Sunsets and smiles

Long-time clients Kyle and Keith just came back from an anniversary “escape” to Sandals Ochi Beach in Jamaica, and had some great feedback to share with me about their experience. They honeymooned a year ago at the brand-new Sandals La Source in Grenada, which made for an interesting comparison with this larger, older property. But the key thing is that, with each trip, they learn a little more about themselves and their preferences, and they keep coming back to Annie’s Escapes to help guide and advise them 🙂

Hi Ann

We had a great time!! Always thanks to you and your insight and details, so thanks so much!

The resort (Sandals Ochi Beach) was great, though as you had warned us when booking, the split resorts is a bit of a challenge. We didn’t quite grasp that until we were there. The shuttles to the beach area can be very delayed, but they do try their best. We absolutely loved our room, and spent almost every afternoon there, when the sun got to be too much for our New England skin! The pool was great, as was the hot tub. The extra space with the living room and bedroom were awesome.

private pool at the Sandals Ochi Resort in Jamaica

Our butlers took care of our every need, and were so sweet to us- Melissa and Ladonna. The food was amazing, the drinks were plentiful and the atmosphere was great! The favorite restaurants were Kelly’s on the pier, and the French. We had the perfect time, day and seating for the most amazing sunset at Kelly’s on the pier- pictures attached. We are pretty laid back people on vacation, so  we didn’t take part in most of the entertainment/ games and such- as Keith says, we travel to not spend time at the pool, since we could do that at home!

stunning sunset over the ocean in Jamaica

There was simply no comparison to Grenada though, which we were sort of surprised about. Keith thinks there’s about 3 steps between this and Grenada, just from the level of service, and the beauty of the resort. I think since the resort is so large, it’s just very hard to keep up with. The level of grounds-keeping, cleanliness of the common areas and the beach were far below what we experienced in Grenada- basically you spoiled us rotten! If we had never been to another resort, I’m sure we would think this was incredible, but both the Dominican at the Iberostar Grand, and Grenada were just heads above this (totally our fault as we picked it!) They never cleaned the beach, so that there were gobs of seaweed and rocks everywhere, it was never raked. The first day we were at the beach there were only 6 chairs out (all full), and it took until around noon to actually have a seat. None of this stopped us from having a good time, but since you asked in comparison, this is definitely not what we expected from a Sandals property. Having said that, we would still recommend it to people who had not been to Grenada- or as we understand St Lucia.

As always however, we are looking forward to our next escape, and look forward to planning it with you! We are definitely realizing and learning the things that we value over others. We put the beach above all other things. We love a good beach, one that we can walk is great! Our favorite beach so far is Bavaro in the Dominican. We also love good food, and great service. We do spend a fair amount of time in our room, if it’s a little nicer than a regular room. No matter what, we love working with you, and look forward to working with you for the years to come!!

Keith and Kyle

Once you go “butler”, you’ll never go back!

Clients often question whether they would want or need the butler service that comes with the higher-level suites at Sandals resorts, and I explain that it’s not something you “need”….but that once you experience it you will want to bring your butler home with you!  Honeymooners Dana and Kevin just returned from a romantic honeymoon at the Sandals Grande Riviera Beach and Villa Golf Resort in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, and they did a fantastic job of describing exactly what their butlers did to make their trip so memorable:

Hi Ann

So sorry I’m just now getting back to you! We bought a house right before we left for Jamaica so we’v  e been caught up in moving madness. But we had the BEST time! The resort was amazing and so beautiful. And our room [Butler Village Honeymoon Romeo & Juliet Sanctuary One Bedroom Villa With Private Pool] was beyond incredible.

Dana Rebel 3
When we got to the resort on the first day, they brought us into the Butler’s Lounge and set us up with some rum punch while our butler took care of checking us in, getting our room key and setting up a charge-to-the-room account. When that was all set, our butler drove us up the hill on her golf cart to our room and gave us the grand tour. It was amazing! When we walked in the door, we were in an open-air courtyard with a private jacuzzi, pool (complete with a waterfall and floats), lounge chairs and an outdoor shower. To the right  was our living area with a couch, tv, table and a fully stocked bar with everything we could imagine. The resort also had a bottle of champagne on ice, ready for us to toast. To the left of the courtyard was our room, which had two sets of doors. We could literally open one of the sets and step straight into the jacuzzi if we wanted. The bedroom was so comfortable and the bathroom was beautiful. Our butler gave us all the information we would need to know what was going on, and gave us a cell phone so we could call her at any time. And best of all, when we went out to get some dinner, our butler had our luggage brought up and unpacked everything SO nicely!

We had two butlers, Josie and Christa, and they were both wonderful. We are pretty independent people, which I think they picked up on, so they did their best to get us to ask for things. They would call each morning to check in and see what we wanted for breakfast. When we were done lounging (we liked to start the day by having breakfast in the room and floating around our pool with a mimosa) they would drive up and pick us up to take us to whichever part of the resort we wanted. During the day, they would find us and surprise us with specialty cocktails, snacks, coconut shrimp platters – basically everything we wanted without knowing we wanted it. They would also set up surprises for us in our room while we were out and about. Anything from flower petals on the bed and towel animals to special baths, romantic set-ups in the courtyard, and surprise cakes made to celebrate our honeymoon. They also took care of making reservations at any restaurant we wanted for dinner, and always managed to get us set up with whatever table had the best view. They would even take care of errands for us, and always found a way to go above and beyond. One night I bought a watch in the jewelry store for my husband’s birthday and asked our butler if she could pick it up for me while we went to dinner. When we got back to our room, she had it gift-wrapped and presented nicely on the bureau, with receipts tucked away in an envelope next to my purse in the closet.

