03 – 10 MAY 2016:
Where do you go when offered the opportunity to go on a last minute holiday? Do you go to lastminute.com to see what’s on offer? Nope! You create a spreadsheet. A wonderful spreadsheet full of endless possibilities!
After some deliberation, we agreed on Barbados!
I’ve always wanted to go to Barbados, despite the fact that I’ve been to a number of Caribbean islands before, and didn’t expect it to be drastically different (perhaps as you rarely venture outside your resort).
We researched a few hotels and finally decided on Sandals, since it was the only 5 star hotel which offered an all inclusive package, catered for adults only (specifically couples). I know Sandals sounds cheesy, I’ve seen the commercials! But I will give anything a go once.
After a 9 hour flight from Gatwick, we had arrived!
First impressions: The resort was smaller than we expected however that’s not necessarily a bad thing as it gives the place an intimate feel. We found it easy to get settled on the first day once we did some exploring and located all the important areas of the resort – the bars! And the food of course!
During our stay, we couldn’t fault the service. Not only were the staff friendly and accommodating, they were also very kind natured and up for a laugh.
The resort has around 280 rooms and is well maintained and clean throughout. I suspect a renovation took place in recent years. The selection of eateries and bars is more than adequate. There was always ample staff around the resort, which was nice as there was always someone nearby to provide assistance if we were in need. At a guess I would say the ratio of guests to staff was 3:1 which is considerably higher than in most holiday establishments.
The private beach area was truly stunning with crystal blue waters and white sand just like you see in postcards. I’m fortunate enough to have visited many beautiful beach destinations around the world; Philippines, Thailand, Bali, Mexico… but I would argue that the beaches in Barbados are one of, if not the nicest I have ever seen.
We choose their standard room as I felt there was no good reason to upgrade at double the cost! Our room included all of the essentials you would expect from a 5 star resort (fridge, walk in shower, ample wardrobe space etc). The thing I appreciated most was that they supplied electricity in all of the different worldwide sockets so no adapters or voltage convertors were necessary. The in-room television was a 42 inch smart TV with cable channels, pay per view movies, hotel information, electronic billing, excursion catalogues and restaurant information (including menus)… so basically everything you need to know during your stay in a convenient medium!
Some of the more expensive rooms had soaking tubs on private patios and terraces. Some even had access to a small swimming pool from their terrace! A nice, but considerably more expensive nice touch!!
Sandals resorts are not cheap. However when you consider how much is included in the price, it’s actually not bad value for money at all.
Sandals Barbados has 11 restaurants with a good mix of cuisines such as Indian, Japanese, French and Italian. There is also an English style pub, a French themed cafe, and a fast food hut located on the beach. This makes it hard to a) get hungry b) maintain a low calorie diet. The downside for me, being very greedy (hey, it’s practically “free”), was that by Day 2 of holibobs my trousers were a little on the snug side.
Not only is all of the food and drink (including premium brand spirits) included, so are most of the land and water sports. Unfortunately I found the range of water sports to be quite limited, but the fact that they were included at all was still a bonus. You don’t need any extra money unless you plan on booking excursions, leaving the resort or purchasing items from the onsite gift shop.
The land activities included:
- Table Tennis
- Board Games
- Fitness Center
- Bocce Ball
- Beach Volleyball
The water activities included:
- Paddle Boarding
- Hobie Cats
- Scuba Diving
There’s also an onsite Spa. I can’t recite the full price list but I do recall a 1 hour couple’s massage was $270 USD which is very expensive. You’re paying for the convenience of having a massage within the resort, and hey, you’re on holiday so why not!! ….oh yeah, I’m poor so that’s why not!
There was always a form of evening entertainment such as live Reggae music and dancing. Unfortunately we missed most of it as we spent a lot of time in the bedroom (actually sleeping, just to clarify!) I’m not sure we ever managed to adjust to the local time zone even though it’s only 5 hours difference from the UK.
