Sandals Antigua - Convince me I want to go

Jan 8th, 2010, 07:45 PM
  #1  
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Sandals Antigua - Convince me I want to go

Please help, I have tons of questions about SAT so this is going to be a long post, but I know many of you know the answers. I may as well admit that we need to be convinced that we would like SAT. We might want to go for the first week of March, but some of the things I’ve read on forums make me think we won’t like SAT as well as Beaches T&C. Let me first add these comments…..We have been to Beaches T&C 6 times and really love the place (hubby & I go alone, we’re in our 50s). The last 5 times we were upgraded to a concierge suite where the living room and huge bedroom are 2 totally separate rooms with 2 TVs, and the amenities are all the things that come with a sweet suite. Someone comes in everyday to stock the bar & fridge just the way we want. Yes, we are SSG Members. We are already booked for Beaches again in May.

If we go to SAT in March we’d like to stay in an MV suite. Nothing in the description of these suites on Sandals website makes me think they have a separate living room, so I’m not sure why they call these MV rooms suites. Am I missing something?
Is it a long walk to the beach from MV?
Is there a coffee pot in the MV suites? It’s not mentioned on Sandals website, but I gotta have my coffee before I leave the room.
Is Bayside the only dinner buffet restaurant? Believe it or not, we prefer them because they are quicker than table service. Besides, I’ve heard horror stories about dinner reservations.
Is Mario’s a buffet at breakfast?
Where on the resort is the Chocolate Buffet located? Sure don’t want to miss that.
Does anyone know how warm the water is in early March? I know the average ocean temp in Antigua is 80. We are avid snorkelers, so water temp is important to us.
Is there much to see while snorkeling in front of Sandals?
Also, is the water in the pools warm in early March?
Are those awful jet skis buzzing around in front of the resort that would make it dangerous for us to snorkel?
Do you get hounded by annoying peddlers walking along the beach?
Is it very windy in Antigua in March? I know wind makes the water cold and rough.

Sorry for the long list of questions, but we really don’t want to waste our hard earned money if SAT doesn’t compare to what we’re used to at Beaches. I fear we’re going to be a hard sell. Please give me your honest, un-sugar coated answers.
LUVvacation is offline  
Jan 9th, 2010, 04:59 AM
  #2  
 
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I have been twice and would not go back - the second trip was a make up trip as the first was filled with problems at the resort. For my money, I would rather stay at Galley Bay.

You will get many more responses if you post this on tripadvisor.com in the Antigua forum as it is much more active over there.

I love Antigua but personally I think Sandals has gotten too expensive for what they offer and I also do not care for the butler vs non butler caste system.
kfusto is offline  
Jan 9th, 2010, 05:29 AM
  #3  
KVR
 
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I agree with Kfusto, though have not stayed at Sandals in Antigua, but have stayed at 2 of their other properties. When we finally get to Antigua, I would chose Galley Bay also.
KVR is offline  
Jan 9th, 2010, 08:55 AM
  #4  
 
