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Antigua Sandals was great
Parfleche said many things about this Sandals that I agree with, particularly about the complaints that we had read before we went. There is no friendlier staff than at this place, I would say anyone...
Parfleche said many things about this Sandals that I agree with, particularly about the complaints that we had read before we went. There is no friendlier staff than at this place, I would say anyone who has complained about staff is just a whiner. These are nice people who are trained to go above and beyond whenever they can to make sure guests are happy. While we spent more for this vacation than we normally do, we were able to keep costs down by not getting sucked into paying for services that we felt were silly or could be had for free: Candlelight Dinner by the sea, cabannas, dinners in gazebos. We got by just fine and maybe even better without these expensive options. They would not have made our stay any better. I even got drink service on the beach without paying for a cabanna. We also were happy to be on the Caribbean side: so much quieter, fewer tatooes, more folks willing to talk to you in the hot tubs and much friendlier. We went to the "other side" often for evening events, restaurants, the bakery and shopping. But we went to the big swim up bar in that area only once: too big and so did not appeal to us. However, we liked having all of these options; we could go to many different places - or not - our choice. We like having lots of choices when on vacation and Sandals did not disappoint on that. The only disappointment about this resort for me was the cigar smokers. Watching fat old white guys chomping down on equally fat stogies was disgusting. The smell from them was even worse and drove me off of the beach. Sandals sold them these cigars. While I really like this resort, I probably won't go back because these smokers ruined my beach time. The beach, while beautiful, is not wide enough to escape the smell. I noticed that I was not the only one bothered by smokers.
This was our 2nd Sandals experience as a couple (we tried St. Lucia last year and loved it), and my 3rd time, and we enjoyed ourselves. There are definitely some positives and negatives, but...
This was our 2nd Sandals experience as a couple (we tried St. Lucia last year and loved it), and my 3rd time, and we enjoyed ourselves. There are definitely some positives and negatives, but we'll start with the good stuff: - First and foremost, the staff was terrific. Everyone was so friendly, and went out of their way to check on you, ensure you're enjoying yourselves, and see whether you needed anything. They were always smiling and so helpful. We really enjoyed talking to Olson, who worked the main pool bar. I also want to give special mention to the woman working the omelette bar at Mario's (I think her name was Rosanlyn) - after 2 days she had remembered our orders! Everyone made us feel so special. - With so many restaurants, there are plenty of lunch/dinner options. Our favorite lunch spot was Barefoot by the Beach, because it was so casual and we could wear our bathing suit coverups. (Jerk chicken is also DELISH!) We tried all the dinner options and were pleasantly surprised. The food wasn't 5-star, but it was fresh and there were plenty of options. And let's be honest, you aren't going for the food. They also had quite a variety of alcohol options - many different kinds of Absolut, lots of different rums, etc. That was a plus - not all all-inclusives give you as many options. - Our standard room was perfectly acceptable, but we don't need much from a room. We stayed at the Mediterranean side, which was more modern and newer. The room had plenty of light and was spacious enough, and the bathroom had double sinks and a nice sized shower. Waters and drinks were replenished, which was also convenient. We didn't spend a ton of time in the room but were happy with it. - Free wi-fi! This is a new amenity, and was very convenient. Wi-fi worked at the pool too, so we were able to reach the rest of the world if needed (and even finish some online Christmas shopping!). - The beach was very nice. When the current is light, they put trampoline tops out in the ocean, so you can lay in them. We absolutely loved these - it was a nice way to be in the water and not have to do any work. - The resort is only 20 minutes from the airport, which was so convenient after travelling all day. Cons: - I didn't find the water to be as clear or as blue as the pictures. It was still blue, but the website pictures depicted something else. However, we were also told there was a storm a couple weeks before we arrived, and that's what had the water turned up. This may have also caused the current to be fairly rough - so those trampoline toppers I mentioned above were only out a couple times, and it was too windy for me to SUP. Also, keep in mind the beach is not private, so there are quite a few vendors selling jewelry or other items. We were polite to them, and they were polite to us. I don't feel we were bothered, but we never showed any interest, either. - Many guests were not respectful of the pool lounge chairs, and would hold chairs all day but never actually use them. This was frustrating, especially since we spent most of our days at the pool and get up very early to get them (and only half were ever occupied). - Mosquitos!! We forgot how bad the bugs can get, and of course forgot our bug spray. This one is partially our fault, but we had some nasty bug bites. We are happy we visited, and would recommend it to others, provided they are aware of the points made above. We are already looking into our next Sandals vacation.
