This was our first Sandals holiday, but we have visited most of the other Caribbean islands in recent years and stayed at a wide range of hotels in that period so had high expectations for our Sandals experience; sadly that wasn’t the case.
The resort has expanded with the completion of the adjacent Sandals Royal and guests have use of restaurants and other facilities at both. This has meant there are a lot of new staff, many of whom seem to be inadequately trained, particularly where they are having to cover for staff shortages; we often heard “I don’t normally work here, I’m just helping out”.
Frankly the staff in the Club lounge were useless and unfriendly and seemed more intent on having their own conversations than helping guests.
On checking in we had to fill in all our details on an iPad, including full names and addresses, why wasn’t this uploaded from our booking for checking, as happens with paper registration documents. The address section wouldn’t work as we live in Jersey which wasn’t shown as a Country, or as a county/district in the UK. However, this was a required field, so we had to enter an incorrect county which made our address meaningless; and the staff had no answer to this problem.
We weren’t advised to book restaurants as soon as possible and only when we actually went to try for my birthday did we find that they were all booked for the next 4 or 5 days; luckily we were staying for 10 days so managed to get into the 3 we wanted to dine at.
One of the questions on the iPad was “are you celebrating anything”. Yes, it was my birthday, but “No”, we didn’t want a candlelight dinner on the beach, and that was the end of it, no card or other acknowledgment from the hotel – whereas I got a very nice Happy Birthday email from the hotel we stayed at in Mauritius last year.
One day our room keys stopped working. I went to the lounge to get these reset, and was asked when we were checking out, and thought nothing of it. When I asked why they had failed, no explanation was given. Later that same day we had to reset our internet connection for the first time which led me to count our holiday days, 7, and conclude that our keycards had been set for 1 week rather than the actual period of our stay – or could that just be a coincidence,I think not.
Check-out – yet another example of being treated as if we didn’t exist, at no point were we asked if we’d had a good stay or about our departure arrangements; the only question was whether I was using the same credit card and then ‘sign here’.
We couldn’t get a room extension until our departure at 3.00, but were told we could use the facilities of the departure lounge, and leave our travel bag with a change of clothes etc in a locker, whilst our main bags would be collected from our room. We took our bags to the departure lounge (which turned out to be Mens and Women changing rooms) and tried to lock the bags in a locker. A helpful Butler told us we needed to get a key from reception, so back I went to reception only to be told we could only have a key at 2.00, our booked time. This is completely at odds with what we’d been told the day before, and another example of poor training or communication, or both. But the saga didn’t end there, at 2.00 we went to reception to get keys and were told these were in the lockers, but on getting to the changing rooms the lockers were now locked, but no keys in the locks. I gave up and just showered and changed. Then another couple arrived and said they’d been told by one of the Club staff that they didn’t need to make a reservation.
They were obviously very, very under staffed and the daily cleaning of our room got later and later, 4.50 on our last day when we wanted to get showered and changed for our last evening; and that was after I had called Housekeeping, no reply, and the Club Lounge which took two attempts to get through. We later met a couple whose room had been serviced after 8.00 pm.
No smoking policy
The designated smoking areas are a great idea, making the public areas of the resort so much fresher, but we were disappointed that this isn’t enforced. Staff would walk past guests smoking in public areas, and whilst I can see this as the easy option, what is the point in having a policy that can be ignored.
We wanted to know if this was a policy in all Sandals resorts, so went to the Sales and Reservations office to ask. They didn’t know, but seemed very, very keen to sell us our next holiday.
Restaurants – gluten free
My wife is on a wheat/gluten free diet. The menus all had a gluten free option symbol on them, but remarkably very few dishes were flagged as gluten free. On asking we got a very, very mixed experience in the knowledge and/or helpfulness of the servers. In Chi the waiter brought out the order form marked up for gluten free dishes, very good idea. In Bombay our server called over a more senior waitress who quickly ruled out the 4 dishes my wife couldn’t have, very helpful. However, in several other restaurants the staff were not as helpful and we were left to guess. The worst was in Spices one evening where my wife was told the only main course was the vegetarian wrap. This sounded wrong as I’d not seen gluten free wraps available at lunchtime, but we accepted his word that this was correct. Subsequently, we confirmed with the chef at lunchtime that they don’t have gluten free wraps; fortunately my wife didn’t seem to suffer from this error, but this highlights a need to educate servers as a gluten free diet is becoming more common.
The big exception to this was Cafe de Paris, which regularly had 3 gluten free cake options from 11.00. I hadn’t expected to spend so much of my holiday at a cafe having coffee and milk shakes, but this was a real haven for us, and, along with many other guests, we would often visit 2 or 3 times a day.
It wasn’t all bad, as a Club guest we had a free snorkelling trip which other guests could pay for. Snorkelling with turtles was one reason we chose Barbados, and my pictures from that morning were amazing.
The food in the restaurants was generally of a very high standard, with a good variety across the different restaurants and on each menu, but note the comments regarding gluten free knowledge.
The staff are all incredibly polite and everyone from the gardeners up greet you when walking around the resort. Which reminds me, the grounds are simply beautiful. All around our block were several different colours of hibiscus bushes and other flowering shrubs (the yellow Christmas candles were in flower) which I enjoyed every time we walked back to our room.
Sorry Sandals, but this resort was a complete shambles.