In my last post, I wrote about my Surprising Experience of Being Gay at Sandals. If you haven’t gotten a chance to read it, I cover my overall experience and the various room options at the Sandals St Lucian Grande Spa and Beach Resort. This week, I’m going to dive deeper into what is available around a Sandals resort outside of your suite.
For as long as I can remember, Sandals has advertised their resorts as the “Luxury Included” vacation destinations. That is a significant promise that, until recently, I wasn’t entirely sure the resorts would live up to. As a frequent cruiser, my experiences on ships were the benchmark for what to expect at Sandals. On most mainstream cruise lines, there are plenty of options to keep you busy and fed, but the lines have mastered separating travelers from their money almost as well as Disney. Keeping that in mind, I was expecting to be up-charged several times during my time at the Sandals resort.
If you haven’t been to a Sandals resort and share my concern, I’m happy to report that the brand allows you to completely relax without feeling pressured to pay a single penny more. The resorts include all the food you could possibly eat, more drinks than a fish can handle, a variety of places to get some much-needed sun, and enough activities to keep even the most extroverted person happy. There are a couple of additional spending options, but they are limited and not required to have a fabulous time.
Some of my favorite inclusions are:
1. The Entertainment – There was never a dull moment around the resort. From beach parties with a live DJ, “Sandals Olympics” in the main pool, cornhole tournaments, and evening live entertainment. The entertainment changes each day to give a great variety and happens throughout the resort.
2. Watersports – Sandals includes a variety of watersports at each of their resorts. The vast majority of them are included in the cost of your stay, so you can go windsurfing or snorkeling with your partner. A general rule is that if the activity is human-powered, it’s included; if it’s motorized, it’s additional.
3. SCUBA – if you are SCUBA certified, Sandals resorts offer unlimited SCUBA that is included with your package. All the equipment you’ll need will be waiting for you, so you don’t need to worry about adding additional weight to your already full luggage. If you’re not certified, keep reading because there’s an option for you down below.
4. Progressive Dining – Everything you eat and drink at the resort is already included. Still, an experience that makes Sandals unique is the opportunity to have each course at a different restaurant. You can start with sushi at Soy as an appetizer, move to Bombay for curry as your main dish, then head over to Bayside for French desserts.
5. A FREE Wedding! – For those allies looking to have a fantastic wedding on a budget, Sandals offers a free wedding when you book at least three nights at a resort. The free wedding includes an outdoor ceremony, a bouquet and boutonniere, an elegant reception, and a two-tiered wedding cake. There are options to upgrade the wedding package, but the basic wedding package really is free to host at the resort. If you’re ready to tie the knot or re-tie the knot, schedule a free consultation with me, and we can talk about the details. (Sandals is incorporated in Jamaica and at the time of this writing, marriages are only offered to our straight allies.)
In the spirit of full disclosure, there are a handful of experiences that are not included with your resort package. Each one of them is entirely optional and is not required to have a great time.
Some of the add-on options that I would consider are:
1. Photos – Photos taken by the resort’s photographers are extra to purchase. But you can schedule a FREE session with any of the photographers and only buy the photos you really like. The photographers are really talented and can capture some fantastic pictures of you and your partner on vacation.
2. The Gift Shop – The gift shop is an onsite option to pick up souvenirs, clothing you may have forgotten, postcards (and stamps), and various odds and ends. A small section includes food and drinks, but remember you’re at an all-inclusive resort, so spending additional money in the gift shop isn’t required if you’re hungry.
3. A private candlelit dinner on the beach – If you’re looking for an extra special evening, you can schedule a private dinner on the beach with your partner. The personalized menu is served by a white-gloved waiter in a romantic setting that is perfect for a special occasion or just because you want to show your love.
4. Resort SCUBA certification – If you’re not SCUBA certified, you can take a course at the resort or take an online PADI eLearning before leaving home. Both options will include an open water dive at the resort, so you can experience the beauty of the Caribbean coral for yourself.
5. Spa services – Red Lane Spa is available at each resort and includes various services to help you relax after a long travel day or before your wedding. Spa services are comparable to cruise pricing and have a 15% gratuity that is automatically added.
6. Excursions – Private excursions are a fantastic way to enrich a vacation with local experiences. You can take a private catamaran on a sunset cruise, take a helicopter tour of the island, go zip-lining, and more. Excursions can be prebooked through Sandals brand Island Routes or through Rainbow Getaways preferred partner Project Expedition.
Sandals really is a luxury included vacation. The only time that I was asked to spend more money was by the Spa when I’d walk past their desk in the lobby. But a polite “No Thank You” put a quick end to that as I continued on my way. My time at the resort was as relaxing of a vacation as I’ve ever had, and since coming home, I’ve been experiencing the post-vacation bliss. I’ll be heading to Sandals Negril resort in Jamaica in a couple of weeks, so be sure to subscribe to my newsletter, so you don’t miss out on hearing about that trip!