Sandals Grande Antigua

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When you arrive at Sandals Grande Antigua  you'll receive a warm greeting, cold towels, and adult cold beverage.

Antigua Airport

Round trip airport transfers from V. C. Bird International Aiport are included when you stay at Sandals Grande Antigua.  Upon arrival you'll go through immigration (make sure your passport is up to date), pick up your luggage, and head out to the Sandals desk where you will check in and they'll tag your luggage.  You won't see  your luggage again until you get to your room.

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View from the Bayside Cafe in the Caribbean Village stretching towards the Mediterranean Village

 

Sandals Grande Antigua has two villages - Mediterranean and Caribbean - and each has their own lobby and check in.  If you've booked a Concierge or Butler Suite you'll be ushered into a special lounge for check in.

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Area in the lobby of the Caribbean Village

 

After we checked in we all met for a buffet lunch at the Bayside Restaurant located at the far end of the Caribbean Village.  You won't really know when you've left one and entered the other.  There is one huge main pool and several smaller pools spread throughout the property.  There are 11 restaurants all of which are included with your accommodations.  The map shows you the layout of the property and how easy it is to get from Point A to Point B.  The beach is public but the resort is private.  Be prepared to show your room key card in order to access the resort from the beach as there are security guards stationed at each entrance.

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Oceanfront patio with comfy lounge furniture and fire pit. This area was popular at night.

After lunch we took off on a guided tour of the resort including all of the restaurants and a peek at a variety of room categories.  Remember, it doesn't matter what your room category is - you're all eating the same food (Italian, Japanese, custom made pizza, BBQ anyone?), drinking the same beverages, and enjoying the same water-sports and other amenities including the gym and the spa.  If you're at the Concierge or Butler level you have to do very little on your own.  Want dinner reservations?  Call the concierge desk or your butler (Kevin gave me my own cell phone to reach him.  Pressed one button, he answered immediately (and knew it was me!).

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This was my view from the living room of my 3 room suite to the private patio with plunge pool, spa, and outdoor shower. There was a gate that lead to a path to the main pool. Kevin had a fruit and cheese platter waiting for me upon my arrival. HEAVEN!

When we were done with the tour we all met back in the main lobby to get our room assignments.  On this trip I got really lucky and was booked into a Butler suite with private plunge pool in the Mediterranean Village.  HOLY COW!  If you've booked a Butler Suite your butler will greet you in the lounge and personally escort you to your suite where you will complete your paperwork.  My butler's name was Kevin and I highly recommend that you ask for him.  He showed me all the amenities of my room including full bar, 2 flat screen TVs, sitting room, and room service.  When he left I immediately took advantage of my plunge pool and jacuzzi.  It was heavenly.  I could have ordered room service but I dragged myself out of the pool, took a shower, and got myself dressed for dinner where I met some of the girls at BAREFOOT and had a fabulous dinner with lots of laughs!  BTW - if the specialty drink of the evening has something to do with seafood don't order it :)

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Barefoot Restaurant offers Caribbean cuisine. You can literally go barefoot as the tables are on the beach in the sand.

 

The next morning was our training session in one of their ballrooms.  At the conclusion we were all SANDALS (RE)CERTIFIED SALES SPECIALISTS and celebrated with a Twitter Party hosted by Julie Albaugh.  After lunch at Bayside with some of the girls we were on our own again until dinner.  I went for a jet ski ride.  The jet ski operators are not affiliated with the resort so you're on your own.  Payment is going to be in cash.  There were 2 operators on the beach that day and the 2nd operator (outside the Bayside Restaurant) gave me a bit of a discount for 30 minutes.  This was more than enough as you can't go very far.  The beach has a bluff on each end and there is some kind of rock island way far out.  That triangle is as far as you can go.  Towards the end of my ride I saw a young man exercising a horse in the water off the beach to the right of the resort (as you face it from the beach).  Apparently he's there everyday.

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Each Sandals resort has a wedding office who can customize any size destination wedding.

After the ride I went back to my plunge pool to relax and then it was time for dinner.  We were supposed to dine alfresco but the rain did us in again (you're in the Caribbean - it could rain everyday, however, it's usually never a wash out).  We dined in the conference room at one long wide table that was set as if for a wedding.  The menu and the service were outstanding.  The steel drum band that greeted us for cocktail hour was excellent.

