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

All the right ingredients

Choosing the right honeymoon destination can be difficult…especially when you have to take into account special needs, like a serious food allergy. When I met with these lovebirds, we quickly focused in on all-inclusive resorts, in  English-speaking destinations (no risk of mis-translating a menu), with lots of restaurants to choose from, and plenty of hand-holding from attentive staff (can’t get much better than a dedicated butler!)  From the post-trip email I just received, it sounds like we made the right choice. Sandals La Toc in Saint Lucia had all the right ingredients for the perfect honeymoon 🙂

Ann,

We are SO sorry we have taken so long to get back to you – it’s been quite the whirlwind getting back to the real world! But, we’d love to share our thoughts about the honeymoon.

First of all, thank you so much for all your help. We absolutely loved our honeymoon. Sandals Regency La Toc ended up being the perfect place for us in every way. Our room was wonderful – very spacious and comfortable, and remarkably quiet. We were so impressed by the lack of noise from neighbors, which led to us feeling like we had a much more private bungalow, rather than a room in a block. Also, we were indeed upgraded to a room with a sunset view, and WOW was it amazing! Every night, we had the most spectacular sunset view from any window in our room, as well as the balcony.

sunset over the ocean at Sandals Regency La Toc resort

The resort itself ended up being a perfect fit for us. We spent most of our time in the Sunset Bluff area. We loved the pool up there and preferred it to the main pool (much quieter and less crowded). We also rented cabanas twice on the beach, which was such a special, wonderful treat. We thought the landscaping was beautiful, and we loved the hilly nature of the property. It made it feel quite spacious and quaint all at the same time. We also liked that there were a variety of ages, from newlyweds in their 20s to older couples in their 60s and up. We weren’t really sure what to expect in that arena, but we felt very comfortable right in the mix with everyone else. We did notice that the Sunset Bluff area skewed a bit older, which we liked, whereas the main resort area had many more young couples.

firepit and couches look out over the ocean in st. lucia

As for the food at La Toc, our favorite restaurant far and away was Armando’s. We found the food to be phenomenal and on par with some of the best Italian food we’ve had elsewhere. We really enjoyed the rest of the restaurants as well, but none of them compared to Armando’s in our opinion. The main buffet was spectacular for breakfast, though we didn’t visit it for any other meal. Also, I felt like my food allergies were handled as well as, if not better than, they would have been in the US, which made me very happy!

We were really glad we chose to have butler service, though we did experience a little bit of nervousness about how to best handle tipping. We ended up having 4 different butlers throughout the week, and we never were sure when we would see someone for the last time, or when it would be appropriate to tip them. We saw other guests tipping per service (as in, cash in hand for a ride down the hill), but we weren’t really prepared to do that nor did we want to carry cash around all week. We ended up giving envelopes for all our butlers to our final butler at the end of the week (some advice we received from another couple who were Sandals pros), but it left us wondering if we would have received more attentive service had we been tipping throughout. We had one stellar butler (Tana), and the rest were pretty mediocre, and we weren’t sure if we would have had more responsive service had we been tipping throughout the week. I think, should we go back to a Sandals, we would probably come better equipped to tip throughout if needed.

a view down the sandy beach with beach-side cabanas in St. Lucia

While we were there, we did visit both Halcyon and the Grande and were really glad we did! We totally understood what you said about Halcyon having the more traditional Caribbean vibe. It was so relaxed, and everyone was congregating in the middle at night, even swimming at night in the middle of a torrential downpour. We loved eating at Kelly’s and visiting, though we were glad we stayed at La Toc in the end (we enjoyed having a little more space from the main entertainment area than would have been possible at Halcyon). The Grande was amazing – we had no idea how glitzy it would feel in comparison to La Toc! We didn’t spend too much time there, but we really loved eating at Gordon’s, and we definitely would consider returning to the Grande at some point for a visit. That said, we still really felt great about our decision to stay at La Toc. It felt more secluded and quiet than the other two, which really was the perfect speed for us.

breakfast from a balcony that looks out over the ocean Sandals La Toc St. Lucia

We didn’t do any excursions because we were so tired, but we would consider them on a return trip. We just stayed by the pool and beach and were very happy. It really was a wonderful honeymoon, and we would love to have the chance to go back to the Caribbean sometime. If we were to go back to St. Lucia (which was stunning and beautiful!), we would probably try to split our time between La Toc and the Grande in terms of a stay. We’d be curious to try out the Grande, but would definitely want to go back to the Sunset Bluff area of La Toc.