Two Weeks in Paradise - A Perfect Holiday!
This was our third trip to the Caribbean and our second time at Sandals, and we weren't disappointed. I'll run through the review by area as I did for my review of Sandals Halcyon in St Lucia in...
This was our third trip to the Caribbean and our second time at Sandals, and we weren't disappointed. I'll run through the review by area as I did for my review of Sandals Halcyon in St Lucia in 2013. For our 10 night/11 day stay we were located in the Mediterranean Village on the 3rd floor and had Concierge service which included 24hr room service, in-room bar, preferred check-in/out, special events like cocktail parties for our room category, and complimentary internet services. I'll start by saying the Caribbean people on the whole are lovely - they are warm, welcoming, and love to visit with you. Jamaica was a ton of fun but it was a rough culture and the men were super crass towards women; St Lucia was incredible with some of the most polite and engaging people we've met to date; and Antigua & Barbuda was filled with warm, funny, and very personable people. We met too many to remember by name, but I can say we only met great people during our 11 days on the island. Yet again we ran into those oddities who expect absolute perfection on their holidays and refuse to roll with the punches. My suggestion to those people is to stay home and let the rest of us enjoy the magic of our Caribbean holiday. Being at a 5star all-inclusive like this is the closest thing to being waited on hand and foot most of us will ever know, but it doesn't give you the right to be rude or unkind to staff. Have fun. Relax. Be nice. You will be rewarded in kind. and the experience will be that much better! Onto the review... Staff Their are over 700 staff at Sandals Grande Antigua and while we try to get to know the employees it honestly becomes impossible after awhile, especially when they work in multiple locations at varying times of day. I know I'm missing a few names, but I promise you every staff member at the resort was great from start to finish. Some stand out staff for us include: George, Nathaniel, Nicole, and Henson at Soy/Kimono's: You were our very favourite staff and favourite restaurant (we went 4 times! - more on that later). Lounging in the Japanese styled bar at Soy was always the perfect end to our evening. Vanessa, Marlon, Terry, Maricia - Bartenders: Thank you for indulging our cravings for frozen GTs and always having a laugh and a smile ready! Daniesha, Phillip at Front Desk/Concierge: So helpful and ready to lend a hand. We also saw Daniesha handle awful situations (and people) with grace and style - well done! Ryan, Jason at Aqua Centre: Thank you for making our snorkelling trip so incredible; Ryan is easily on his way to being a great Manager and whichever resort gets him will be very lucky indeed - well done, Ryan! Porters, Housekeepers, Servers, Groundskeepers - too many to remember, but they were all wonderful, polite, and helpful! Antonio, Activities: Hilarious and a blast to talk to! Arrival As with many Caribbean airports this one isn't very glamorous or very big. There wasn't a Sandals lounge like we found in St Lucia, but no hotel had one. Once you're through customs and baggage claims its into the heat and a stand in the shade where you check in with Sandals. Our check in was friendly, done in under 5 minutes, and we were escorted to a cool and clean shuttle and on our way before we knew it. The ride to the resort is less than 15 minutes, and for someone who gets enormous motion sickness, this ride was wonderful. The roads weren't overly winding and our driver was very pleasant. Check-in Overall very pleasant - cool scented towels to refresh ourselves with, freshly baked treats, rum punch and even champagne upon our arrival. All great touches! I didn't care for checking in alongside another set of guests, though. The couple was very inconsiderate and treated the staff rudely, and after 20 hours of travel I didn't have the energy to listen to someone complain about how the entrance "wasn't very grand," - especially when I found it lovely and up to all my expectations. Sandals Staff- separate your guests and give them more privacy when checking in. There's more than enough room in that giant lobby to do so. Room We were checked into our room within 15 minutes of arriving and our luggage was at our door within minutes of that. The room had an enormous bathroom with a separate water closet, spacious closet and safe, rain shower large enough for two, a giant jacuzzi tub, and his/her sinks with a good amount of storage and lots of fresh towels. Our room had a king sized bed, sitting area, entertainment centre, in-room bar, and a small balcony with table and chairs overlooking the grounds and ocean. Very clean, well-kept, and well-stocked. We also had a spectacular view of the grounds and turquoise waters, and our suite was set far enough away from the restaurants and bandstand that once back in our room it was very quiet and peaceful. Our room was made up daily and turn-down service was always on top of things including changing out our towels and restocking the bar amenities like our glasses and mix in the mini-bar fridge. Grounds The grounds of Sandals Antigua are beyond gorgeous and the grandeur can't be beat. I know some reviews complain about groundskeepers working all day long and the noise of leaf blowers or the lawn being mowed, etc. but the level of maintenance required to keep this place so precisely