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Get a Butler level suite and your Butler will surprise you with a candlelight bubble bath

There was lots to do after dinner and some of the group took off to enjoy karaoke or more drinks at one of the bars.  I punked out and went to bed.  When I got back to my room the doors to the bedroom were closed.  When I opened them there was a bubble bath decorated with flower petals.  Could not believe my eyes.  It was so relaxing that after a long day I had no trouble going to sleep.  After breakfast the next morning we were off to the airport.  Kevin came to help me pack and take my bag.  I don't know how they got me to go home.  If you do have a Butler it's the only tip you'll need for the entire trip (except for the airport shuttle drivers) - figure $20 per day or $150 for a week You can always give more.  The service will be exemplary.

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A very happy group of wedding planners from the US, Canada, and Trinidad. I'm in the back row, 3rd from the right. Julie Albaugh is in the front row, 3rd from the left. Our fearless leader Kim Sardo is on the left in the back row.  THANKS KIM!  Another fabulous trip.

SOME NOTES:  I've visited a few Sandals resorts including the gorgeous Sandals Emerald Bay.  Sandals Grande Antigua certainly is comparable.  This resort has lots of options for corporate meetings, incentive trips, family reunions, and destination weddings of any size both indoors and out. SANDALS resorts are ADULT COUPLES ONLY and the minimum age is 18.  If you've got singles or young adults/kids consider one of the BEACHES properties.  If you're hosting a destination wedding or other event (sales meeting, incentive trip) there are a small number of rooms that can be made available for single adults.  Details available upon request.

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View of the Mediterranean Village from the pool. The patio on the left features shops and restaurants. My butler suite was to the left of the patio along a garden path.

 

What strikes me about SANDALS as a brand is the loyalty of their employees.  The majority of the ones that I have spoken to have been with the company for years and plan on staying for many years to come.  Some waiting several years for an opportunity to work for the Stewart family.   Employees from the housekeeping staff and beach attendants to the resort manager are always smiling and greeting guests as they pass by.  They never seem to sweat.  Their social and corporate planning office on each property is ready, willing, and able to tailor their services to your needs.  Sandals has recently overhauled their entire wedding planning department so that now brides have a choice of the colors and styles that THEY want not what a famous wedding planner thinks they want.

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Map of Sandals Grande Antigua.

 


Sandals Carlyle Montego Bay, Jamaica

Sandals Carlyle

Our last stop on the tour of the three Sandals Resorts in Montego Bay, Jamaica was the Sandals Carlyle Resort.  This is the first property that Sandals owner and CEO Butch Stewart purchased and the second one to be branded a SANDALS property.  It is a small yet charming resort that is big on value and service.  The ride from airport to resort is about 15 minutes (see blog post on Sandals Montego Bay for detailed travel information).

We arrived to a warm greeting, a platter of delicious chocolate chip cookies on the entrance table, and a tray of iced cold rum punch. The hotel has 52 rooms all with 24 hour room service.  The building does not have an elevator.

The large refreshing pool includes a hot tub, floats, lounge chairs, fluffy towels, umbrellas for shade, and pool side food and beverage service.

The pool at the Sandals Carlyle Resort is large and luxurious.
The pool at the Sandals Carlyle Resort is large and luxurious.

The grounds are well landscaped and include outdoor pool table, tennis court, sand court for volleyball, and a shuffleboard court.  There are plenty of places to sit and relax while sipping a cocktail or enjoying a snack or meal from Nibbles garden-side grill (under the purple roofs on the map below).

Property map of the Sandals Carlyle Resort.
Property map of the Sandals Carlyle Resort.

The hotel includes a great gift shop with prices that are comparable to those on the "hip strip."  One of the gifts I noticed was a "beach time" clock that could be customized with a photo from your stay.

The resort does have a gym and a spa.  There is a plan to expand the spa including a new salon for hair and make-up and an outdoor spa treatment room in the garden.   I can attest to the magic fingers of their massage therapists.  We each got a brief shoulder/neck rub prior to our departure.  I could have stayed there all day........

Sandals Carlyle - Montego Bay, Jamaica. Sunset Bar.
Sandals Carlyle - Montego Bay, Jamaica. Sunset Bar.

This is an excellent property for those who want an entry level to the Sandals Luxury Included experience.  You can stay here and still play and eat at Sandals Montego Bay and Sandals Royal Caribbean.  Free shuttle service is available between all three resorts.