Thank you again for all your help – it was a magical, wonderful vacation!

– S&J

A “delicious” honeymoon on the Spice Island

Honeymooners Kyle and Keith just returned from a romantic honeymoon at the newest of Sandals’ fifteen couples-only all-inclusive Caribbean resorts — the Sandals LaSource GrenadaThe island is not the easiest to get to, but the resort is well worth the effort, as you can see from their trip report 🙂

Hi Ann –

Words cannot describe how grateful we are for your advice in helping us choose the perfect honeymoon! Grenada was absolutely amazing!!! The resort was beautiful and the service was amazing from start to finish. Upon arrival we were treated like royalty and that feeling never left.

Honeymoon couple arm in arm on the beach at sunset in Grenada

They started by checking us in separately from everyone else on our shuttle, by bringing us to the Club Sandals room for a cocktail and to meet our butlers Hassan and Jaime. Hassan then brought us to our room to complete the check in process, which took maybe 10 minutes. They had champagne, a cheese plate, and fruit waiting for us. We took a look around the room and realized they had upgraded us to a rondaval suite- complete with our own patio, hot tub, and private pool!! The room was absolutely amazing and the perfect retreat for us.

CIG_IMG005 private jacuzzi in a bungalow in Grenada two towels folded to look like swans forming a heart in the honeymoon suite in Grenada a hotel bed with two towles folded like bunnies and bamboo spelling out two hearts of love in Grenada

I will say that Grenada is about as hot as it gets for us. The sun was scorching, so much so that even the natives were saying how unbelievably hot it was for the time of year. The beach was perfect for us, though some said it was small. We thought it was a great size, and never overcrowded. The butlers reserved loungers for us each day with a cooler of water on ice for us. We didn’t go to the pools, as we had our own in the room, and why travel so far to just sit by the pool. We returned to a clean room each day, with a fully restocked bar and fridge, and each day the butlers brought us some kind of afternoon snack. One day they drew us a bubble bath with roses all around, another they had breakfast set up for us on the patio.

a private bath with flowers and flower petals in Grenada a hotel bed with a towl foleded into heart. the words true love in the middle in Grenada

We ate at every single restaurant. The food was simply amazing- the best of any all-inclusive we have ever been to. I would say the French, Hibachi, and Italian were our favorites, but you honestly couldn’t go wrong with any of it. The butlers made all of our reservations for us and gave us our schedule at the beginning of the week, met us at the room each night to escort us to our tables, and made sure our first drinks were at our seats before we went. Everything was as fresh as it gets, and this was the first trip that neither of us ended up with any stomach issues at all. The service was impeccable, and we couldn’t have asked for better.

The resort was fairly quiet, there were things to do each night from trivia to dance parties, to casino night and a chocolate banquet and beach party, but if you chose not to do those things our room seemed to be far away from everything and not noisy at all.

rays of light spilling through rain clouds over the ocean in Grenada a dock leading along the ocean towards a perfect sky with fluffy clouds and the green forest mountains of Grenada

We only left the resort once to go on the sunset cruise- which also happened to be the only time it downpoured. They were great with transporting us, and the cruise was great- though Keith said if it hadn’t been free for us- we would have been disappointed. We spoke to other couples who did some of the other excursions, and one loved the jeep tour, the other thought that the half day shopping and tour excursion was kind of a waste, but loved the driving your own scuba tour.

beautiful deep blue waters and a green cliff next to the beach in Grenada

Honestly, this was a trip that will be hard to top for us, between the service and the resort itself. It was unbelievable and more than what we could have imagined!!

So grateful to you and for you. We never would have taken this trip without you and the memories we made will be with us forever!

Kyle and Keith

Priceless Peace of Mind

Every honeymoon couples wants their “escape” to be magical, memorable, and stress-free, but with a life-threatening food allergy to contend with, the #1 item on Allison and Greg’s wish list was to be able to eat/drink at an all-inclusive resort without worrying about a medical crisis. We chose a Sandals resort in St Lucia, because of Sandals’ strong track record in accommodating special dietary needs, and they were able to relax and enjoy their honeymoon knowing that they were in good hands!

