Sandals Deal or Not?

Old Mar 18th, 2003, 08:53 AM
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Sandals Deal or Not?

Help Please!
My fiance' and i are trying to figure out if we are getting a good price on our package and if it's really worth it to do the sandals thing. i hear very mixed reviews. We have never been to jamaica or sandals.

We will be splitting our trip between Sandals Ocho Rios and Sandals Negril
June 28th - July 6th (Sat- Sun)
$3,900
Premium/ luxury room

Are there any travel tips or deals anyone can point out? Is there any cool places to go off the resort that are walking distance? Can you swim with dolphins in Jamaica?
Some things we are interested in doing are snorkeling, diving, sightseeing, and culture(little towns).

We will be getting married there as well. Thanks for any help you could give us.

Cord and Dedra
cord is offline  
Old Mar 18th, 2003, 10:14 AM
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First of all, congrats!

But before you go any further, you should know that Sandals and other AI resorts are a sticky topic on this board. Many of us love them. Many of us wouldn't stay there if they paid us to. Before you decide on a Sandals package, you should both make a checklist of the 3-4 most important things each of you is looking for on a honeymoon. (Beach, food, nightlife, personal attention and service, culture, activities and sports, to name a few)

I've not checked prices on Sandals packages lately, but $3900 seems like a decent enough price compared to their rack rates.

Before I start into a list of things you should consider, you should know that I am one of the anti-Sandals people and that my opinion will reflect that.

Sandals or other AI vacations can be ideal for some folks, but you should go into them not expecting what you see in the brochures. (Of course, that applies to just about any establishment). Food selection tends to be very limited and repetitive at Sandals, with a lot of buffets being offered for all three meals of the day. However, since the price of all of your meals is included in your package, you won't have to worry about your day-to-day spending on food allowances. And if having gourmet meals is a low priority, then the food quality at Sandals is not an issue.

Activities: If you're dreaming of snokeling, waterskiing, scuba every day, you may be disappointed, as their watersports equipment is not as extensive as the brochures lead one to believe, and the few pieces of equipment might be reserved by other guests before you even get there. Or the skiboat may be being repaired. Or whatnot.

However, if you want to do a good bit of relaxing and lying on the beach or around the pool in between periods of activity, these frustrations might not apply to you.

When Sandals is busy, it can feel as if you're merely a number, not a name. They can churn out half a dozen weddings on a busy day. However, you're going in the offseason and most likely won't have to deal with an assembly-line ceremony. And there are lots of couples who have married, particularly around sunset at the Negril Sandals, who said it was a truly unforgettable moment.

So you see, it's all a matter of personal preference. I tend to like smaller resorts with staff who are interested in making a vacation a more personal and memorable. And while that scenario isn't unheard of at a Sandals, it's more unlikely. In my opinion, there are so many more interesting, intimate, and unique resorts and hotels that offer real local flavor and color in the same price range as a Sandals vacation, that I would not choose to stay in one.

Whichever place you decide to stay, I really would ask you to reconsider a dolphin swim. Keeping dolphins in captivity in the way that many "dolphin encounters" are set up is a cruel punishment for these beautiful, intelligent creatures. There are lots of other more-informed postings on this subject who can give you more facts about it than I can. PLEASE reconsider this activity. There are tons of other terrific things to do around Negril and elsewhere in Jamaica. It's a wonderful place to honeymoon. Have a great time!
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Old Mar 18th, 2003, 10:27 AM
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A big DITTO for everything ejcrowe pointed out.
(Especially the dolphin swim part.)
You got some very good advice, and I am sure you will get more.
I'm not a Sandals (or ANY AI for that matter) fan.
There are sooo many wonderful places to stay.
Look into Cap Juluca on Anguilla, Four Seasons Nevis, Le Toiny on St. Barts, Round Hill on Jamaica, Maroma or Paraiso in the Mexican Caribbean.
You can go top of the line in the off-season for what you are looking at spending at Sandals.
Congrats!
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Old Mar 18th, 2003, 11:06 AM
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Hi, does the price you have include your air and from where? I think that the Sandal resorts are pretty cool. Just because you do and all-inlcusive doesn't mean you can't leave the property and go to other places. we stay at all-incluives quite often just for the convenience of breakfast and drinks. we go out to dinner some evenings. Sandals are very nice for weddings as well. they have been doing it for a number of years now and they do a preety good job. I just had clients return from sandals inn and they were married there and said everything was just beautiful. Friends who attended the weeding liked it so much they are going back!

