22, 2009

This was our third visit to a Sandals. We live on the west coast and meet up with our east coast cousins every February at a Sandals resort in the Caribbean. We had already been at the Sandals on St. Lucia, the Sandals on Antigua and now the Sandals Whitehouse on Jamaica, which will be our last Sandals...ever!!!

First, do not expect anything close to convenience or comfort, because you will not find it. The Whitehouse European Village is on the southwestern part of Jamaica, a good 1 1/2 hour drive from the Montego Bay airport along narrow and bumpy roads. The resort is far too big, comprised of three separate building complexes running along an extended section of a narrow beach with hard, packed down sand. If you are booked into the Dutch or French villages, though each village has its own pool, you might need a guide and a roadmap to get you to the main pool, the main restaurants and the main buildings. There is a limited shuttle service, but don't count on one being available when you need it. Also, it will rain a little bit almost every day, and if you need to get back to your room, plan on getting very wet.

The food is plentiful though mediocre, at best, and the restaurant service is so slow you are often too frustrated to eat once your meal arrives. The room service menue is limited at night and equally slow, while food and beverage service at the pools is virtually non-existant. There is also a problem with birds, who frequent all of the outside dining venues and seem to think nothing of landing on your table and pecking at your food...while you are sitting and eating!!

The rooms are fairly standard with no special amenities to speak of and the balconies are uncomfortably small. Most of the ocean views are over gardens, then pools, then a battery of trees that separate the main property from the sand. Once on the beach, there are limited numbers of chairs or umbrellas for shade and it is suggested that walks along the beach and shoreline be confined to the edges of the property.

Much of the staff is almost robotic in the performance of their duties, with the standard answer to almost any request, "no problem". There is a problem, however, in that responses to many requests can go unattended for long periods of time.

The Spa is also nothing special. It is run by an organization called Red Lane. The facility is small, dark and confining and the staff, again, seems simply to be going through the motions.

If you want to spend a little, and are prepared to get excactly what you are paying for, then Sandals Whitehouse European Village and Spa may be the place for you...just not for me.

  • Stayed: February 2008, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
4  Thank Travelwherever
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed March 22, 2009

My husband and I, along with another couple just returned from Sandals Whitehouse yesterday. I found all of the feedback on Tripadvisor to be very helpful and wanted to “pay it forward” for future travelers. If you have already booked at Whitehouse, don’t let the recent reviews scare you. If you are considering Whitehouse, please continue to read and don’t let the recent reviews turn you off.

We are middle class professionals in our late 30’s who were looking for a relaxing get-away. We have traveled to other all-inclusives, listed in the 4 and 5 star categories and loved SWH.

Upon arrival, we found out we were in the French villa and were disappointed initially to find this out, as many reviewers had mentioned the long walk to dinner etc. We found this walk to be a total non-issue. It was not that much further than the Dutch village and it is a gorgeous walk!! If we had to walk 10 minutes to get to breakfast in the –30 snowy weather here, I would not be impressed but walking either through the lush gardens or along the beach to eat was not a hardship at all!!! Enjoy it and don’t sweat this small inconvenience, trust me after dinner you could use the walk!

Also, based on reviews we didn’t think we would enjoy the French pool because it sounded a bit too loud and crazy for our speed. Once again we were pleasantly surprised. It was a lot of fun with amazing people. Sure, there was noise but it was all fun, happy noise and nothing obnoxious like some reviews have said. We spent every day there and loved it all, great people, great drinks and Bluefield’s – perfect!

We ate breakfast each day at Bayside and found the selection and food quite good. Lunches were also quite good. We only ate at Bayside twice for lunch but wished we had of more often. The buffet was great with TONS of selection. They even had fresh stir-fried shrimp and scallops. The sandwiches there were great too.

I am very happy that I read a lot of reviews prior to leaving re: the dinner waits. As suggested by posters, we went out to dinner every night at 6:30 and didn’t wait once for a table. This is the time we preferred to eat anyway so it was perfect. By the time your you were done your apps, salad etc. it was closer to 7 when you ate dinner anyway. Once we finished dinner we would go to the Café for crepes and then watch the entertainment. The entertainment was your standard cheesy resort fare but it was fun!!

I can see how it would be frustrating to have to wait if you prefer to go out for dinner around 7:00 or 7:30, however I think people need to remember, you are booking this resort at 50% off so it stands to reason they have had to lay off staff. People keep complaining that they paid over $4000-$5000 for this trip. While I agree this is a lot of money it is not nearly as much as they usually charge, so expect some inconveniences. If you don’t want inconveniences, go somewhere untouched by the economy – and good luck finding it.

We found the staff to be very friendly and hard working. Yes, the dinners took a while to come out of the kitchen, but we just relaxed and enjoyed the company of our friends over wine. Not once did you see the wait staff just standing around. Everyone is working their tails off to try to make your holiday enjoyable. We ordered double appetizers each night and when we went to Eleanor’s (3 times) we ordered extra lobster each time with no problems.

My husband enjoyed the diving, even though it was not as good as Cozumel, but he expected that. Once again, great value for $ since it is included. Snorkeling was also great and he saw a nurse shark and a stingray.