Check out the "Family Board" highlighting those guests who have stayed at the resort at least 35 nights.  Choose this property and by the end of your stay you'll feel like one of the family!


Sandals Royal Caribbean – Montego Bay, Jamaica

This antique carriage greets guests upon arrival to the entry courtyard. Popular photography spot for WeddingMoon brides and grooms as well as honeymooners at Sandals Royal Caribbean resort.
An antique carriage greets guests upon arrival to the entry courtyard at Sandals Royal Caribbean Resort in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Popular photography spot for WeddingMoon brides and grooms as well as honeymooners.  All photos taken by Kathi R. Evans, ABC(TM) during Association of Bridal Consultants trip to Sandals and Beaches Resorts in Montego Bay and Ocho Rios, Jamaica.

Our next tour was of Sandals Royal Caribbean in Montego Bay, Jamaica. This resort is a 10 minute ride from the airport with no airplane take off noise.  All the airport and check in info from our post on Sandals Montego Bay applies to this resort.

sign at the entrance to Sandals Cay - the private island at Sandals Royal Caribbean
sign at the entrance to Sandals Cay - the private island at Sandals Royal Caribbean. It is off of this island where the new over water suites will be built.

This resort has many features including a private island with clothing optional beach which is clearly labeled that you're heading that way. The island features Thai food at the Royal Thai restaurant. Reservations are required as it only seats 80 guests at one time. You can rent the entire island for $5,000.00 + Food and Beverage, etc. It is a 5 minute boat ride from the main resort. Shuttles run all day. There are architectural drawings showing the private over water bungalows that will be built in the water off the private island. Cabanas can be rented on the island for $125.00 per day and include a Cabana Concierge. Red Land spa treatments are available on the island too.

View of Sandals Cay from the dock at Sandals Royal Caribbean resort. Cabanas are shown to the left of the Royal Thai restaurant. The clothing optional beach is on the left side of the island.
View of Sandals Cay from the dock at Sandals Royal Caribbean resort. Cabanas are shown to the left of the Royal Thai restaurant. The clothing optional beach is on the left side of the island. Close your eyes and picture the soon to come over water suites.

A new two story 14 room butler suite building was built in 2014. FREE Wi-Fi is available at ALL Sandals resorts for every level of room.  There are currently nine levels of Butler suites and two levels of Club Sandals accommodations.  The rest of the rooms are all entry level.  Your best value is the Beachfront Grande Luxe Room (GB).  Some rooms have separate showers and tubs. In others they're combined. If you want the separate shower - make sure you tell your travel professional when making your reservation.

Crystal Lagoon Village Clarence Block. All Butler Suites.
Crystal Lagoon Village Clarence Block. All Butler Suites.

There are 3 beaches and 8 restaurants (including Royal Thai) at this resort.

Courtyard entrance to Le Jardinier Restaurant one of eight at the Sandals Royal Caribbean Resort.
Courtyard entrance to Le Jardinier Restaurant at the Sandals Royal Caribbean Resort.

There are 3 swimming pools not including the Crystal lagoon for the Butler level suites in the St. James, Clarence, and Buckingham buildings.

Swimming Pool at the Kensington Cove Village. All Sandals Club level rooms. Very quiet at this end of the resort.
Swimming Pool at the Kensington Cove Village which contains all Sandals Club level rooms. Very quiet at this end of the resort.  The beach is just steps away.

We were there in the afternoon and found it very quiet at the resort even though it was relatively full. It was hot so most guests were in the water or in the shade enjoying a cold adult beverage. I really liked this resort. The beaches were beautiful and the rooms, regardless of price point, were well appointed. I was really jealous of the guests on the private island. In and out of the water, relaxing in hammocks in the over water gazebo. Definitely wishing it was me.

View from Sandals Cay back to Sandals Royal Caribbean Resort. Firepit on the beach. Gazebo in the water with hammocks. If I close my eyes I can see us there.....
View from Sandals Cay back to Sandals Royal Caribbean Resort. Firepit on the beach. Gazebo in the water with hammocks. If I close my eyes I can see us there.....

