Sandals and Beaches Adventures

Certified Sandals Specialist Anthony Commisso of Ego Trip Travel shares Sandals and Beaches adventure

I was introduced to the opportunity of becoming a Certified Sandals Specialist through the Association of Bridal Consultants. I loved the Caribbean even before my involvement with Sandals, so this was an absolute gift. However enjoyable the trips, being a travel partner requires a lot of effort and diligence. I have invested a lot of time and expense visiting all of our resorts on every island. I know what you’re saying, “poor %&*$# you ☺ having to go to the tropical splendor of white sand and blue water, while staying at the Caribbean’s number one all-inclusive resort.

Sandals and Beaches offers 5-star gourmet dining, premium spirits, tons of water and land activities all included on property for everyone. For example, PADI certified scuba divers get unlimited diving. Guests can enjoy free golf. What I love most are the adventurous excursions you can add to your stay. There are plenty trips for the thrill seekers to tours that allow you to make a difference in local communities through "Pack for a Purpose" (I'll mention this a lot) and immerse yourself in the local individual cultures. All things I love, but I still make time to be a slug on the beach slurping tropical drinks.

Anthony at the beach

After several hours of continuing education, research and trips, I’m exceptionally qualified to consult you on planning your next vacation. The price of a Sandals or Beaches vacation is the same whether you book it online, over the phone or with an agent. So there is no additional cost for my help. As well Sandals makes it a fair playing field by strictly prohibiting any agent from offering any discount beyond Sandals authorized promotions. You’d be surprised to find out how many others selling Sandals, including our own phone representatives, that have never even been to a Sandals or Beaches, let alone be able to share my scope of knowledge with the personal experience every island and every resort.
So please allow me to be your agent to better assist you in planning your trip. Here is my contact info (518) 573-5626 or email me at egotriptravel@gmail.com

At Sandals there are more free inclusions than any resort in the Caribbean. Later in my blog I’ll get into all the particulars on what is offered and your best options based on your personal desires. I will present the tremendous value and all that is included when vacationing at a Sandals (couples only) or Beaches (for families, groups and singles) resort.

There is a format with a section dedicated to each island. Most of which are in alphabetical order. The exceptions, I start with Beaches in Turks & Caicos because it was the last of the islands I needed to visit to complete the circuit. Plus, it is my only Beaches vacation with my family. The other exception is that I end with Jamaica because it has so many Sandals and Beaches properties. For the islands where I made more than one visit, I’ll differentiate my experiences by date. On any of my personal trips, I always avail myself of the opportunity to learn everything about the resort. Usually, in each section I’ll start with data about the country, travel, the resort(s) and then “Noteworthy Points of interests.” This can include a few blurbs on tours, the island’s history and culture, unique things about resort and insider tips wherever I find them. My Stories are weaved throughout and are filled with my personal experiences and opinions that do not reflect that of the management, staff and other guests of Sandals and Beaches resorts. The blog is copyrighted and use of it by any other persons is strictly prohibited. Got to have the disclaimer with today’s society. That’s why having a vacation is the perfect respite from this crazy world.

You can find much of the info about the resorts from clicking the link to my personal pages for.
 Sandals site,
 Beaches site or our economy resort Grand Pineapple site. However, my insight on resorts, excursions, places to experience island culture, adventures and my stories can only be found on this blog with even more by having a personal consultation with me.
THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT TO AVOID CONFUSION:
 In the upper right hand corner of my personal pages, it should display Referred by: ANTHONY COMMISSO 5185735626. If it does not display my name please do not proceed, rather call me at the aforementioned phone number or email me at egotriptravel@gmail..

Though most every journey to Sandals or Beaches resort begins at the airport, I’m going to share some of it within each section and have more info in a detailed illustration at the bottom. It will include departure and arrival airports, trains, tips to travel more efficiently and save money along the way. I’ll also explain how you can lock in your promotion for only $49/pp without the pressure to make a final decision. Many people are thankful for this option because the promo on the suite they want can be available one moment and sold out the next.

I will share one brief note on the subject of travel now:

  • When choosing a resort, it is important to consider your comfort with travel:
  • Your preferred US departure airport and the options?
  • Up to what length of time for a flight would you be comfortable?
  • If you’re ok with a layover, what amount of time you’re willing to a lot for it?
  • Are you ok with driving 2-3 hours or taking a train to a larger airport for more likely a direct flight and better pricing?
  • The distance from the destination airport to the resort?
  • I find both short rides and long rides to the resort have a value. Depends on your mind set of when your vacation begins. Obviously, with a short ride, you get to the resort faster. A long ride and you get to take in more of the country which for some of us gives a richness in the cultural experience.

