WHAT’S A SANDALS HOLIDAY REALLY LIKE?
by Katie Wood
After the hell of Covid 19 and all its nasty ramifications, you need a real look-forward-to holiday now more than ever. OK, it won’t be the same as in previous years, but if you’re within the confines of an enclosed resort that’s doing everything possible to keep you safe, it carries fewer risks than most holidays. So, for an autumn or winter break I’d recommend an all-inclusive. When it comes to that category, Sandals is the clear winner when what you need is to fly off to a sunny island with blue skies, glorious sunshine, white beaches, azure water and friendly locals.
Jamaica fits the bill perfectly and, as a resort, Sandals Negril Beach Resort & Spa makes it all so darned easy. Yes, I know this company has in the past been guilty of cheesy adverts showing perfect couples schmoozing, and you’ve probably heard rumours that all-inclusives are boring and sometimes the quality of food and drink is dubious, but in this instance none of that is the case. Quite the reverse.
You find a mix of all age-groups there – just not families. And if you’re worried about Jamaica being unsafe, outside of Kingston you’re absolutely fine and within the resort you’re in a 5-star cocoon, guarded night and day, so you can relax.
Well, yes, you are in a little bubble, but what’s the harm in that for a week or so? And if you want to explore Jamaica there are plenty excursions on offer.
As a way to totally unwind and let someone else do all the hard work, there’s nothing to beat it. In Sandals the quality of accommodation, food, drink, service and entertainment is truly 5-star. Their 40% repeat business ratio says it all.
This particular resort sits on the western tip of the island about 45 miles from Montego Bay’s Sangster International Airport, fronting the northern end of Seven Mile Beach with a large roped-off area for safe swimming and views of a small offshore islet.
Just north of Sandals is the infamous Hedonism II resort, where nude bathing (and often other more risqué antics) are on public display. You can walk along the beach there once their security guards have checked you have come from Sandals, but other than a few nudes on the beach, that’s all you can witness. (The really hot stuff is hidden behind palm trees just a few feet away so you might hear it but that’s it!).
Sandals Negril has a more modern feel than any of the other Sandals properties on the island, especially in their beautiful butler villa suites. Public areas are typically Caribbean in décor, with buzzing ceiling fans, dark tropical wood furniture and nearly every space open to the sea breeze.
The staff are laid back and super-friendly, as Jamaicans typically are, so you can expect service served up with a good dose of banter. Geography can’t be big on their school curriculum though, so we took particular pleasure enlightening a few of them that Scotland is not in England and that the UK consists of four countries. Once we got through the Braveheart and Rangers/Celtic stereotypes we were off and away.
Personal butlers are at your beck and call in many of the suites. Just use your Sandals mobile phone so you can reach them at all hours should you need anything. Ours were brilliant and always went the extra mile (and don’t forget, no tipping is allowed at Sandals). Before you’re even awake they’ll have reserved your favourite spot by the pool or on the beach and laid out your large fluffy towels, a chill box with drinks, and a parasol. During the day they’ll proffer more drinks and snacks, and even if your restaurant of choice is full for dinner, they’ll somehow find you a table. If you didn’t pack the greying undies and fancy a bit of ‘how the other half live’ they’ll even unpack for you.
Almost all the activities take place on the beachfront and in the four pools (there are also three hot tubs spread around the property.) The resort is well-adapted for those wanting silence with a book or those annoying people who take part in every activity from water volleyball to the After Lunch General Knowledge Quiz (questions shamelessly slanted towards the Americans).
Watersport afficianados have everything from kayaks to Hobie cats and snorkelling gear – all included with your stay. Certified divers can head out on two daily trips for no additional fee and you can also get your PADI certification during your vacation here, for an additional cost.
Among the other included activities are knee-boarding and water-skiing, glass-bottom boat trips and snorkelling excursions. Other activities include basketball, croquet and shuffleboard, and there’s also a fitness centre and volleyball courts.
The resort puts on a range of nightly entertainment – reggae parties, Burlesque nights and the like – so you can “go out” every night, if you like, without ever leaving the property.
Post show time is generally spent at the piano bar or chilling around a fire pit overlooking the beach.
There are numerous options for accommodation. Even the basic rooms are lovely with rainfall showers, four-poster beds and marble bathrooms. Spend a bit more and you get lots more space, oceanfront views, outdoor soaking tubs and extra luxuries like butler service.
With seven restaurants and five bars spread across the property, and room service from 7am-10pm, there’s plenty variety. The Bayside Restaurant is the main buffet restaurant, with a wide selection of fresh salads, grilled meats and seafood for breakfast and lunch (it turns into a French brasserie-affair for dinner, with white linen service).
Cucina Romana is a romantic Italian restaurant fronting the beach. And when you just want a good old burger, excellent jerk chicken or some wings, there’s the casual Beach Bistro, with a dine-in bar and several tables perched right over the beach.
The pool bars are popular during the day, and there’s a beachfront bar for evenings. For a change you can take the resort’s shuttle to Beaches – another resort owned by Sandals. Among its dining options is the impressive excellent sushi spot, Soy.
Island Routes Caribbean Adventures is the in-house sightseeing company. We splashed out on their catamaran excursion and it was an excellent choice. It’s a fun way to spend the afternoon and see a lot of the island without enduring the winding roads, traffic jams (and the often inane chatter of fellow tourists on the bus). Swim, snorkel, eat lunch and quaff a rum punch as you watch or join in with the crazy cliff jumpers at Rick’s Café.
You may be worrying about booking with all the upheavals going on, but Sandals have come up with the deal below which gives you protection under the Package Travel Regulations (PTR) when you book a flight inclusive package with the UK tour operator Unique Caribbean Holidays via the Sandals call centre. Double check you’re booking a package protected by ATOL and ABTA. Under this deal the price is guaranteed and you pay just £175 pp deposit with the final balance due 71-days before the departure.
Seven-nights at Sandals Negril Beach Resort & Spa in a Caribbean Deluxe room costs from £1,799 per person. Price includes all-inclusive accommodation, return economy flights with Virgin Atlantic from London Heathrow to Montego Bay, resort transfers, wifi, Global Gourmet cuisine and premium spirits, wine and beer, land and water sports and gratuities. Price is valid for travel on selected dates between September 1 and October 16 2021. This price is subject to availability and may change. To book or for more information on Sandals Resorts visit www.sandals.co.uk or call 0800 597 0002.