Sandals Montego Bay Resort – Jamaica

Sandals Montego Bay Resort
Sandals Montego Bay Resort

Jamaica is home-base to Sandals Resorts.  It's where Mr. Butch Stewart got started with the purchase of his first property, Sandals Carlyle in Montego Bay.  Montego Bay is home to three SANDALS properties - The Carlyle, Sandals Montego Bay, and Sandals Royal Caribbean (with private island).  There are also properties in Ocho Rios - Beaches Ocho Rios (a family resort), Sandals Grande Riviera, and Sandals Royal Plantation (an all butler suite resort also home to Villa Plantana). Two more in Negril - Sandals Negril and Beaches Negril.  The ninth resort in Jamaica is Sandals Whitehouse.  I haven't had a chance to visit the properties in Negril, however, I have been to the other seven.

This blog will focus on Sandals Montego Bay.  You will need a passport to visit Jamaica.  I left Newark Liberty Airport on a direct United Airlines flight of about 4 hours. PLANNERS NOTE:  Be very mindful of the size of your carry-on luggage.  The regulations changed in June 2014.  My bag was taken from me at the gate because it was about 1" too long.  Check your airline's website for their regulations for carry-on luggage.

 

Sandals airport lounge at Montego Bay Airport
Sandals airport lounge at Montego Bay Airport.  Find your way here after going through immigration and picking up your luggage.

Before landing each passenger is given an immigration card to complete (bring a pen).  Upon landing follow the crowd to immigration.  Present the completed card and your passport (they're going to give you the stub back - DON'T LOSE IT) and then head to baggage claim to pick up your luggage.  From there proceed to the SANDALS lounge to check in.  An attendant will take and tag your bag according to resort and level of room category.  It's the last time you'll touch your bags until they are brought to your room at your chosen resort. The lounge is air-conditioned with clean bathrooms.  There will be complimentary cold beverages (adult and non-adult) available while you wait. Once they announce the shuttle to your resort you'll be asked to identify your bag(s) for transport to the shuttle.  PLANNERS NOTE:  All Sandals and Beaches Resorts have a no tipping policy (except for Butlers and Nannies) once on property.  Prior to getting to the property you should be prepared to tip the baggage handlers at the lounge who take your bags to your shuttle and your shuttle driver as neither are SANDALS employees.

Sandals Montego Bay Resort is about 15 minutes from the Montego Bay airport by SANDALS provided shuttle. Upon arrival you are greeted with cold towels and drinks.  Someone else takes your name and escorts you to the proper check in location.  You might notice that the resort entrance is across the street from the airport departure runway.  As the planes take off all the employees wave good-bye.   While concerned at first the sound didn't bother me after the first 15 minutes. They don't take off all night and you might not even hear the first one in the morning depending upon room location.

Once checked in and a credit card is left of any incidentals (purchases at the gift shop, spa appointments, etc) you will be escorted to your room.  At the room you will be given a brief tour of all the amenities including blow dryer (check the closet) and stocked refrigerator.  If you didn't call ahead with requests now is the time to speak up about what you'd like to see in there during your stay.  I was given a Oceanfront Honeymoon Walkout Club Level Room (category WW) in the Almond Village.  A few steps away from my patio door was a hot tub and deck overlooking the ocean that was very peaceful.  The room was spacious and well appointed.  A plate of chocolate chip cookies greeted me along with a fridge full of bottled water, juice, beer, wine, and champagne.

Montego Bay room view
This photo is from the Sandals Montego Bay web page. It's not the exact view from my room but it's close! The hot tub on the deck closest to my room was sunken and the patio below the hot tub featured 4 padded lounge chairs and an unobstructed ocean view. Not too shabby!

The Sandals Montego Bay resort is the ONLY Sandals resort with a chapel on property.  If you want a destination wedding with a true Catholic ceremony, one that will be recognized by the Roman Catholic Church, then this is the resort for you!  There are many other locations on the property for wedding ceremonies and receptions including the beach and various patios.  On site wedding coordinators will help you with every detail including the official paperwork for your marriage license!

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Exterior of chapel at Sandals Montego Bay.  The chapel holds less than 100 people.  Photo from the Sandals website
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Just one of the ocean front locations for a wedding ceremony or intimate dinner at Sandals Montego Bay.  Photo taken by me during site tour of Sandals Montego Bay.
Gazebo
Table set in gazebo with your choice of linen colors, custom printed menus and place cards, and custom florals. Photo taken by me during site tour of Sandals Montego Bay Jamaica.

