Editor's Blog

Sun, Sandals and satisfaction guaranteed

A friendly Grenadian voice welcomed me to Sandals La Source as a glass of bubbles was offered towards me.

“Would you like a head and shoulders massage, Miss Channon?” she asked.

If my excitement levels weren’t already high at the prospect of spending the next few days at two of Sandals’ resorts in Grenada and Barbados, with those few words I was suddenly in true Caribbean heaven.

After our private group check-in and individual massages – honestly, there is no better way to cap off a nine-hour flight – we were led to our rooms. I duly noted the resort facilities as our fam group meandered through: Private plunge pools for a wing of suites. Pool lounges and hammocks in all directions. Ten different restaurants. And most importantly, swim-up bars; being an all-inclusive resort, our group would spend a lot of time getting to know them.

Ahead of our trip, I had been intrigued to see how an all-inclusive resort could cater for groups. With everything paid for, my reservation was that it gave motive for the group to be potentially confined to the resort – and while wonderful at keeping track of delegates and minimising transport requirements, would it be enough to keep a bunch of people, with varied interests and preferences, occupied and entertained?

In short, it is.

After a morning conference, groups can spend the rest of their day – as we did – trying water activities like sailing, stand-up paddle boarding or snorkelling; taking part in a fiercely competitive game of pool volleyball; working up an appetite for dinner at the gym; relaxing at the pool and spa facilities, or relaxing in your suite which comes with its own plunge pool or balcony bath; admiring (or even participating in) the quirky staff talent shows, or just enjoying general banter at the many bar options.

For an evening cocktail reception or gala dinner, it is possible to privatise one of the resort’s restaurants or outdoor spaces. Staying true to their all-inclusive promise, Sandals won’t charge a penny for the set-up, service and food and beverage on the first gala dinner though a small fee is applicable for any subsequent dinners.

And I mentioned the word ‘confined’ earlier. That is not the case, thanks to Sandals’ partnership with destination management company Island Routes. Activities and excursions beyond the resorts can be arranged, with Sandals Barbados hotel manager Patrick Drake even telling me his resort will happily provide take-away lunches for guests.

One activity we tried and tested was a catamaran trip around Barbados. It was as idyllic as it sounds – snorkelling among turtles and exploring shipwrecks, on-board drinks and food and of course, sailing around the Barbados coastline.

Sandals has spent a lot of effort targeting the incentives market and it appears to be working, with group bookings this year up 21 per cent from 2015.

It looks to continue on this upward trajectory with a number of developments, including a huge expansion to its Sandals Barbados resort, which will add a major convention space of 10,500 sqm along with several more rooms and 5 restaurants by November 2017, and the addition of 12 more over-the-water suits to its Jamaica's Royal Caribbean resort by November.

If a resort is still sounding a bit conventional, there's also the option to hire out a private island for up to 28 people …

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