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Butler room in Sandals Grande Riviera Ocho Rios

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Hello all,
I am trying to book a honeymoon for late july for one of the Caribbean islands. I have never been before so I don’t have any preference on any island.
Because its our honeymoon and only going for one week I want luxury and relaxation (we will probably be a wash out from the wedding so I think we will just probably want to crash on a nice beach).
I got a quote for $CAD 5664 in total all inclusive for Sandals Grande Riviera Ocho Rios – while the description and pictures are all very impressive I am disappointed by the video of a review I seen on youtube – link below. The beach looks very small and the sand is not as white as you see in the website. I’m afraid if I book it and get there I will be disappointed. And I don’t want that when im spending all that money and it’s our honeymoon. HELP!

Sandals Grande Riviera Resort in Ocho Rios, Jamaica 2013
http://youtu.be/xT8-e5jNM60

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    Hi irisheyes190,

    The video you reference is completely, 100% accurate – perhaps a bit more flattering. What it shows and you probably won’t notice is that you have to climb steps to traverse between the Ochi side and the Riviera side (we had to have a massage the third day and we’re young, LOL - see your referenced video perhaps around 1:49ish , if that's not the exact spot it looks just like it). I found your post researching our booked second anniversary trip to Sandals Barbados (got married at Sandals La Toc, then first honeymoon at Sandals Grande Riviera and I was quite anxious before we arrived at our WeddingMoon so I feel compelled to respond and help in any way I can.)

    The resort is very nice and has excellent food and choices. However, as I told my friend who was recently planning a honeymoon at Sandals and knew we love Sandals, it’s all about personal preference. I have copious pictures of the resorts so please let me know if you would like to see anything in particular or have any specific questions and I will try to help. Here is the advice I told my friend regarding booking with Sandals – I hope it will be useful:

    Size of resort - check the size of the resort and match it to your tastes. I booked by the room I wanted in Jamaica - Romeo and Juliet Sanctuary – highest level on the resort with roman pool, outdoor shower and hot tub - and the room was AMAZING. However, it seemed like whatever you were looking for was on the other side of the courtyard in the other room which became vexing – the bedroom/bathroom is separated by the courtyard/pool/hot tub/outdoor shower area and the living room/kitchen area is on the other side.

    However, we weren’t happy with the resort size. It was WAY too big and we had to call our butlers to come get us every time we left the room. That involved a jitney to the butler level main lobby then a shuttle across a busy thoroughfare to the other two sites – one stop for the Ochi Beach Club then to the Riviera side lobby then back to the Manor side (butler village). Total time to the beach not too bad – maybe 5 minutes - 15 minutes if you have to wait - but it becomes tiresome after a while and my hubby got sick so it seemed worse. Teh room number can be important depending on the individual - La Toc (St. Lucia) was around 300 rooms but Grande Riviera (Jamaica) was over 500! Barbados will be 280 rooms. There were more restaurants at Grande Riviera as opposed to La Toc but we didn't make it to them all in 9 days (we did cancel 2 dinner reservations due to illness).

    Accommodations - the cool rooms that have personal plunge pools, and/or hot tubs and/or outdoor showers are located at the back of the resort ALWAYS in our experience. SO, if you want to walk out to the beach, that's NOT your room. We really enjoy the private pool but Barbados doesn't have that (and a lot of the other ones don't too), we had to do a swim up there. FYI - Sandals does NOT know how to scale back chlorine in the plunge pools and hot tubs so plan accordingly. It WILL bleach out your bikinis and/or your hair. Happened at both resorts... We actually started taking pics of our swimsuits before we went in the pool/hot tub, LOL!

    Concierge vs. Butler - not sure about regular rooms because we've always had a private pool so it's minimum concierge level for us so far (they call it club sandals). I would DEFINITELY recommend the concierge level - they make all your reservations for dinner and excursions (if you actually book through Land Routes (their excursion desk), which I don't recommend unless you have a credit for it and need to use it). Butler is, again, personal preference. Here's the breakdown:

    Pros for butler:
    • They will bring you surprises wherever you are on the resort including cocktails and snacks like curry shrimp that you can't get at any restaurant on the resort (but it includes a call from them checking on your whereabouts...*sigh*)
    • Daily towel art
    • Bubble baths with flower petals
    • Decorating the hot tub with flowers and candles
    • You have two butlers that split the time. They are from before you probably get up in the morning until 10 pm (same hours as concierge)
    • You get top shelf liquor (we had absolute vodka, blue sapphire gin, johnny walker black label, appleton rum, stoli vodka (if you have a butler room they will double stock a preferential spirit at no cost) and no matter what the room (concierge or butler) you get red and white Beringer wine (but you can ask to have only the color you like - we're red peeps).

