By Janice Strong
They sure did. They? I actually had two butlers during my stay at Sandals Grand Riviera Beach and Villa Golf Resort in Ocho Rios. A tag-team of sorts who were there to pamper and spoil me throughout my stay.
But my taste of luxury didn’t start at the resort. It began at the airport in Montego Bay where Island Routes provided private transfers for our group. We settled into the back of our vehicle, a cool Red Stripe in hand and nibbled on canapés as we made our way along the coast to Ocho Rios.
Then it was time to meet O’Neil, my butler. After settling into my suite, he fixed me a perfect gin and tonic while I completed the in-room check-in process, then went over the suite amenities and handed me a cell phone so I could reach him or his partner at any time.
The Riviera Villas at Sandals Grand Riviera are tucked on a hillside, offering a romantic hideaway within the resort. Each villa features private or semi-private pools – and butlers trained with the Guild of Professional English Butlers to not only tend to my every need, but to anticipate my needs before I need them!
Sandals Resorts butlers stock your refrigerator with your favourite beverages, make dining and spa reservations, help you organize the perfect excursion (private picnic on the beach anyone?) and just generally “wow” you with their attentiveness.
“The demand for butler room categories is growing at a rapid rate,” says Gordon “Butch” Stewart, Chairman of Sandals Resorts International. “And in keeping with our Luxury Included® standards, we want to ensure that our guests have the best possible experience and that means offering the highest-quality amenities and top-notch service, including our expanded Butler Service.”
Janice StrongAfter that it was time to explore the Resort. The Grande Riviera sits on more than 40 hectares overlooking the Caribbean Sea and boasts 529 villas, luxury rooms and suites, seven main pools, 22 hot tubs, two Red Lane Spas and 16 dining options. We sampled several during our stay, including a wonderful array of traditional Jamaican dishes at the Manor restaurant; sushi at Soy; a great steak at Kelly’s Dockside (hint: order the side of mac and cheese – you won’t regret it) and entertainment and dinner at Kimonos teppanyaki restaurant. A special treat, reserved for butler suite guests, is a la carte breakfast at China Doll.
A highlight of the visit was an afternoon on an Island Routes excursion to Mystic Mountain where we swayed high above the forest canopy on a chairlift skyride to the Jamaica bobsled experience. On top of the mountain we strapped into the gravity-driven ride before screaming, quite literally, down the run. Then we took a short drive to Dolphin Cove, where we watched the dolphin encounter program, strolled along a jungle trail and had a close encounter with some very friendly love birds. Dolphin Cove’s encounter programs include interaction with dolphins, sting rays and sharks.
Janice StrongWo’s Pizzeria and enhanced kids programs that include cool camps, kid-friendly scuba and a V.I.K. (Very Important Kid) experience. Beaches Ocho Rios also welcomes its newest Sesame Street friends, Big Bird and Oscar The Grouch.
On our last day we headed back to Montego e also had the chance to visit other Sandals properties in the area. Our first stop was to Beaches Ocho Rios Resort & Golf Club. Renovations include a new look for the resort with four distinct villages (French, Greek, Italian and Caribbean themes), additional restaurants including a new barbecue park and DinBay, but stopped for lunch and a look at Sandals Royal Plantation. Built in the 1950s this beautiful small property projects unhurried old world charm. All 74 suites here are butler suites, and guests can enjoy English-style afternoon tea on the Terrace, or indulge at the Caribbean’s only champagne and caviar bar. They also enjoy full privileges at all other Sandals Resorts; 24-hour in-suite dining, two private beaches with beach butler service and a complimentary pillow menu.
Sandals ResortsThat night we settled into Sandals Montego Bay, before catching the flight home in the morning. My room looked out on the beach – the largest private white sand beach on Jamaica’s North Coast. Guests at Sandals Montego Bay enjoy full exchange privileges, and complimentary transfers, with Sandals Royal Caribbean, and Sandals Carlyle, creating a “Stay at one, Play at three” that adds up to 19 dining options within a 10-minute drive. While Montego Bay is known as the Entertainment Capital of the Sandals Group, with nightly shows and a ton of fun daytime activities, we opted for a dinner in the sandy-floored, beach side Stewfish restaurant that specializes in Jamaican Seafood. I highly recommend the conch bisque.