You might have stronger preferences that will determine the resort you choose. Some things to consider:

  • Do you prefer a lively resort with vibrant night life or quiet and intimate stay?
  • Are you a beach or pool person and does size matter?
  • Are you more of an adventurer and want to explore the culture, landscape, shopping etc.?

    As your Certified Sandals Specialist Travel Agent I can impart my knowledge and I will help you book your excursions. I’ve had some adventurous excursions but the most meaningful is when I went to a local school to bring supplies and read to the children as part of the good work of the Sandals Foundation and Pack for a Purpose program. (more on that when we chat).

Here is an illustration of the Caribbean islands denoting the islands where Sandals and beaches are located.


I’m starting with Beaches in Turks & Caicos. It was last on the list of the islands where I finally made my first visit. Plus, it was the only Beaches family vacation to date. After that the islands will be in alphabetical order. The only exception is Jamaica because they have so many resorts on the island, I thought it was easier to leave it for last. For the islands where I made more than one visit, I’ll differentiate my experiences by date. On any of my personal trips, I always avail myself of the opportunity to learn everything about the resort.

Turks & Caicos

Turks and Caicos Flag Turks and Caicos stamp

The Island: Turks and Caicos is a made up of multiple islands. The resort is located on island of Providenciales which is 38 sq. miles
Official language: English
Official currency: (USD) US Dollar

Flight time and price:
Our trip in April 2018 6-hrs total travel from ALB (6:00 AM to PLS or paradise as I call it at 12:00PM) with a 1hr 10 min layover in Philadelphia (PHI) The cost of each ticket was under $420/pp so that was a huge break. I had a trip scheduled Oct 28-Nov. 01 2018. Due to the malice of others, I'm no longer going. The travel time was 7hrs ALB to PLS with layover in ATL. As of Sept 2018, 3.5-hr Non-Stop flight from JFK to PLS approx. $300/pp
However, one time I priced ALB against departing from JFK and it was less than JFK

Beaches (BTC) Providenciales

First Stay: April 2018 (vacation with my family)
Beach: 12 miles
Rooms: 750+
Restaurants: 24
Bars: 15
Pools: 10 With the Caribbean's largest water theme park a 45,000 square-foot
Kiddie pools: 4
Whirlpool: 2
Travel time from: Providenciales International Airport (PLS) 20 minutes

Although it was a short stay, we made the most of our three nights and four days. We’ve had some nice family vacations and special trips. We did Rt. 66 Las Vegas to Chicago, Disney, Universal, Great Lakes, Adirondacks, the Atlantic coast, especially New England Coast and our favorite, Newport. We have visited major cities, Washington D.C., Boston, NYC for the sites and the kid’s favorite, a Broadway show with a backstage tour. All agree, Beaches Turks & Caicos was one of the best family trips for different reasons.

I think my family loved that it was hassle free, especially for my wife. Who manages four children and me. Having the family experience different cuisine without the need or concern for cost made it more of an experience. Everyone could grab food, a drink or a treat by individual taste, making it very leisurely and that allowed for more relaxation. Though we had a lot of face-to-face time, I think having the opportunity to safely go in different directions on the resort, gave them a sense of freedom. If we were anywhere else my wife would never let the kids separate from her. She felt safer at Beaches than anywhere else we’ve traveled. Two of my four kids wanted the beach and the other two liked the water park better. My children have great palates, but I'll share their taste in private.

My wife is just as happy to be home as she is to be on vacation. She is easy to please and very appreciative of everything. Nature being one of them. From conversations she never seemed to be excited about the Caribbean. She is much more about going on a family trip. She loved that we could go as a family so the kids could experience what I have many times. I was delighted with how mesmerized she was with the beauty of the Caribbean. I knew long before my first trip to the Caribbean that I’d love the blue water. I had dreamed of going but never thought I'd get there. I think my wife had to be there to really appreciate it. She had no interest ever in scuba diving. the thought frightens her, but after a very cool snorkeling excursion, she and my kids now appreciate my love of scuba diving.