    Cons for butlers:
    • They keep tabs on you ALL the time – when you leave the villa, they give you the third degree on where you’re going. I know they want to know this so they can surprise you but it’s quite annoying..
    • Another reason is so they can schedule housekeeping when you’re out. But that also means that the housekeeper doesn't know who you are. In Jamaica, the housekeeper was upset that she didn't actually see us though we tipped her daily (NOT allowed by Sandals but you get WAY better services if you tip them – they replenished all our soaps, gels, lotions and towels at least twice a day).
    • You have to keep up with an old school phone for your butler to keep up with you. I still hear that ring to this day….

    SO, pick what fits your personal preferences! :) For us, Grande Riviera had its pluses but wasn't a great fit. HOWEVER, I have talked to others that live in FL that LOVE the butler area and don't care about quick access to the beach – they said they spend their time on the Manor side and just go to dinner on the Riviera side. But to be honest, FOR US, we were a bit disappointed in Grande Riviera after La Toc. Again, personal preference... However, if you do choose Grande Riviera I would advise a private transfer from the airport (we used Liberty Tours - $100 in 2014) and if you want a truly Jamaican experience hire Marvyn (marvyngayle@yahoo.com) to take you on a personal tour – prices depending on where you go. He took us to Blue Hole (Sandals doesn't book there – the absolutely BEST Jamaican experience we had – see my TripAdvisor review – arienne123) plus Dunn’s River, Scotchie’s (BEST JERK EVER) and shopping. He’s very reasonable and trustworthy. Also, Good Hope is a great adventure from Island Routes with a multitude of activities – ranging from zip lining to ATVs to historical sites.

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    Wow, thanks Adrienne for your detailed response, its very much appreciated :-) I have decided not to go with that resort. It just does not appeal to me anymore. However I am now looking at sandals Whitehouse in Jamaica – quoted $5400 or royal Bahamian in Bahamas – quoted $7000. I love the idea of the private island at the royal Bahamian but why is it soooo expensive?!! I mean, its only a week’s holidays. I have been quoted 3k less for another 5* resort in the Bahamas, I think it was breezes. Is sandals really that worth it? Im just so confused! :-(

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    Sandals is over-priced and doesn't deliver as they once did. The private island at the Royal Bahamian isn't entirely private - it's a private half of an island with a cruise ship owning the other half-separated by a rope. Sandals Whitehouse is a 2hr drive south of the airport - each way.

    There are many other resorts that offer as much as or more at a more affordable price. Plus the quality is superior. I've been to all the Sandals resorts and lots of other non-Sandals resorts. I'll stay in a non-Sandals resort every time. I really like the Couples resorts and they include some tours & excursions that save you several hundred dollars. Secrets Wild Orchid in Montego Bay was a huge surprise - I really liked it.

    Scotchie's in Ocho Rios is better than in Montego Bay. But I never drive by either one :) Happy to answer any questions you have.

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    The majority of the food we ate was amazing. The drinks were good, but most of the time they were not very strong.

    Our butlers, Ronald and Shanna, were wonderful. They exceeded our expectations. Sandals deceived me. In the FAQ section of your website part of the answer to the question "what is included?" is tips. The question "how much cash should I carry?" states "Since everything is included and tipping is simply not allowed, you will not need any cash while on property." One of the first things shown to us when we got to our room was a letter from Stephen Husbands the hotel manager stating "We recognize that this level of personalized service may result in your desire to provide the Butlers with a tip. With this in mind, we have relaxed our no tipping policy for our Butlers..." Sandals should be up front with this and include this information in the FAQ section. I looked on tripadvisor and found discussions about this topic going back to 2009. Sandals should be up front about this. You tell me one thing on your website, then something completely different when I get to the resort. I feel like Sandals is being sneaky on this. I will share this information with travel websites so other people don't find out about your real tipping policy the hard way.

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