manicured must take an army. Sandals should be applauded for their level of upkeep. While we were there we saw palm trees being pruned, people manicuring the hydrangeas and hibiscus, painters touching up areas, and even travertine tiles being replaced. Work was usually done early in the morning and completed before most guests were even up and moving for the day. I'll take the momentary inconvenience of maintenance over the disappoint due to neglect any day. Pools There are no less than 4 pools within a 3 minute walking distance of one another, but the main pool is easily the busiest and the best in terms of access to amenities (if you don't mind the noise later in the afternoon). First thing in the morning is a really great time to go. You can enjoy the calmness of the grounds in the Mediterranean Village and pool time before it gets busy. As with all Sandals you do need to put your towels down in the morning - despite the rules that clearly state 'no reserving chairs for extended periods of time'. It happens. It's inconvenient. Deal with it. My only complaint would be the Butler service and their reservation of chairs. The more Butler service in play, the more reserved areas you have to battle before 7am. This isn't a huge deal for us early risers, but when Butler-level guests don't come down to the pool for 5+ hours, it does seem unfair to those guests who don't purchase this service and yet still can't secure a lounger. Ocean/Beach The ocean is the most incredible shade of turquoise, and it's simply beyond describing... you have to experience it. It wasn't the calmest or clearest while we were there but I know from experience it's due to the time of year we're there - just after hurricane season. We were on the water for a lot of excursions and a ton of snorkelling and overall it was great. There were quite a few moon jellyfish in the waters but nothing that made the water unswimmable. The resort also has a huge stretch of beach and it's in great condition. The sand is powder soft and white, and there are lots of loungers along the shoreline. There are also a few restaurants overlooking the shoreline and they host beach party dinners so you can enjoy the ocean view and beachfront as much as possible. Bugs The bugs were kept to a minimum as Sandals fogs the grounds daily between 4 and 6pm. They use a plant based product, not a pesticide, but it's still not that pleasant. The groundskeeper does keep the fogging limited to areas without a lot of people though, so you aren't smoked out from your area. A few mosquitoes here and there but overall we were insect free for the entire trip. Vendors The beach is a public area so anyone can be on it, and even though there are a few vendors, it wan't anything so bad they ruined your time on the beach. Being polite but firm was the best way to deal with them if we weren't interested, and no one ever became aggressive or rude save for one jewelry dealer. (Little did he know I was interested in his wares, but when 'Hazel' insulted me for not stopping to look at his items our first day there he lost my sale altogether.) Drink This is our third all-inclusive and without a doubt Sandals Antigua Grande had the best top-shelf liquor to date. Other resorts often ran out or shared the premium liquors between bars which made service spotty, but this was not the case here. They never ran out of premium brands, and I was very surprised to see things like Hennessy, Black Label, every Absolut known to man, Appleton's 12yr Reserve, Chambord, and a slew of other top shelf liquor readily available at every bar on the grounds. As always, you need to ask for what you want by brand (e.g. a Bombay & tonic), but the selection was great and the bartenders were always willing to concoct a drink for you. Food/Restaurants The food available and restaurants open to the resort were very impressive overall. We had concierge service that came with 24hr room service but we only accessed this once as we wanted to be outside and on the grounds/waterfront as much as possible. Marios - Breakfast buffet, Italian dinner: There are two breakfast buffets on the resort and this is definitely the better of the two. You can even fill your plate and sit outside the restaurant. An omelet station, plenty of fruit and hot meal choices. The evening restaurant features an incredible antipasto buffet you won't want to miss. The Italian food is all right, but they definitely play down spices to accommodate all palates which I found a bit boring. Bayside - Breakfast/Lunch Buffet: This buffet is outdoors and you're right on the beachfront which makes for an amazing view, but you're also battling the birds at food stations. Not a big deal to me, but I can see how it could be very off-putting for some. The lunch buffet was also very good with plenty of variation and they kept it full right up until the end of service. Great service and very friendly staff. Eleanor's - Breakfast a la carte/Formal Evening: The breakfast choices were very good and the portion sizes were modest which we enjoyed. The formal evening restaurant was also delicious and service was great at both. I highly recommend the lobster Eleanor! Pizzeria - Open from 11 - 6pm daily: a great option for lunch by the pool or a snack at day's end before your 8.30 dinner reservation! All the pizzas were freshly made to order and ready in under 20 minutes - fantastic crust and perfect for sharing! Drunken Duck - pub/nightly tavern: They had good pub food and the servers were great. I also got my dirty martinis here