Overall, I would recommend this resort to anyone looking to get away from it all. The Spa is amazing and you can go to it for a steam bath every day, for free. I got the orange and sugar cane scrub and it was great! Enjoy every minute of your vacation because it goes so fast!!

  • Stayed: March 2009, traveled with friends
    • Value
    • Location
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    • Cleanliness
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14  Thank northernmama705
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed March 21, 2009

My husband and I are in our late 30’s and have traveled extensively over the last 10 years. Our stay at Sandals Whitehouse was the most disappointing and frustrating vacation experience we have ever had. Our research indicated that the Whitehouse is considered Sandals’ premiere resort and the website and reviews reflected 5 star quality. In reality, the accommodations, service, food and attitude of staff were unacceptable. When I booked the trip and researched the room options, I could not see the need to pay $1000 extra for a butler and concierge service, assuming this would be unnecessary at an all inclusive resort. We soon found out that if you don’t have the penthouse honeymoon suite with the butler & concierge, you have no room service, no beer or alcohol in the room and cannot get into the restaurants. The first night we waitied 1 ½ hours to get into Eleanors. In addition to service being excruciatingly slow and my entrée being inedible, they turned the lights out and shut down while we were finishing our meal. The second night we arrived at Jasmine’s at 8:00 and were told the wait was currently over 1 ½ hours and they close at 9:30 so we could not be placed on the waiting list. This was quite frustrating given that you are captive on the resort and have no eating options. Couples standing around us told us to “learn to play the game”…send your husband down 2 hours before you actually want to eat to get on the waiting list. I have no desire to “play the game” so I can eat a dinner I’ve already paid for while on vacation. I’m also not interested in walking a mile dressed up in the humidity to put my name on an 1 ½ hour long waiting list. Once in a restaurant it was clear why they could not accommodate all their guests. Staff was unattentive, incredibly slow and half the tables were left open (gross understaffing?). When we complained to the manager, he told us that couples with butler service were allowed to make reservations and we should expect and plan for a wait at the restaurants. He actually seemed to think this was acceptable. Although we have paid $4000 for 5 nights at this resort, we found ourselves at the bottom of a caste system, as if we were in the hull of the Titanic. We have traveled to Jamaica previously and found Jamaicans to be particularly friendly. The staff at this resort was completely rude, slow, and seemed put out when asked for service. I was starting to wonder if this was a result of taking guest complaints all week that they could not handle. They often seemed to be openly mocking guests or annoyed. We attempted to pay to upgrade our accommodations, but were told that the resort was completely full. My suspicion is that Sandals has cut their expenses (food quality and staffing) while conducting guerilla marketing to fill up the resort. The result is they are unable to service their guests appropriately. I’m not even going to get into why we had to move rooms three times (broken fan – they said it had been broken for 3 days and they determined it needed to be replaced, broken door lock, AC not working, view of pumphouse), but standard room is mediocre at best. We met our friends at the resort and we each requested on our reservations to be placed in rooms near each other. Not only were our rooms a great distance from the main pool, restaurants, etc, but they were far away from each other. When I inquired why our rooms were so far apart, the lady told me they did not receive the requests. When I indicated that I’m quite sure I know what we put on our own reservations and they clearly received the reservation since we were there, she did not apologize or attempt to fix it and simply indicated that the she is not responsible for what the reservation center does. Our friends waited in their room for 30 minutes for their luggage and were told it was on the way up when they called looking for it. I discovered my friends’ luggage sitting abandoned in the hallway as we were walking to our room.

After multiple complaints, the manager agreed to give us room service for breakfast and beer stocked in our fridge the remainder of the week. We filled out the room service ticket hanging on our door the first night requesting fruit, a muffin, English muffin, Raisin Bran and juice be delivered between 8:00 and 8:30. They called and woke me up at 8:00 to let me know they were out of Raisin Bran, then arrived at 9:30 with frosted flakes, and 2 bagels. The room service ticket never showed up again the rest of the week in spite of our follow up calls. The beer was not restocked the second day, so my husband called 5 times over 4 hours requesting it and was told each time it was already on its way up. Not surprisingly, the beer was not restocked the rest of the week either. When we moved from room #2 to room #3, I realized 2 hours later that we had left a charger plugged into the wall. We called the front desk and housekeeping a total of 7 times to attempt to retrieve it. Half the time we were told they checked and could not find it, the other times they said they were checking and would call us back, but never did. Finally on the 7th call to housekeeping they advised they were so glad that we called as they had located the charger and delivered it to the wrong room and no longer knew who it belonged to. All of these instances individually may seem petty, but almost every simple request required multiple follow ups and usually went unresolved. No one wants to spend hours of their vacation making phone calls to the front desk and strategizing how to get seated for a mediocre to substandard dinner. Most notably, with all this, no one ever apologized or seemed alarmed. Requests to the staff were usually met with a blank irritated stare, no response and walking off…sometimes this meant they were checking for you, other times you never saw them again. There was a complete lack of organization and no accountability for problems or errors. In summary, stuff was broken (ceiling fan, door lock, motorboat for “included” water activities), they ran out of it (orange juice at 9:00 a.m. at the breakfast buffet, rice, soap in almost every public restroom-which all smelled like sewers), or inaccessible (all chairs claimed at pool by 8:30 a.m. with towels– mostly by people’s butlers). I felt like a contestant on the Amazing Race, plotting around the clock to secure a pool chair, get a seat at dinner or make it to the grill before they close. By the end of the week, we found ourselves celebrating that someone actually refilled our drink at lunch within 10 minutes of requesting it and the grilled chicken sandwich was actually edible. Pretty sad for $4000. This was a miserable experience and I will never stay in a Sandals resort again.

