My husband and I stayed at Sandals Antigua for a week in March, 2007. We had reservations after a negative experience at Sandals Negril (terrible food) but were pleasantly surprised. The stay was not without its problems, though.
We booked a Honeymoon Oceanview Suite, and had booked many months in advance. Our arrival seemed a bit confused -- although we had been given Butler and SSG tags at the airport, there seemed to be an identity problem. They initially confused us with another couple. Then someone who didn't introduce himself took us to our room -- it turned out he was one of our butlers. We were given a ground floor room, although I had called to request an upper floor room. The butler said the resort was full, but thne 1/2 hour later another couple checked into the room we wanted! I had asked months in advance. Things got better after that, though.
Grounds: This resort is nice and spread out, with a wide selection of pools and private places in the garden to sit. It is what we hoped Sandals Negril would be. The grounds are lovely. The beach is public, with vendors (except a small strip owned by Sandals). These people are very poor so it's not a bad idea to buy something.
Rooms: Our Honeymoon Oceanview suite was not as private as we had hoped, being on the ground floor, but it was right on the beach (not all of them are) and it was nice to be able to walk right out. The beachfront Rondavals are not private at all, with a walkway very close in front, but they are as near to the beach as you can get. (They're also smaller than our room was.) Of note, the large Mediterranean Village was under constrution but not open. Our room (711) was fairly tranquil and isolated, being at the end of the resort, won't be once the new addition opens and people are going between the 2 sides. It will be right in the middle of the 2 resorts. Similarly,some of the rondavals with plunge pools will lose privacy due to people in the towering new addition being able to see into your little "compound". Just a thought for nude sunbathers.
There are many room options, and some of the gardenview rooms and suites looked nice, with attractive settings.
Food: The food was better here than at Sandals Negril, less oily and more flavourful. We are vegetarians and found more selection here, with less fuss -- even at the OK Corrall, to our surprise. Even the buffets were better. The only disappointment was the Signature Guest dinner. We stayed because we liked the company but the "specially prepared" food was a joke and an insult. Overall, though, food was good. Obviosly carnivores will get better value for money and more selection.
Pool: Wide variety, from noisy ones with swim-up bar to more tranquil and secluded. We didn't actually use them much.
Staff/Butlers: This is the only Sandals where tipping butlers is specifically forbidden. This Sandals is unionized, so everyone gets 2 days off per week -- good for them. Perhaps because of the no-tipping policy, butler service here is more low-key, less in-your-face, than at Negril. Having a butler is the only was to get room service at this resort. By the way, tipping is allowed and expected for drivers and porters at the airport as they don't work for Sandals directly, and for spa staff. We didn't feel pressure to tip here.
Spa: My husband had a massage in one of the tents scattered around the grounds. It was very nice and worth the money.
Diving: Bit mixed. The water is very choppy and at least a couple of people got seasick during our stay, including one experienced diver. You may have to look after your own safety. We took Advanced certification and weren't too sure about our instructor. Once she saw my husband was low on air and, instead of ending the dive as per protocol, she continued by sharing air with him. Another time she didn't end the dive when he signalled, he ran COMPLETELY out of air -- when he broke the surface he was sucking against a vacuum. I was horrified. They also let us dive twice before checking our certification! It wasn't all bad, but do beware. Lizzie (not our instructor) is very conscientious and safety-minded so if you're doing any certification or just need help, try to get her. That all said, there were some fascinating dive sites. Equipment was fine.
Excursions: didn't take any, but we did visit St. John's to go to a restaurant. Not a whole lot to see unless you want to shop.
Internet: There's a very small room with 2 computers. You pay by the minute. It's not too expensive. However, if you bring your own laptop you still have to pay by the minute (not fixed daily rate like some hotels, or free internet like others). It actually works out a bit more expensive to use your own computer!
Ambience: Very nice. We didn't hear any construction noise from the new addition, despite being right at the edge of the property. There was a very large group from an investment firm, and that wasn't a problem either. One night they had a private dinner but there were lots of places to eat. I was suprised about a beer-drinking contest -- thought Sandals was above that kind of childishness -- but of course the place is big enough it's not intrusive. The whole place is very attractive, from the open-air lobby to the grounds, restaurants and rooms.
Leaving: We had a 6:30 am flight to Dominica, and Sandals insisted we leave at 3:30 am to be at the airport by 4:30 am. It's only a 20-min drive, and for interisland flights there's no need to show up that early. The desk wasn't even supposed to open before 6! We spent 2 1/2 hours waiting at the airport in the middle of the night when we could have been sleeping -- not exactly happy.
Overall we liked this resort and will be returning next February, but it will probably be our last trip. Sandals is decent value for us as the diving is included, but we like the option of room service at breakfast and of course you have to pay a lot more.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- •A European Hotel in the Six-Star, all-suite Mediterranean Village •Exotic Rondoval with private plunge pool and butler service •1,400 square foot Mediterranean villa with private plunge pool and butler service•Houses the East Caribbean's largest pool (1 of 6) •Offers 9 dining options and 8 bars including an English pub •Voted "World's Most Romantic Resort" 14 years in a row ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Sandals Grande Antigua Resort And Spa
- Sandals Grande Antigua Hotel St. John`s
- Sandals Antigua
- Hotel Sandals Grande Antigua
- Sandals Grand Antigua
- Antigua Sandals
- Sandals Grande Antigua Resort & Spa Saint John Parish