Excitement was in the air as we met our lucky group of fellow travel agents at London Heathrow, which quickly escalated into hysteria when we were told we were going to be flying to Nassau in British Airway’s Club World Business Class Cabin. The perfect way to kick-off a truly luxury-inclusive holiday.
As we settled into our Club World surroundings, experimenting with the lie-flat bed and enjoying a welcoming glass of champagne, we discussed the itinerary ahead of us for the next 4 days as we experienced Sandals two resorts on the Bahamas; Sandals Royal Bahamian and Sandals Emerald Bay.
If you aren’t already familiar with the Sandals brand, they are the leaders in super-all-inclusive luxury Caribbean holidays, boasting over 16 properties in 7 countries including Antigua, The Bahamas, Grenada, Barbados, Jamaica, Saint Lucia and Turks and Caicos; all with stunning surroundings, 5-star service and incredible facilities and inclusions. Sandals is a firm favourite with our clients and has an excellent reputation amongst travel professionals, so I couldn’t wait to finally experience a Sandals resort for myself.
Landing in Nassau incredibly fresh (thank you BA!) at around 2pm local time, we made our way to the dedicated Sandals customer lounge at Nassau Airport, and our luggage was loaded into our awaiting transfer. A swift 10 minutes later we were being welcomed into the stunning resort foyer with refreshingly cool towels and a delicious signature welcome cocktail. The resort’s sophisticated European styling runs throughout the décor, with Greek-style pillars and sculptures accenting the pools and pathways.
We were shown to our Club Level Suites in the Windsor Tower, which each featured a large ocean-view balcony, four poster bed, and a fully stocked in-room bar with full sized spirits and wines at our disposal. Looking down from my balcony, I could see the lagoon-style pool below for the swim-up suites…I could already tell I was going to like it here! The afternoon was spent exploring the resort, relaxing on the beach and acclimatising to the laid-back Sandals way of life. There are 10 speciality restaurants on-site including Italian, Japanese and French to name just a few, as well as 8 bars (my favourite was the swim-up, of course!). We ate that evening in the resort’s pan-Caribbean restaurant, Spices, sampling a typical Bahamian menu which was impeccable.
The following day, we were treated to a full tour of the Sandals Royal Bahamian resort, viewing the many different room types available across Luxury, Club and Butler level, as well as the many facilities on-site; from the numerous pools to the spa, tennis courts and fitness centre.
The ‘piece-de-resistance’ of this resort is its private offshore island, accessible in just 5 minutes by the resort’s own speed boat. The island features two secluded beaches (one for relaxing and snorkelling, one for high-energy watersports), a beach club with a pool, whirlpool and swim-up bar, and even an open-air spa, where you can book a massage or treatment over-looking the sea. We hopped over to this little patch of paradise for lunch at Schooners, the regions best seafood house, which served incredible fresh food, straight from the grill (with a rum cocktail on the side, of course!).
Another afternoon was spent relaxing and enjoying the resort’s five-star facilities – making the most of the included paddle boarding, water trikes (much more tiring than they look!) and kayaking. For experienced scuba divers, you can enjoy two complimentary dives every day, whilst new divers can take a course with Sandal’s PADI® Discover Scuba Diving programme to become certified for an additional charge.
Our evening was spent enjoying an entertaining meal at the resort’s Teppanyaki restaurant, Kimonos, where our chef juggled, sang and danced his way through dinner, serving up a delicious meal that catered with ease for the various dietary requirements around the table. Evening entertainment continued around the beach-side firepits, where an acoustic singer performed for a relaxed crowd. We retired to bed, setting our alarms to a rather anti-social 3.30am, ready for an exciting day-trip that awaited us.
The alarm sounded before the sun had risen, but we quickly shook off our tiredness and jet lag with the knowledge that we were off on a very special adventure, taking the short internal flight to Exuma to experience Sandals Emerald Bay Resort. I could hardly wait…perhaps we would even get to see Exuma’s famous Pig Island, which is accessible by boat from the resort.
The flight was less than an hour, and the transfers on either side were similarly speedy, so in no time at all we were tucking into an extensive breakfast in one of the many dining rooms at Emerald Bay. This resort has a totally different feel to Royal Bahamian, with chic, understated Bahamian décor throughout, where light airy rooms and dark wood floors come together to create an authenically elegant beach house vibe. As you approach the resort entrance, you are treated to a stunning view all the way through the reception to the beautiful zero-entry pool (complete with feature firepit in the middle, of course); the pristine mile-long beach stretching out as far as the eye can see.