Family at the beach
Family at the beach

Noteworthy Points of interest: I made sure the family experienced everything possible especially the glass bottom boat ride, which was awesome. A self-guided snorkeling excursion.

**** A 10-minute walk on the beach to the west of the resort lies a coral reef park. just 20 ft. from the shore and it goes out about 20 yards. Some of the most beautiful sea life you’ll ever see. ****

Anthony with Cookie

I was given a tip by another guest that the fish love pieces of chicken. It makes for a good story but it is one of a couple that I'll save for a conversation. I'll tell you my family found my situation very amusing. The resort has five magnificent villages, each with a different ambiance: Italy, France, the Caribbean and Key West. It is set up so there are fun activities for everyone at any age. From kids who love Sesame Street® characters to a Lounge dedicated for obsessed Xbox players like my son. My daughters were curiously excited about the Teen Disco, but kind of a bust because it was empty. Still they enjoyed everything about the resort. We were traveling at the most off peak part of the year (see traveling secrets and tips).

Cookie is popular among regular guests at Beaches Turks & Caicos. I sought him out so we could have a photo together, but for a more meaningful reason. After the barrage of Hurricanes in 2017, a travel agent who was there at the time was reporting on the damage to other agents via Facebook Live. The agent captured Cookie as he was passing by. In the face of the destruction, where he had likely lost everything and his place of work would be shut down, he demonstrated such an amazing attitude. I wish I could share the recording but in a booming cheery voice he said, “HELLO everybody, EVERY’Ting ok here. We all good. We’ll be open soon and you come back.”

IS your family ready for a great bonding experience and fabulous getaway? Reach out and ask me any questions you have

Antigua

Antigua Flag Antigua stamp

The Island: 108 square miles
Official language: English
Vernacular Languages: Antiguan and Barbudan Creole
Official currency: East Caribbean Dollar (XCD) $2.7 = US $1 on Sept. 14 2018
Rates are variable, so check current exchange for yourself here.

Flight time and average price: In Dec 2015 I got 4.5-hour flight Non-Stop from JFK for $280/pp, but that was an extraordinary price. Usually you can expect 400.00/pp

Sandals Grand Antigua (SAT)

First stay: Dec 2015 (personal trip)
Beach: large, long public beach (well secured by Sandals and very safe)
Rooms: 370+
Restaurants: 11
Bars: 7 full service bars including an Irish Pub
Pools: 6
Whirlpools: 6
Travel time: V.C. Bird International Airport (ANU) 15 minutes

Noteworthy Points of interest:
I hired a cab driver so I could do a self-guided island tour of sorts. I went up to the ruins of the English fort at Shirley Heights. Built in 1790 it fortified the Dockyard below protecting English naval ships from the French and Spanish fleets. As you’ll see in the photos a magnificent view. On clear days you can see the island of Montserrat. At the top you can enjoy lunch at this cool café in one of the historical buildings. Down at the Dockyard is a naval museum located in several buildings that were built as part of the fort. My driver, Joe, discovered that I love ginger beer and gave me a couple bottles of his homemade brew. You can go off the resort to a hip beach/bar, Jacquie O’s. If you go tell Lance, the owner, I sent you. You might even see some celebrities. This is one my favorite resorts in terms of the layout of the resort and the experience off property. Just a hint it might sound like I say that after every resort, but I don't. I'll give my unfiltered experience and opinions. Not everyone is fond of my unfiltered personality, which is often exaggerated, but I'm fun shoot from the hip guy. The resort is on Dickenson Bay, which is apparently Antigua’s most famous beach. Why? I don't know, but I could probably ask. Anyway, it says something that the resort was voted the world’s leading honeymoon destination year after year.

My Antigua story

My Antigua Story

In 2012, while in Puerto Rico I was introduced to SNUBA (Later I’ll share more about my experience with SNUBA at Sandals). In 2013 while at a destination wedding in St. Thomas, the bride and groom arranged for guests to do what is called a resort dive. After a 60-minute class, we were diving to 30 feet. The instructor noted I seemed more comfortable on the dive than the average person. Though he encouraged me to pursue getting certified, I didn’t think an opportunity would ever present anytime soon if at all. I certainly wasn’t going to do it in Upstate NY, besides being colder I don't expect to find the same amazing things. It wasn’t until I got involved with Sandals that the opportunity to get certified in scuba diving was even possible. Though I discovered to get fully scuba certified you must demonstrate that you can swim. I didn't get certified. It wasn’t amusing at the time, but now I find it to a humorous story.