Hi Ann,

We had a fantastic time on our honeymoon.  I’ll break my email up into sections to make it easier!

Resort

The resort (Sandals Halcyon Beach) was perfect for us- quiet, romantic, and tropical.  It was exactly what we envisioned.

Dietary needs

Sandals was amazing with my dietary restrictions.  Within five minutes of arriving at the resort, the executive chef was waiting to meet me.  We discussed all of my concerns then and he went over the restaurant options and menus.  All of the waitstaff was extremely cautious as well.  The first question the servers asked was “are there any food allergies at the table” so even if I had not warned them, I would have been fine.  I ate great all week without being sick.

Sandals Honeymoon Registry

We did a lot of great excursions through the Sandals Honeymoon Registry, which I would definitely recommend.  They had prebooked everything for us, but were open to changing them if needed.  This took a lot of stress out of the registry process.  Unlike others, you didn’t have to estimate how much the excursions were, find a place to do them, get the money from the registry, pay for the excursion, and then book it yourself. Everything was taken care of.

Excursions

The excursions/extras we did were: Zip Lining, Soufriere Jeep Tour, Piton Sunset Cruise, Couples Massage, and the Private Candlelit dinner.  We absolutely loved every single one.

Zip Lining

We did it with Tree Top, who is #1 on TripAdvisor.  This was through the Honeymoon Registry.  They were great. Everyone was assigned a “guide” who assisted during the excursion.  Our guide took great photographs and videos for us.  The zip lining course was awesome.  There were 12 lines, each of different heights, lengths, and speeds. I was totally petrified before doing it, but I got over it and had so much fun.  The views of the rain forest were gorgeous as well.

honeymoon couple zipline in St. Lucia

Soufriere Jeep Tour

This was from our registry as well and was our favorite.  We were picked up at the resort in a big open air jeep and were able to stand in the back. We viewed the Pitons, went to the Sulphur Springs, went to a waterfall, ate lunch at a local restaurant, and stopped in a lot of towns/villages.  We really felt like we got to see so much of St. Lucia.  The views were breathtaking and we had so much fun at each stop.

couple on their honeymoon in st. lucia

Piton Sunset

This was on our registry, but not purchased, so we used the Tour credit we got when we booked the honeymoon.  Also a very fun excursion.  We took the large catamaran out to the Pitons, snorkeled between the Pitons, and then sailed back.  The sail to the Pitons was relaxing and scenic, while the ride home became a party with a DJ and rum punch!

Couples Massage

One of the best massages I have had!  The massages are all done in gazebos outside throughout the resort.  It was very romantic, with candles that we got to pick the scent of, and take home for a souvenir.

Private Candlelit Dinner

A can’t miss!  The food was exquisite and the service was excellent.  You can choose to have the dinner on the beach or in a gazebo. We chose a gazebo because of the rain.  We had a private server.  It was a four course meal, with a bottle of champagne (and other drinks if you wanted) and a rose.  Very romantic!! We just loved it!

Weather

I know I voiced our concerns about the weather before we left.  It was definitely rainy! Not so much like Florida.  It rained almost every day we were there.  A few days it rained all day long.  Friday was a complete wash out, the towns were flooded, the shuttles were canceled between resorts, and the beaches were a mess with debris.  Even the locals were amazed with how much it was raining.  For this reason, I would probably not suggest St. Lucia during this time of the year, although of course overall we would highly recommend St. Lucia.  We made the most of our trip and didn’t let the rain affect us at all, but a lot of guests were complaining!

Airline

We had a good experience flying into St. Lucia, but the trip home was horrible.  The shuttle got us to the airport very early, so we waited forever!! Then when we landed in Miami, they didn’t have a gate for us so we sat on the tarmac for over an hour.  We had to rush through customs and security.  We made out connecting flight with honestly not a moment to spare.  We boarded, but then were delayed because of a missing lifejacket.  By the time we were at our house, it had been 14 hours of traveling!  We seem to always have problems with American Airlines like this and probably won’t fly with them again.

I hope this all helps! Let me know if you have any other questions! Thank you again for helping us plan our dream honeymoon!!!!

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)