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Sandals Antigua is located on a very nice beach. Many boat trips go from Dickenson Bay and there are several other resorts there as well so there will probably be jet skis and other activities, it is not as peaceful as a Sandals that has its own beach. I agree with previous posters about Galley Bay (our favorite Caribbean resort and we've been to quite a few) and also that Sandals always seems very expensive to me. I checked out the new Sandals Emerald Bay online because we always wanted to go there when it was a Four Seasons and even with what they advertise as a 50% off sale it was still about $700 a night for the lowest category room, that just seems too high to me for a Sandals. You might get more specific answers about the amenities etc. from the Sandals board -- I don't think you will find a lot of Sandals "boosters" on this board. If you do want to take a look at Galley Bay, don't be put off by the rack rates, they are having a sale. At the sale price, it's well worth it, in my opinion. Oh yes, one more question I can answer, we've been to Antigua in early March and found the water plenty warm for snorkeling (and I am a big baby about cold water!). Two great catamaran trips we have taken is Eli's Eco-Tour and Wadadli Cats circumnavigation, both pick up right at Dickenson Bay.
eileen is offline  
Jan 9th, 2010, 01:32 PM
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First off, this forum has very few Sandals fans. Something that you do need to keep in mind. Like you, we are SSG members and have been to Sandals 6 times. My husband loves them, I like them, but I prefer a non A/I. We have been to Sandals Antigua a couple of times - most recently in March/April 2009. We were in a one bedroom honeymoon penthouse suite this last time in the MV and did have a living room. Your best bet is to call Unique Vacations and just ask them what the room category you want has. Ditto about the coffemaker. Again, we had one in our room.
The walk to the beach is not a long one.
Bayside is the only buffet at dinner. However, we never heard one person ever complain about dinner reservations. We walked in to Eleanor's one night (our second time that week) and that time we had a 4 minute wait. This was without reservations.
Mario's is a buffet at breakfast. Lots of honeydew melon and other fruits, your choice of eggs or omelets, variety of breads, muffins, pastries, variety of juices - usual Sandals fare.
I never made it to the chocolate buffett. I didn't think it was appropriate to come down in my bathrobe. LOL!
The water temp was warm enough to snorkel in when we were there. I personally would like to extend my snorkeling further out in the water, but I've been spoiled as I've snorkeled in Bora Bora.
The pool was warm, BIG, and has a nice swim-up bar. It also has a HUGE hot tub.
We saw very few jet ski's. Surprisingly, for such a beautiful area, it was rather quiet.
We saw one vendor on the carib side who had some jewlery he had made. He politely stood there and sometimes greeted people, but my husbnad bought me a necklace and we approached him to show us what he had. Not pushy AT ALL!
There was no wind to speak of. So, a non-issue.
We had only one issue while there. Staff does watch to make sure that people don't put down towels at 10 am and go to town, but leave the towels in case they want to be at the pool when they return. We had chairs in a prime location and went for pizza. It does take one hour for the pizza. (Order early and go back and pick it up if that's too long. The pizza is the best we've ever had, and people order it to take back to their rooms for later.) Anyway, so we were there, ordered, waited our hour, talked to other people and ate at our leisure. When we returned, someone was in our seats. I did talk to the management about it and they comped us with a cabana the following day - along with someone that waited us hand and foot - totally unnecessary!
We also looked at Galley Bay, as they are managed by the same company as Palm Island in the Grenadines, thus, we are allowed special pricing there as well. We still chose Sandals. That says something.
Knowing is offline  
Jan 9th, 2010, 06:10 PM
  #6  
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Thanks so much to all of you that responded to my list of questions. If there is anything particular that you'd like to say about Galley Bay I'd be more than happy to hear it. I will look at their website. I suppose most of the questions that I had about SAT would still be applicable to Galley Bay. I also will check out the trip advisor website for Sandals comments. THANKS!!
LUVvacation is offline  
Jan 10th, 2010, 03:56 AM
  #7  
 
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<>

To me it says you are Sandals fans - but nothing more than that.

Galley Bay is the antithesis of Sandals and a very different experience.