Final stop: Club MoBay at Sangster International Airport where we were fast-tracked through security before settling into a private lounge with complimentary drinks, hot snacks and comfortable chairs to sink into. Luxury to the end!
Sandals LaSource Grenada Resort & Spa will open its doors in December. Sitting on almost seven hectares along pristine Pink Gin Beach, the resort boasts 231 rooms in three villages, nine gourmet dining options, fully equipped indoor/outdoor wellness centre and Sandals’ signature firepits scattered about the resort.
Pink Gin Village offers a serene tropical setting with 70 oceanfront rooms in one block and 30 junior suites in another. Guests here have easy access to the resort’s white sand beach, zero-entry infinity pool, lobby, Club Sandals Concierge, gift shop, Island Routes tour desk and the Red Lane Spa.
The Italian Village is set on a cliff overlooking the resort and boasts 48 rooms and two river pools. Three floors feature one-bedroom suites and two have suites with butler pantries, claw-footed tubs, and private infinity edge plunge pools on the balcony.
Over at the Tahiti Village, Sandals’ signature Rondoval suites, toptier millionaire suites, plunge pool suites and luxury and premium rooms are situated on the resort’s mountainside.
Sandals ResortsDiscovery Dining is Sandals’ new approach to the dining experience that is designed to enhance the authenticity and experience of the global cuisines featured throughout the resorts. “On average, guests spend six days with us so it’s critical that we present them with a choice of dining opportunities that not only exceed their expectations in terms of quality, but that are distinct, authentic and engaging. With Discovery Dining, internationally trained chefs create diverse dishes that allow guests to savour the world without ever having to leave the resorts,” says Gordon “Butch” Stewart, chairman and founder of Sandals Resorts International. The new program encompasses everything from restaurants and uniform designs to menus and service standards.
The new, exclusive Club Sandals offers concierge level guests an elite, luxury experience from the moment they check in. Club Sandals guests enjoy room service from 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; robes; in-room beverages restocked daily; complimentary wi-fi, free unlimited long-distance calls to the U.S., Canada and UK landlines; direct access to Club Sandals Concierges who can plan dining and spa reservations, exclusive activities like wine tastings, martini evenings and snorkeling excursion; and access to lounges with Kindles, loaded with the latest best sellers, hi-def, flat screen tvs and docked ipads with resort information.
“The demand for exclusivity in the luxury market is rapidly growing and Club Sandals offers its Concierge level guests fashionable and attentive service to enhance their Luxury Included® experience,” said “Butch” Stewart. “We believe in providing vacations filled with elegance, relaxation and exceptional service, and guests will find all of these elements in Club Sandals.”
Make More Money
The room is booked, the air is organized, but that’s not the end of the commissions you can make booking your clients into a Sandals Resort. There is more commission to be made selling the add-ons to your clients before they leave home.
Island Routes pays 10 per cent commission on every pre-booked tour. Favourites in Jamaica include catamaran cruises, dolphin swims, deep sea fishing, bamboo rafting, horseback ride and swim, canopy zipline and bobsled+zipline+chairlift.
Island Routes also offers private transfers that include beverages and snacks in Volkswagen minivans that seat up to five passengers and feature wi-fi, dvd players, wireless headsets and device charging outlets. Transfers include VIP airport security access and VIP luxury departure lounge.
And don’t forget your cruise passengers. Island Routes also offers commissionable daypasses to Sandals and Beaches Resorts. Passes include round-trip transfers, land sports, water sports and unlimited bars/dining. The company serves Ocho Rios, Falmouth and Montego Bay ports. www.islandroutes.com
VIP Attractions offer arrival and departure services at Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston and Sangster International Airport at Montego Bay. Arrivals include a personal greeter, escort and fast track through immigration, connection with ground transportation or resort check in, complimentary refreshment and cold towel, while departure service fast tracks your clients through the airport and complimentary refreshments, hot and cold snacks, business centre, free international calls, complimentary wi-fi, international tv and periodicals and access to mini spa treatments (additional cost) and shower facilities. www.vipattractions.com