and we enjoyed good music, trivia nights, and late night snacks here. They also seemed to have a good evening crowd where lots of people gathered for drinks. Cafe Paris - open daily for early morning coffee all the way to late night pastries: there was always an abundance of pastries and coffees laced with liqueurs, gelato and ice cream, and of course crepes made to order! (Try an amaretto one: cherries, almonds, and topped with coconut ice cream and coconut sprinkles/shaved almonds - to die for!) The Balloon Bar - evening drinks: food isn't available here but the place was wonderful for a late night drink and the piano player on staff was great to play,sing, and chat with. Kimonos - teppanyaki restaurant: The teppanyaki was almost identical to the one we went to in St Lucia. I'm not a huge fan of teppanyaki as a whole, but the meal was very good and we sat with five other couples from all over the globe and had an excellent time. The chef prepares food right in front of you and puts on a nice show. St Lucia's staff and chef were much more entertaining, but we had no complaints overall. Very good service, excellent food, and plenty to drink! (Try the sake sangria - my favourite!) Soy- sushi bar/restaurant: by far our very favourite. We ate here 4 times and hung out in the bar afterwards so much we become recognizable among 1000 other guests on the resort. George, Nathaniel, Hansen, and Nicole were all wonderful, and George prepared some of the very best sushi I've had in years. Make sure you sit directly at the bar so you can enjoy the show! There wasn't one thing on the menu we didn't try and I can highly recommend all of it. Extra points for presentation and treating us like royalty, George! Excursions We booked two excursions online before our trip and we had them spaced out nicely across our 11 days. When we checked in with the Island Routes desk, though, they changed both of our dates without notice and the trips ended up being back to back. I didn't care for this change but couldn't make anything else work so we were stuck. It would've been nice if the IR desk had offered to refund us rather than re-book at their convenience, but c'est la vie. Cades Reef - Snorkelling Excursion This holiday was largely about snorkelling for us, and one of our excursions was a day spent sailing on a catamaran and snorkelling at Cades Reef with a luncheon, etc. We picked up guests from other resorts and got to sail along the coastline to the reef which was very nice. We were supposed to have 40 minutes of snorkelling but barely got 25 minutes in the water which was incredibly disappointing. They also kept us clustered very tightly together and the majority of people we were swimming with had no idea what they were doing. When people are bumping into you, kicking you, etc., it seriously takes away from the enjoyment and peacefulness of snorkelling. All that being said we met some great people and had a wonderful day on the water. We also brought our own snorkelling gear which I highly recommend, but what they had on hand seemed to be clean and in good condition - they said they sanitized it after every use - doubtful in my opinion and previous experiences, but who knows. We also found out after our excursion that if you are interested in snorkelling you can book a 4hr trip to the Reef directly with the Aqua Centre for ~$500 that would've included all the same perks like sight seeing, food, drinks, etc. This cost could easily have been split with another couple and we would've had a much better time at Cades Reef for the exact same price as our excursion cost. Something to definitely keep in mind for next time. Island Safari & Stingray City Travis was our tour guide for this excursion and he was wonderful (I'll be posting his review separately). Our tour ran from 9am to 4pm and included a jeep-style ride with three other couples. We went off-roading in some areas and got a scenic tour of the island's interior and much of its coastline. This was a great drive and Travis was very knowledgeable about the island, its history, and much of the current activities. We saw the sugar mills at Betty's Hope, drove by the rainforest, and he even took us to Devil's Bridge, as well as to some of the coastlines prettier scenic points for pictures. This wasn't part of the tour, but Travis wanted us to see as much of Antigua as possible and it made the day even greater. We had a local lunch made for us at Betty's Hope and my husband and I ate with the locals and had a great time talking with them. Stingray City This was definitely the highlight of the trip. About 30 of us were boated out to a small sandbar where the stingrays come to feed. It's not a penned in area, but there are buoy markers, and the stingrays are fed so often they come very easily and are quite docile. The guide gave us an intro lesson before we went out there and schooled us on the do's and don'ts, how to handle the rays, feed them, etc. When we got there they did herd us into a line and took our photos with a stingray. At first I didn't like the way we were corralled, but I understand it was meant to give everyone an opportunity to get their photo taken (which could then be purchased later from the gift shop for $15 a photo). They also encouraged us to take our own photos or videos if we wanted. After that we were given almost 90 minutes to mingle with the rays, feed them and handle them with help from the tour guides. I wouldn't have missed it for the world and encourage everyone to do it at least once. They are absolutely