Different strokes...
kfusto is offline  
Jan 10th, 2010, 08:56 AM
  #8  
 
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LUVvacation (love your screen name) -- For 11 annual trips to the Caribbean husband and I had never repeated a resort -- until we went to GB in 2008 and HAD to return in 2009 (also found a great sale which certainly helped) When I see the very occasional poor review of GB, I think, "those people did not do their research." If you read the reviews and boards and look at the photos, you can tell what you are getting. So I will just say, if you must have any of the following -- GB is NOT for you - glitz, constant activity, being surrounded by lots of people, room service, drink service on the beach (none of the bars are that far away and there are mini-bars in every room), a huge pool with water slides and or swim-up bar, hot tubs (although there are jacuzzi tubs in the premium suites) closed-in air-conditioned restaurants, chocolate buffets, entertainment other than live Caribbean music in the evening. If you APPRECIATE - good service, good food with no buffets, peace and quiet, gorgeous beach, very tropical, lush, flower-filled grounds, lots of space, wonderful rooms where you walk-out to the beach, and a great "upscale rustic" open-air experience that is pure indulgence and relaxation, then it's for you. Oh yes, and the best rum punches ever!
eileen is offline  
Jan 10th, 2010, 05:41 PM
  #9  
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To all those that suggested Galley Bay, I just looked at their website. I must say, it seems even more pricey than Sandals. I was looking at the Premium Beachfront Suites at GB. The only sale I saw on the website was for travel during January (I'm looking at early March). The possibility of going to GB brings me to asking even more questions.
How long is the ride from the airport? I see transfers are not part of the AI.
Do all the Premium Beachfront Suites have an ocean view, or do half of them face a garden? If I'm paying that kind of money I want a nice view of the ocean from an upper level floor.
Is the water an GB calm enough for good snorkeling, and is there anything of interest to see in the water in front of the resort?
My husband is very found of snacking, and we are both big eaters, so are there places to get snacks between meals (pizza, dogs, burgers, fruit, salad, etc.)?
As I mentioned in my initial post, we really prefer buffets because they are quick (we hate long drawn out meals)and you don't walk away from the table hungry. We've found table service at resorts are usually "island time" affairs, and that would drive hubby crazy. Plus, do you get enough to eat ala carte?
Are there annoying jet skis to contend with? They make snorkeling a dangerous venture.
Are there annoying beach peddlers?
Will the swimming pool be warm in March? Since there is only one pool, is it usually crowded?
Is the beach crowded with non-resort visitors (my understanding is all Antigua beaches are public)?
We don't need any glitz, in fact we'd prefer casual everything. We don't need lots of entertainment. We love to snorkel for entertainment, then crash for the night after a decent and adequately plentiful meal.
Is tipping necessary and/or expected to get good service from the staff at GB? This would only add to the already seemingly high price. The website says nothing about a no tipping policy.
We don't drink so bars are really of no consequence to us, except for being able to get sodas and virgin drinks as part of AI.
I know we pay a premium for AI as non-drinkers, but we really like the idea of having everything paid for up front, with no surprises on where to find a restaurant in a strange place, and not having any idea how much it might cost.
Please, anyone with answers or comments, let me know everything you can think of about GB. Their website is really lacking in information, or they don't offer things that I think an AI resort should offer. Hope it's just a website that needs a good over-haul.
LUVvacation is offline  
Jan 11th, 2010, 03:29 AM
  #10  
 