You will have a wonderful time and a beautiful wedding!
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Old Mar 18th, 2003, 11:38 AM
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i wholeheartedly agree with everything ejcrowe said. it really depends on how you vacation and where you are used to vacationing.

if you typically stay at 4 or 5 star facilities, you may want to look elsewhere. shop around as well, i think that can really open your eyes. pick another place that you might want to stay and put together a hypothetical budget at the alternate for the week and see if sandals is still worth it. for example, i've stayed at a few other properties in jamaica before, as well as sandals negril and have somtimes left spending less at the non-ai than at sandals.

we stayed at the ritz carlton rose hall one year on an internet rate and ended up spending quite a bit less for the entire trip than our stay at the sandals negril the previous year, plus we had a higher quality experience overall.

good luck!
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Old Mar 23rd, 2003, 04:00 PM
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We stayed at Sandal's Negril in 10/01. I am a pro-Sandals person, but do agree with the above points. Sandals is not within walking distance to anything - the resort is off a major road. There are opportunities to get out and visit, just make sure you have the extra $$ to pay for cab rides, etc. We found plenty of water-activities to do, and yes, you may have to beat the crowd some days - by the second day we had a routine down w/ no waiting. You're smart to get a lux room w/ room service -- breakfast on your porch is a must. I thought the food was pretty good. There are a lot of buffets for breakfast & lunch, but NOT dinner. You'll be having breakfast in bed, and why miss the awesome Jerk Chicken at the beach bar at lunch? Then you just dress up for dinner. We felt very safe on the resort, and had a great time - mornings on the beach, afternoons in the water. If you are a pool person, beware, as the pool is small. But it has a very long beach vs. other resorts, w/ plenty of swimming areas. (I still don't understand why people visit the Caribbean w/ aqua blue oceans to swim in a pool.)

FYI - although the 2 resorts might look close on a map, they are about 3 hours apart, due to poorly constructed roads, so plan on losing a day due to check-out, travel, check-in, etc. Why split it up??

Oh - the $3900 is a good price in my book, just make sure you take advantage of all that's offered (24hr room service, the bar in your room, concierge service, etc) to make it worth it. You may not get very personalized service, however my husband and I wanted to blend into the background and not deal w/ any other people!!!

Good luck!!!
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Old Mar 23rd, 2003, 06:48 PM
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We were married at a Sandals resort last year and really enjoyed it. After reading mixed reviews and being worried, once we were down there we enjoyed every minute and plan on returning.
We paid about $5,000 for 7 nights including airfare. I couldn't imagine paying regular price to stay there, but with the discount they were/are offering, it was worth it. We went in October which was the off season, but the manager told us they were 80% full. We never had any problems using watersports equipment whenever we wanted, along with skiing. Breakfast and lunch were buffet style, while Breakfast was pretty much the same everyday and lunch varied a little. Dinner was always good, although not spectacular. We never had a problem with the service and the staff did a wonderful job with the wedding ceremony. We were married on Saturday and there was one other couple married that day. We didn't have a "conveyor belt" experience.
We really enjoyed the experience and couldn't have imagined a better honeymoon (well maybe, but for a pretty penny!). We chose the resort in Antigua and enjoyed the island and the locals were friendly. I, personally, would not stay in one of the Sandals resorts in Jamaica only because it seems they are older and may be a bit run down (from reading reports). If in Jamaica, I would choose Couples I have heard wonderful things about the resorts.
Congratulations and remember that your honeymoon/wedding/vacation is all what you make it. If you go expecting the worst, it can turn out that way. Enjoy!
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