..

Hammock Time
Fort Wall

There’s something about hanging in a hammock with a tropical drink near blue water. The drink came later.

On the Fort wall on Shirley Heights overlooking the Harbor.


Charter Fishing

I went on deep sea fishing with a NON Island Routes/Sandals charter. I do not recommend doing that.

I negotiated lower price, but the cost of catching this Barracuda was much greater, I turned green from motion sickness. Fishing in the Caribbean is way different than my experiences on the New England coast. I’m not saying it’s bad, it's just different. I like being in a small boat in Newport with calmer waters, hauling in fish at Biblical proportions in both senses of the expression.

Bahamas

Bahamas Flag Bahamas stamp

The island: 79 square miles
Official language: English
Vernacular Language: Haitian Creole, Bahamian English
Official currency: (BSD) Bahamian $1 = $1US on Sept. 14 2018. However, USD is widely accepted
Rates are variable, so check current exchange for yourself here
Travel time from: Lynden Pindling International airport (NAS) 15 minutes
My Flight time & average price: 4.25-hour flight from JFK w/2-HR layover in CLT $350/pp
Sandals Royal Bahamian Nassau (SRB)
First stay: August 2017 (Travel Partner trip)
Beach: private cove beach with private island too!
Rooms: 400+
Restaurants: 10
Bars: 8 full-service including British
Pools: 7
Whirlpool: 6



Just off the Private Island, known as Sandals Cay, I saw this sea turtle and manta rays and tons of other beautiful sea creatures.

Noteworthy Points of interests: Previous to my connection with Sandals. I took a cruise that stopped in Nassau. I took a cab to the Atlantis to check it out. I then went to a local beach. At a Tiki Bar I spent the afternoon with a former Ms. Bahamas (name withheld), she invited me to stay and enjoy the island with her for the evening and the next day… Instead I chose appropriately to demure her invitation. Although I lost track of time and I had to hightail it if I was to get back in time. When my cab got stuck in traffic I jumped out, paid him of course and ran the last length of it and the last to make it up the plank. From this experience I decided I don’t like cruises as much as the leisure of being on resort. While on a Sandals Fam trip (short for familiarization where groups of agents stay or visit resorts) we did an adventurous excursion. We went for boat ride to go snorkeling and do SNUBA, which is more like scuba than snorkeling. Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus, but close to the surface. You still breath through a regulator that is connected to a tank but instead of wearing the tank on your back, it floats on the surface. Though they counted my SNUBA as a dive there, in a more recent trip they refused. I’ll leave it at that for now because this requires explanation.

After the SNUBA experience they took us out further to a place where Black Tip Sharks lurk about. I would have loved it were it not for forgetting my full face snorkel mask at the resort. Instead I used traditional snorkel equipment, which I don’t like because I seem to always take in water. Probably just as well because I probably would have gotten a little to brazen and too close. As it was, when we were first in the water the sharks were much deeper. As they began to rise we were instructed to quickly get back in the boat. These photos came from my fellow agent Michelle. She has video. 

The private island is very cool. Boats frequently go back and forth throughout the day. It is a quiet little mini-getaway from the crowds. Sandals whole concept is to give guests a different experience at every resort. We want you to stay at all of them. I read that historically it was a regal retreat, Sandals Royal Bahamian was once a favorite of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Just off the Private Island, known as Sandals Cay, I saw this sea turtle and manta rays and tons of other beautiful sea creatures.

On the private island with Lauren Cataldo Sandals Business Development Manager NJ

All the entertainment you could want and the best parties

Sandals Emerald Bay Exuma (SEB)

First visit: August 2017 (Travel Partner trip)
Beach: mile long pristine
Rooms: 240+, 21 categories
Restaurants: 11
Bars: 6 full-service including British Pub
Pools: 3 including a half acre zero entry pool. One of the largest pools in the Caribbean
Whirlpool: 2
Travel time: From Exuma International Airport (GGT): 15 minutes
Flight time and avg. price: A flight from ALB to GGT is 6.5-hrs of total travel time with w/layover in Atlanta (ATL)

Even if you’re not a golfer you can see why I really wanted to play this course 

If you’re ready for a round and a romantic vacation that you’ll never forget? Call me now (518) 573-5626 or click the photo to book immediately Once you’ve booked it send me an email ASAP so I can help you plan the fun.