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Sounds like Grand Pineapple would be a good choice for your needs.
kfusto is offline  
Jan 11th, 2010, 04:50 AM
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To get the really good sales, you have to hit the "contact" button and an Elite Island sales agent will email you. There's no way they are charging rack rates these days -- you can expect to get at least 25 - 30% off, if not more. I' will try to quickly answer a few questions. Tipping -- in two visits, I have never seen anyone tip at the bar or meals. We do usually leave $5 a day for the maid because they do such a good job. You can get any kind of virgin drinks you like, sodas, etc. and you can have the first complete stocking of your mini-bar complimentary. If you want soda instead of beer in the mini-bar, just tell them. The beach is usually pretty much empty, it does not attract many day visitors. All beaches on Antigua are public, but since the resort encompasses the entire beach, you have the occasional guest from the villas on the cliff above, but that's it. There are a few beach vendors who make the trek, but they are kind and not bothersome and a simple "no thank you" suffices. I have never seen more than two people in the pool at once, the Gauguin cottages have their own plunge pools and the rest of the rooms are beachfront so people don't tend to hang out at the pool all day. Never saw any jet skis. GB is about 30 minutes from the airport. All the premium beachfront suites have ocean views. I like the upper ones because I think the view is better, but if you get a lower you can walk right from your patio onto the beach, many people like that option. You can request which you prefer when you reserve. The ocean in front of GB can be rough some days, calm others, depends on the wind. The snorkeling there is not great, we took two great snorkeling trips instead. If you like to constantly snack, GB may not be for you. It does operate on a three meals a day, plus high tea concept and so there are a few hours each day when food is not available. So if you like just running in quickly and grabbing food at a buffet, you may not like GB. You will never go hungry, though, you can order all you want a la carte and I have even taken sandwiches/snacks back to my room from the restaurant so my golfing husband could eat when he returned. There is a cold buffet at breakfast, but basically everything else is order off the menu except for the Thursday night Caribbean buffet which is a huge buffet with cook to order meat, seafood, etc. One time in the approx. 40 meals I have had at GB, the service was a bit slow, That's it. But I hear you on sometimes not wanting to order off the menu -- I do wish there was a buffet option at lunch. I think you would love everything else about GB but I think the meals may be an issue for you.
eileen is offline  
Jan 11th, 2010, 04:28 PM
  #12  
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Thanks again to all who responded. Special thanks to Eileen, you hit the mark with your answers, I believe you told me everything I wanted to know. It worries me a little that I've read a lot of posts that say the water is rough at GB. Since we spend a good portion of the day with our faces down in the water snorkeling that keeps me from thinking GB is the place for us. Most of the other comments you addressed seemed fine, however. I just might check out the Elite site for discount prices.
LUVvacation is offline  
Jan 12th, 2010, 04:21 AM
  #13  
 
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Hi, glad I could help. I'm going to make one more suggestion you might consider. It's a lot of $ to spend and make a mistake choosing a resort. The first year we went to GB, 8 nights there was beyond our budget. So we split our time, went someplace much less expensive for 3 nights, then went to GB for 5 nights. Some people don't like the hassle of changing resorts, but if it's too expensive or we can't decide, we often start out trying two. The place we paired with GB was called The Verandah, another AI operated by Elite Island resorts, it was brand new in 2008. The water there was much better for snorkeling because both beaches are coves. It was also a bargain at a very good quality. Or maybe pair GB with Sandals? Just a thought. I wouldn't want you to go to GB and hate it after all my recommendations. As I said, it's not for everyone and as someone else said, the opposite of Sandals in many ways. The trick with splitting the time between resorts is to always choose the better resort as the last part of the trip!
eileen is offline  
Jan 12th, 2010, 05:55 PM
  #14  
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Hi Eileen, Thanks again for your suggestion. The thought of uprooting half way thru vacation doesn't sound like something we'd be willing to do. Today I finally got the chance to speak to someone I personally know that went to Sandals Antigua (I also got the chance to talk to his wife). I was able to "pick their brains" on the pros and cons of Sandals, and they didn't tell me anything that would make me stay away from Sandals. In fact, the wife told me that she'd go back if she got the chance. The negatives that he commented on where 2 things that I've read over & over on message boards. They were that dinner reservations are difficult to make, so they didn't get to try as many restaurants as they'd like to; and he said that the staff there really didn't seem friendly. I suppose I can live with both of those issues (as long as the people aren't down right mean to me); I will smile and be pleasant to them, and they can return a smile if they want to. I realize people don't have to be happy that I'm on vacation and they have to work (however I suppose they should be thankful for tourists). As far as the restaurant reservations go, hubby would rather eat at the buffet anyway, so that shouldn't be an issue either. So, it looks like we've made up our minds to go to SAT if we go to any island in March. I do truly appreciate the comments that everyone has made.
LUVvacation is offline  
Jan 13th, 2010, 03:33 AM
  #15  
 
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Have a great vacation! If you enjoy catamaran trips, check out Eli's Eco-Tour or Wadadli Cats (we did the circumnavigation of the island which was great), both pick up right at Dickenson Bay.
eileen is offline  
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