Dana Rebel 1

The resort itself had so much to do. It had two sides – the garden/hill side (which our room was on) and the beach side. The hillside had a GIANT pool with swim-up bar and a couple of restaurants and bars. It also had a basketball court, shuffle board, life-size chess, and ping pong to play whenever we felt like it. There was also a gift shop next to the hotel lobby that had a lot of great stuff (we bought a lot of souvenirs :)) When we wanted to go to the beach side (which is where we spent most of our time during the day), there was a shuttle that ran every few minutes from the lobby on our side. It was only a couple of minutes at most for the shuttle ride – it just took us down the hill and across the street. There was everything you could imagine on the beach side. Two pools with swim-up bars, tons of other smaller pools and jacuzzis, a dozen restaurants and bars, several beach spots and tons of activities. We were able to go snorkeling, kayaking, sailing and aqua triking.

The restaurants had some of the best food I have ever had! We always ordered room service breakfast (I’m still craving those omelets), tried out a casual place for lunch and then dressed up for dinner. The buffet-style lunches were delicious, but my favorite was Bella Napoli pizza next to the Amphitheater swim-up bar. By far the greatest pizza I have ever had. We got the seafood pizza, and the guy who made it made it in the shape of a heart after asking if we were on our honeymoon. And, we were able to enjoy it in the pool at the bar. Awesome! Every dinner we had (aside from the sushi, which put all other sushi I’ve had to shame) was either four or five courses of amazing. No description I could use would do it justice, but I’ve never had fresher seafood or more perfectly cooked steaks.

The bars were a lot of fun and there was always something different to try at night. During the day, we loved soaking up the sun and enjoying the pool bars. The bartenders were all really personable and fun, and everyone had a signature drink. We’d order what we wanted from time to time, but more often than not, we’d end up getting an amazing drink just by telling the bartender to surprise us.

We went on two excursions: the Dunn’s River Falls Catamaran/Party Boat Ride and the Mystic Mountain Ziplining and Bobsledding. Both AMAZING, but the river falls was definitely our favorite. We took a catamaran out and they anchored so we could snorkel. WAY cooler fish than the free trip we took from the resort (even though we still enjoyed that one). Then, they took us to the falls. Climbing it was so much fun and the guides did a great job! Then, on the way back, they cranked the music on the boat and opened up the bar for a full-on party on the hour back to the resort. Such a blast!

Dana Rebel 2

Overall, it was amazing and we wish we didn’t have to leave! Everyone we encountered was amazing at their job, wicked friendly and beyond willing to do anything you might need. We couldn’t have had a better time. It was the perfect combination of fun, romantic and relaxing. The only recommendation I would have is for the resort to have a checklist on the website for scuba diving requirements. We knew we would have to get certified, but I am asthmatic and didn’t know I’d need a note from my doctor clearing me to sign up. Completely understandable, but I wish we would have known before we left so we could have (hopefully) gone. They did have a system in place where you could fill out a form to fax to your doctor to get approval, but I don’t have a general practitioner here yet that would be familiar enough with my condition to approve anything without seeing me first. Otherwise, there wasn’t a hiccup!

Sorry for writing a book, but I figured too much detail was better than not enough :). We are thinking of doing a cruise for our anniversary next year, so we will definitely be contacting you for help with that. Thanks so much for making our trip easy on us!



A “New” Old Favorite Re-Opens

Couples Tower Isle (formerly Couples Ocho Rios) has just re-opened after a $30 million renovation and is ready to receive visitors!


The new look, and the new name, harken back to the resort’s roots in the 1950’s and 1960’s when it was a favorite Hollywood hangout for the likes of Eva Gabor, Debbie Reynolds and Erroll Flynn. The renovation included 20 new oceanview rooms and suites, enhancements to existing rooms/suites, a new water feature, a new wedding gazebo, a veggie and juice bar, a new spa, a swim-up bar, and a floating dock at the resort’s private island.

You can be one of the first to experience this newly enhanced adults-only all-inclusive with special rate packages that offer up to 50% off the rack rate, along with up to $500 in added value amenities. If you’re interested, give me a call!

You provided excellent guidance for us. I appreciated that you really had us think about what was most important to us when we were selecting the right cruise – and not to totally focus on what other people had to say. THANK YOU for helping to make this a memorable trip for our family! It really was a trip of a lifetime!

Clare and Mark (family cruise to Alaska)

The level of service we experienced was out of this world (and we did NOT make it easy on Ann). We weren’t quite sure where we wanted to go, when we would be able to go, or what “vibe” we were going for. After asking us some key questions (what we liked, didn’t like, why, etc.) Ann helped us narrow down our trip details and planned the honeymoon of our dreams. She helped book some of our excursions, answered some emergency questions while abroad and was always available/willing to help. I think it’s safe to say we won’t be using anyone else for future travel planning – Ann is a rockstar!

Carli (Italy and Spain)