With the mid-morning sun already beating down, the shimmering pool looked incredibly inviting, but, before we could dive in, we had a resort to explore! Emerald Bay is set in 500 acres of tropical garden, on a horse-shoe shaped cove with a full 18-hole championship golf course on-site. If you’re looking for a resort where you can stroll through gardens and along the beach before dinner, this spacious, peaceful resort is perfect for you. All rooms face the beach (with either a garden or ocean view depending on your balcony and the palm tree positioning!), and the Beachfront Honeymoon Walkout Villas allow you to step out of your suite and straight onto the sandy beach. The resort’s ultimate room category, the Royal Estate Two Storey Villa, has been host to many a celebrity guest over the years, and is reminiscent of a lavish Bahamian manor house.
After we has explored all the various beautiful room types, 3 freshwater pools, 11 restaurants, decadent spa, conference facilities and even the wedding suite (all Sandals resorts offer wedding ceremonies – more on that later), we jumped in a convoy of golf buggies to race around the 18-hole coastal course, which must be one of the most scenic spots for golf in the whole world. Even if you’re not a golfer, you can’t help but fall in love with the stunning views on offer (and nosey at the spectacular multi-million-dollar beach houses and yachts you’ll spot on the way!).
Returning back to the resort, next we were treated to a delicious meal in the resort’s specialist sushi bar, Soy, and sampled a selection of the freshly prepared curries in the adjacent Bombay Club. Bellies full and overwhelmed by everything we had seen at this incredible resort, it was time to retire to the pool, and experience this resort through the eyes of a guest!
Although Sandals resorts are designed for couples, as we settled onto our sun loungers, it was clear that the atmosphere around the pool was extremely sociable, and, as it was 4th July, there was plenty of celebration in the air; star spangled swimwear being displayed by some particularly patriotic guests! Getting involved in the festivities certainly isn’t mandatory, and the resort has numerous other pools, coves and cabanas if you’d rather find a quieter place to chill out in peace. If you’re a Bulter-level guest, you can even request your Butler reserves you a lounger in your favourite spot (the grounds are so extensive that Butlers get around on bicycles in their full suited-and-booted attire!).
Sadly, as we were only visiting for the day, my dreams of a boat trip out to Exuma’s famous Pig Beach weren’t to materialise, and we headed back to the nearby airport to travel back to Nassau. The resort runs daily excursions on their 35-foot custom-designed speed boat, allowing guests to stop for swimming and snorkelling amongst the 20 magnificent cays that Exuma has to offer (of course, including a visit to the famous and rather mysterious swimming pigs at Big Major Cay).
A hop, skip and a jump later, we were back in the familiar surroundings of The Royal Bahamian, which by now felt just like home! That evening, after a decadent three-course meal at the beautifully renovated Italian restaurant, Casanova, the resort put on a spectacular dance and fire display to celebrate Independence Day, with an upbeat party atmosphere buzzing around the resort.
Luckily, we had an evening flight home the following day, so we were able to spend a day relaxing (what a tough few days we’d had, after all!) and soaking up every drop of luxury-inclusive sunshine that we could before a very comfortable flight home to London with British Airways.
Is Sandals for you?
If you’re looking for a truly luxurious all-inclusive Caribbean experience in a top-quality resort with fantastic service…YES! Sandals is definitely for you. With 16 all-inclusive resorts all over the Caribbean, many islands have multiple properties that you can easily travel between, and Sandals’ exclusive exchange programme will allow you to ‘stay at one, play at many’ so you can enjoy the amazing facilities at several resorts in any one holiday.
If you’re looking for a Caribbean resort for an upcoming wedding or renewal of vows, Sandals resorts offer a free wedding when you book a minimum 3-night stay. Their wedding service includes a wedding planning team who will personalise your wedding to suit your vision for your day, providing everything you need from a picturesque ceremony location, to bouquets and button holes, stylish chiavari seating, a two-tiered wedding cake, table settings, centrepieces, a cocktail reception…you name it, the Sandals Wedding Team can make it a reality. And the longer you stay and the more guests you bring, the more upgrades and inclusions you will receive. They even have an easy-to-use wedding planning website, so you can communicate to the planning team exactly the look you envision for your big day.
From our own experience we can thoroughly recommend Sandals resorts in the Bahamas for totally chilled-out island vibes and a truly relaxing holiday in paradise. If you love the sound of Sandals but you’ve got another Caribbean island in mind, get in touch and we can advise you on the best resort to suit your holiday plans. Why not take advantage of Sandal’s Big Autumn Sale, which gives you up to 45% off on flight-inclusive holidays – offer ending 19th October 2018 so you’ll need to book quick!
A huge thanks to Sandals for a wonderful trip – we can’t wait to visit another of your fabulous resorts soon! For all Sandals enquiries, speak to Mia on 0161 772 0149 or email email@example.com.