incredible animals and feel like satin! Extreme Circumnavigation This tour can be bought directly from a licensed vendor off the beach and while we didn't go on this trip, it came highly recommended from at least a dozen people we met. The trip is said to include 4-6 snorkelling stops, Stingray City, Devil's Bridge, Bird Island, Long Bay and more, plus includes lunch, drinks, etc. etc. Pricing is listed at $110 USD and sounded like it was well worth it. We'd already done two trips that covered more than half of the items though, so didn't go in case we started repeating ourselves. Snorkelling We took up snorkelling after our trip to St Lucia and were very excited to try it here in Antigua. We didn't know this, but were very excited to learn snorkelling and diving are included at no additional cost. There were 3 snorkelling trips each day and you simply needed to make reservations a day in advance. They provided gear that was rinsed after each trip (note, I didn't say washed), but again, because we brought our own equipment we never had to deal with getting fins, mask, etc. We snorkelled out in three different areas and all three were very nice. It was very shocking to see how much of the coral is dead, though, and I read as much as 70% of the reef and fishing waters have been decimated by pollution and over fishing. Despite that we saw a great variety of fish that was truly awesome. Visibility was only poor once, and the waters were very rough that day. Some of the fish we saw included: parrotfish, stoplight parrotfish, blue tangs, midnight damsels, damsels, grouper, sergeant majors, trumpetfish, eels, pufferfish, needlefish, moon jellyfish, sea urchins, and big beautiful sea turtles. Tipping Sandals is non-tipping but I'm fairly certain tipping happens to some extent. We tip the drivers at the start and finish of our trip, and tip the porter for delivering our bags. We also tip when we go on excursions. It's breaking the rules a little, but not so much that we put a target on our backs or feel guilty for the small bonus we give people for lugging our bags around. Recommendations One thing I continue to find bothersome is why Sandals continues to inquire at every turn whether I'm celebrating my honeymoon, anniversary, etc. We fill in this information every time at all levels of registration and check-in, but they never do one thing to acknowledge it. A folded towel swan and some flower petals would make me think you actually read my registration and gave it some thought - and would be such a lovely touch - but when your company asks and asks AND ASKS and then does nothing (2 years running now) it's quite a let down. My husband even phoned the front desk and asked if something special could be done as part of turn down service but no one got in touch with him during our entire stay. It's a perfect opportunity to impress and you dropped the ball, Sandals. I know it's a small thing to be sure, but clearly something that could easily blow me away in terms of presentation and thoughtfulness. Overall Rating Overall our vacation was excellent start to finish. We never encountered any problems with our room, servers, staff, or the restaurants we went to. The Aqua Centre was always ready and willing to help, and there was no shortage of fun while we were there. Some couples mentioned the resort was quieter than they'd hoped, but my husband and I lead very hectic and busy lives, so being surrounded by a 'slow down' is exactly what we were looking for and we loved every minute. I would highly recommend this resort and hope to come back soon! Sandals Antigua Grande gets a top rating from us on all counts and we would go back again in a heartbeat!
Great food and service. Very clean. Would definitely recommend spending more and staying in the newer building. Excellent view of the sunset from our balcony and quiet. Room was spacious. Favorite...
Great food and service. Very clean. Would definitely recommend spending more and staying in the newer building. Excellent view of the sunset from our balcony and quiet. Room was spacious. Favorite sandals so far but looking forward to visiting Grenada soon.
My husband and I decided to go to Antigua for our honeymoon and we had a wonderful time. We did get in here and read reviews and we didn't have a very high expectation but after being there and...
My husband and I decided to go to Antigua for our honeymoon and we had a wonderful time. We did get in here and read reviews and we didn't have a very high expectation but after being there and seeing for our selfs we were very impressed with the friendliness of all the staff! We stayed in one of there villas and we we both very happy with the location. We decided to try out the butler service and we were very happy with all our butlers! They were not always at your door asking if we need thing, they gave us a cell phone to get ahold of them if we needed anything and that was the only time we would see them. We had a little confusion with a charge being wrong on my credit card and they were very nice and had it fixed in no time. The beach is a public beach but the venders are nice and would only ask us once if we were interested in their items, if we said no they left us alone the remaining time we were in the beach. We had a great time and would recommend this trip to anyone. We would go back ourselves to after we have seen a few other islands we want to see. Thank you to all the Staff at Sandals Antigua, we had a great time!
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