  • Stayed: March 2009, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
9  Thank Atlanta7I
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed March 21, 2009

Travelled to Sandals Whitehouse March 7-14, 2009. We are a couple in our early fifties, no children, and have travelled extensively in the Caribbean over the past 20 years, including some luxury resorts such as Couples Swept Away in Negril and Secrets Excellence in Punta Cana.

For the money ($2,200/person CAD for the basic French building, ground floor), it's very good value when compared to others. Here are a few brief comments.

Room & grounds

Room was OK with traditional dark furniture and excellent housekeeping. Since the property is very wide, all rooms are very close to the pools and beach and have a nice view. Our ground floor balcony was 30 feet from the pool and 100 feet from the beach, very convenient ! If you stay around your building, you can go back and forth to your room in a flash. The grounds are impeccable, considering it's been opened for only a few years. Tennis courts are nice and don't need reservations, you just go on, turn on the lights and play!

Beach & pools

Wonderful fine white sand for 2 kilometers ! The area with the most shade and least weeds in the water is the French side. Never had trouble finding a chair in the shade. One very positive point is they don't make a hassle with beach towels like other places. They are readily available in a big bin by every pool, you can take as many as you need and no one keeps track.

We are not 'pool' people but you have a good choice. The Dutch one seems the quietest. The French one get a bit noisy in the afternoon with music, volleyball and some people getting drunk at the pool bar. The hot tub is very nice. There seems to be a lot of 'animation' at the big main pool. We prefer peace and quiet.

Restaurants

Excellent food everywhere, for all meals. You have to remember that they serve 'all you can eat' to hundreds of people, one cannot expect the quality of of a 5-star restaurant in Montreal or New York . This is probably the best food we've ever had in an all-inclusive resort. Once you're seated, service is generally excellent and swift. The only problem is this first come first served system, they make you feel almost like it's a favour to finally get you a table. However, I admit we waited for an hour only once, it varied from 10 to 30 minutes. With the service being so fancy, 8 or 10 pieces of cutlery per person, new tablecloth for every guest, it takes them forever to prepare tables for the next guests.

Smoking

We are both smokers and did not get the 'evil eye' form anyone once. At meals, you can smoke at the outside tables. Quick advice: grab an ash tray and carry it with you, it sometimes takes them a long time to find one.

Liked best: cleanliness, proximity of rooms to pools & beach, quality of food
Liked least: first come first seved system at dinner

Our favorite remains Couples Swept Away in Negril for the general quiet atmosphere, grounds layout and beach.

  • Stayed: March 2009, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
11  Thank Roadstariders
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed March 20, 2009

This is a short review initially and will be followed up with a longer more comprehensive review in a few weeks.
My wife and I are both senior professionals in our early 30's who live a very hectic at home and our holidays are extremely important to give some balance to our lives. We have travelled extensively and frequently stay at 5* resorts around the globe.
To this effect i cannot understand the negative reviews to this wonderful resort. All I can attribute this too is a simple lack of intelligence and the fact that some people just like to moan.
Let me get this straight:
There is not a 2 mile walk from the french resort to the Restaurants
During our stay the longest wait we heard of was 1 hour - and guess what - if you go on day 1 and you have an hour wait - then engage the greay matter and put your name down the next day an hour earlier - this really is not rocket science.
If you want to ber able to book your restaurant then pay extra and go concierge - Everyone is made aware of the set up prior to arriving - so if this matters to you PAY THE EXTRA - do not wait until you arrive and then spend the entire time complaining and kicking upa fuss- being rude to the staff - whilst this is amusing for the rst of us - it really is unnecessary. This point is especially pertinant to our cousins from across the pond - who harkon about capitalism but seem to actually prfer a communist environment where everyone is equal regardless of how much they have paid. To rectify this simply put your hands in your pocket before arriving or better still listen to the travel agent when she is explaining matters.
My wife and i thought the food was of anexcellent quality - especially at Elanoars and the asian restaurant - really top drawer. Portions were small,but you could order asmuch as you liked - so double up if there is not enough.
The beach is simply breath taking - beautiful - and this is an incredibly relaxing and romantic resort. I hadnoproblemgetting reservations each night as I paid for a consierge room - and I used to request a table by the entrance each night so I could enjoy the nightly entertainment of watching the brainless herd attempt to argue and rude their way into restaurants each night - this really was great fun.
People really should learn to chill out - You are paying for a holiday not the right to be rude to the staff

  • Stayed: February 2009, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
6  Thank tim_meg
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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