In October of 2011 I went to Jamaica for a travel agent conference. This was my first visit to Jamaica and my first time to stay at a Sandals Resort. Sandals is couples-only resort chain in the Caribbean. Technically they do allow none couples for events like destination weddings, meeting and incentive travel. I stayed as Sandals Grande Riviera in Ocho Rios. It had just undergone a multi-million dollar renovation. Ocho Rios is about 1 ½ hours from the Montego Bay airport, but it’s a beautiful drive down the coast. Grand Riviera is a very large resort. It is separated into two different sections, the Riviera side and the Villa side. One is located on the beach and the other on a hillside, separated by a busy road. There are shuttles that go around the resort and if you are lucky enough to have a butler he will pick you up in golf cart and take you anywhere on the resort.
The resort has 6 pools, 15 restaurants and too many bars to count. In addition to the 6 public pools the villa side boasts 93 villas each with it’s own pool! The villas range from totally private to shared with up to 3 other couples. All of the villas include butler service. Before arriving at Sandals Grande Riviera I had heard about the butlers and had clients with butlers but I had never really seen what they do. They are really there for your every need. You are given a cell phone and you can call them at any time. Generally they work in teams of two. They know your names, they know your favorite drink and anticipate your needs. Many loyal Sandals guests request the same butler every time they visit.
Some of the advantages of staying in a butler category room include a fully stocked in room bar, your butler will reserve loungers at the pool or beach so you don’t have to wake early to get a good seat. Your butler will bring you meals from any restaurant to wherever you want-your room, the beach, by the pool. Your butler will help you pack and unpack. Your butler will make reservations for your at the restaurants. They will fix you an ice chest with your favorite drinks to take to the beach or pool. Having a butler is a really special way to celebrate your honeymoon, destination wedding, vow renewal, anniversary and birthday or to just indulge yourself.
So, back to the resort, the rooms vary depending on room category. I stayed in a Luxury Garden Cottage, and it was fantastic. The view was of the gardens and the interior was very nice. This resort has so many room categories it can be very confusing, you definitely need a travel agent to help sort them out. Sandals includes some motorized water sports depending on the resort. This resort includes kayaks, windsurfing, sail boats, snorkeling and scuba diving. If you already a diver you can dive two tanks a day. They have their own Newton dive boats. If you are not certified they have classes.
Sandals offers free golf including transportation to their golf course, caddies are mandatory and not included. The restaurant at the golf club is included. Golf lessons are available for a fee. This would be the perfect resort for a group of golfers, if the wives don’t golf they can hit the spa or beach.
The resort has lots of little romantic nooks and fire pits at night time. Some of the pools have entertainment during the day, I played a drinking game at one of the swim-up bars. The night life is hit or miss. My favorite restaurant was the Teppanyaki, it’s show cooking and requires a reservation. I hit up the brick oven pizza place every day for an afternoon snack. The beach is fairly long, some parts are rocky.
Overall I really liked this resort and I can’t wait to go back with by hubby. I would definitely recommend it to my clients as long as they know that it is a very large resort.
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