Our first evening the group met for dinner at Cucina Romana. The service was excellent and the food delicious.  Several in our party ordered more than one appetizer, more than entree, and more than one dessert.  Go for it!  It's all included.   The restaurant is located upstairs and there is no wheelchair accessibility.  If your table is by the windows you have a beautiful view.   There are eight dining options onsite not including a weekly resort beach party that included a Caribbean BBQ buffet, rousing entertainment, and games on the beach.  You can make reservations for candlelight dinners on the beach or pier at an additional charge.  Our 2nd and last night in Montgeo Bay we ate at Oleandar.

Dinner at Oleander
Dinner at Oleander.  The girl with the big smile and the name badge is Olivia, our fearless leader.  That's me in the middle on the left.  We are all Association of Bridal Consultants members who are also Certified Sandals Sales Reps.  Photo taken by our wonderful waiter Jon!

The next morning after breakfast at the Bayside Restaurant (buffet with made to order egg station) we toured the property which includes entry level rooms in the Oleander Building with views of the garden, dining terrace, pool deck or tennis courts (category DL) all the way to the Beachfront Hideaway Prime Minister's One Bedroom Butler Villa Suite (category PM) which includes transportation by private luxury car from the airport literally to the door of your villa.  The amenities at this villa are amazing including a balcony so big you could host a cocktail party on it.  PLANNERS NOTE:  No matter what category your room is you're still enjoying the same beach, the same swimming pool, the same food, the same entertainment, the same drinksm and the same water sports as everyone else.

Private beach hut can be rented for additional cost and can include service of breakfast and lunch
Private beach hut can be rented for additional cost and can include service of breakfast and lunch.   Check out the floating ring in the ocean.  Guests (up to 4 at a time) were in and out of them all day.  Photo taken by me during site tour of  Sandals Montego Bay.

The beaches at the resort are all soft white sand with Caribbean blue water.  There are private raised thatched huts with beds to rent that can include breakfast and lunch service.  There are several piers for private candlelight dinners or wedding ceremonies.  An item that is unique to Sandals Montego Bay is a round orange "raft" that had a mesh bottom.  They were quite comfortable and couples were in and out of them all day.  You can see one in the background of the photo above.  There is also a gym and a Red Lane Spa.  I can attest to the magic fingers of their massage therapists.  Book before you go if you can!

Pool at SMB
Pool at Sandals Montego Bay in Jamaica. You can learn to SCUBA dive here. Photo from Sandals website

BTW - if you've never done scuba diving but want to try - they will teach you.  Certified dive instructors are on staff and single tank dives for certified divers are included. While lounging at the pool  I saw an instructor take a guest one on one for instruction in the swimming pool because the guest was having a panic attack while trying to breathe with all the equipment underwater.  The instructor was very patient with the guest and after about 20 minutes got the guest to the point where he was comfortable and ready to join the rest of the group.  I can still hear the instructor saying "are you with me mon?" to the guest.

If you're looking for honeymoon or destination wedding resort with beautiful beaches and ease of access from the airport then Sandals Montego Bay could be the resort for you!  ASK ME for details.


Wedding Planning – It IS What you Know!

It IS What you Know!

Today I arrived in Indianapolis to attend my first Association of Bridal Consultants Annual Fall Conference.  My seat mate on the plane was a very nice man who is an education consultant to school districts throughout the US who have more students that are failing then are passing.  His career includes 22 years as a classroom teacher and he told me that he stills reads and studies constantly. "Every good teacher " he told me "is always learning." After observing in the classrooms, he works out a plan that is specific to each district, then he guides the team of teachers and administrators through the implementation process for his action plan.  In one of his districts the 7th graders went from having the lowest math scores in the district to among the highest.

As we were getting off the plane I realized that our work processes are very similar. Granted, I'm not raising the education level of our nation's youth, however, guiding clients through the process of planning their wedding is truly a milestone in their lives. After a consultation with my clients I put my education and 25+ years of experience to work. An action plan is formulated which is then implemented by guiding my clients and their family and friends through the process.

I still get a thrill when I learn something new. That will never get old. I'm looking forward to taking advantage of all this conference has to offer and to participating in other conferences, classes, and networking opportunities as they become available throughout my career as an event planner.  The more I can bring to the table for my clients, the better!!