Sandals offers many types of wedding and honeymoon packages so we expected to see a wedding or two during our time there, although I never would have expected 5 in one day!! It was basically a conveyor belt of weddings taking place on the beach. There were so many brides dotted around the resort it was almost comical. Whilst a Sandals wedding might seem like a nice romantic idea, in reality I actually consider it to be million miles away from “romantic”.
The weddings take place in areas of the resort which are surrounded by total strangers in their bikinis drinking Pina Coladas, not exactly the epitome of romance. Also, I doubt many brides would feel very special when they’re constantly bumping into other brides on their ‘special’ day. I can’t fault the beauty of the resort but perhaps they should consider a separate area to accommodate weddings in order to make the couple’s day a little more exclusive and intimate.
We also noticed that weddings bring in a certain type of crowd so it gets a bit more boisterous at times as a result.
It seems as though they are trying to cater to multiple types of clientele but without committing fully to any one type. This gives the place a real mix of atmosphere ranging anywhere between total serenity to rowdy (but thankfully childless) chaos. We chose Sandals because we expected it to be very relaxed and quiet – and it was in some ways, however they also tried to cater for those wanting more activity based fun so there were organised activities such as pool volleyball, ‘name that tune’ and water aerobics taking place round the clock. This would have been fine if the resort was large enough to hold these activities in a separate area however as that wasn’t possible, it just ended up being a disturbance to those wishing to relax as it encouraged boisterous behaviour.
They had a variety of sea and land excursions available. As nice as it is to do absolutely nothing but relax by the pool, after a couple of days I was in desperate need of some adventure outside the resort!
Land Tour: Caves and Monkeys!
Cost: $80 USD p/p (Approx 5 hours)
First stop was Harisson’s Caves which is a crystallised limestone cavern.
It is located within very attractive and well maintained grounds. We spent approximately an hour travelling via an indoor tram system within the extensive cave. There were fresh water pools and wondrous formations to be seen all around. But… once you’ve seen one formation, you’ve seen ‘em all, so an hour is more than enough time at the cave. The tram allows you to disembark and various points of the trail so you can get up close for photos. Bats are kept in a separate areas so unfortunately we didn’t get to meet Batman on this occasion.
Situated near the caves where you get a chance to see some of the island’s famous green monkeys. You are able to stroll freely through the reserve and see the animals close up. If you go at feeding time, you can see multiple animals eating together peacefully. Just walking the path you encounter peacocks showing their full feathers, Bajan green monkeys climbing around, and tortoises doing the deed (gettin jiggy with it).
On the route back to the hotel, the driver took us on a tour of the area showing us the hotspots around St Lawrence’s Gap and some of the homes of the rich and famous in Sandy Lane.
Interesting fact: Barbados is the only country to have had their single McDonalds close down. Back in 1996, the McDonald’s location opened with much excitement, but very quickly it became clear that something was wrong as sales weren’t taking off. Why? Because Bajan’s like chicken on the bone! Hence why they have approx 14 KFCs on the island.
The Caves and Monkeys tour was a good day out…however it would have been better if they had combined them and had monkeys in the caves…just an idea…
Sea Tour: Catamaran Cruise
Cost: $100 USD p/p (Approx 6 hours)
We were on a luxurious catamaran cruise sailing the gorgeous crystalline coastline to a tranquil bay where you can snorkel and swim with the island’s renowned sea turtles. We were then taken to a secluded bay for more swimming, snorkelling, a stroll on the beach and also a delicious buffet lunch on board whilst anchored.
On the route back, the party got started as the crew put on the reggae tunes and people started dancing on the deck.
A great day out, very well organised and the crew were very accommodating and attentive.
Barbados is a beautiful island and I wish we could have seen more of it. We very much enjoyed our time on the island, both in and out of the resort. However when contemplating a Sandals holiday, it’s worth considering beforehand how you will feel about being in a couple’s resort.
It can be difficult spending lots of time with just your significant other, and since the other patrons are all in couples and people didn’t seem to socialise with others very much, it can be somewhat isolating – particularly if you’re not expecting it, as the environment is quite intense. Having spoken to another couple about this, we agreed that it wouldn’t be a surprise if there were as many break ups as marriage proposals that happen whilst couples holiday here.