A limited number of agents were given the option of spending an extra night in Nassau and paying for a puddle jumper (reg. ~$120) to take a day trip to tour the Emerald Bay resort. My main reason for investing in the trip to the Bahamas and the whole purpose of going to Exuma was so that I could play the golf course. Not just any golf course, but a Greg Norman Designed Championship 18-hole Golf Course (I once had a conversation with him at the Belmont Stakes. The where and how is T.M.I for here, maybe anywhere even for my unfiltered self. The puddle jumper was two hours late getting into Nassau, which made us even later to Exuma. The GM, a lovely man and gracious host, thinking we might be hungry (he didn't know we'd been snacking and drinking coffee waiting at the airport) decided to provide a continental breakfast. So the resort tour started even later. We had to be back at the lobby by 5 PM so we could make the shuttle to the airport. Thus, the opportunity to play the course was seeming bleaker and I more anxious. The agent director wouldn’t excuse me from the tour so I could play, until I sat through lunch. We were treated to Hibachi in the very chic fusion restaurant. While the Hibachi chef did much to entertain everyone, he wasn't amusing to me as he was now eating up the clock. Now very late in the day, really too late in the day, the director gave the go ahead. I made it onto the front nine skipping many holes in hopes of getting to the back nine. The back nine are the holes I most wanted to play along the ocean with the great breeze. The front nine pales in comparison. The course has a unique layout in a way that the front nine doesn't lead you to back nine.  My mission was thwarted for many reason and with the participation of many others. Needless to say, I was disappointed.

Noteworthy Points of interests and insider tips:

Well the golf course, of course! It is one of the major attractions, but there is much more to this resort. It has one of the most unique excursions, that you won’t find anywhere else and that is being able to swim with pigs. Yes, I said swim with pigs. It is also one of the most popular excursions in the whole chain. So book it early or you may be left out. The pool is a half-acre, with zero-entry and a fire pit in the middle. As you can see a most impressive pool.


The Front Nine at Sandals Emerald Bay. A very impressive 9-holes but not nearly as picturesque the back nine that I never made it.


 

Barbados

Barbados Flag Barbados stamp

The island: 165+ square miles
Official language: English
Vernacular language: Bajan Creole
Official Currency: (BBD) Barbadian Dollar $2 = $1US on Sept. 14 2018
Rates are variable, so check current exchange for yourself at here.
Flight time and price: Sept 2015 7-hr total travel from JFK with a 1.5hr layover in Miami $410/pp. Sept 2018 5-hr non-stop flight from JFK I got it $340, then plans changed so did the price.

Noteworthy Points of interests and insider tips:
Barbados is home to exotic locales and a rich history. There are plenty of activities and entertainment for nature lovers, club-goers, and adventurers alike. It has deep caverns, monkey-populated forests, rocky cliffs, and sparkling seas. Cricket seems to be the thing to watch at the pubs. It has a spectacular landscape that changes dramatically from one town to the next. Fun affordable tours. We enjoyed the downtown shopping tour and shuttle tour of the island

Sandals Barbados (SBD)

First stay: Sept 2015 (travel partner trip), Next trip slated for Sept 17 2018
Beach: large, long white san public beach,
Rooms: 280 with more coming and now we have Royal Barbados.
Restaurants: 11
Bars: 7 including British pub
Pools: 3
Whirlpools: 2
Travel time from airport: Sir Grantley Adams International Airport (BGI) 15 minutes
Resort: The resorts sits on the pristine Dover Beach. It has luxury and innovative accommodations, such as the all-new Crystal Lagoon Swim-up Suites, Barbados' largest and longest lagoon pool. I want to use my photos as much as possible. Sometimes I’m not the best photographer.




Bibi of Island Routes 2018 and in 2015

We’ll talk more on all that Island Routes has to offer. Like I said I’m awful at selfies. I was hoping my new Go-Pro Hero 6 would change that. Selfies improved a little but it took terrible photos.


This is true Caribbean vibe bar


On a shuttle tour we stopped for taking in beautiful vistas and meeting local street vendors for the obligatory "touristy" tsotckes to take home.


A glimpse of downtown Bridgetown

Royal Barbados (SBR)

First visit: Sept 17th 2018
Beach: large, long public beach,
Rooms: All club level and Butler suites
Restaurants: 11
Bars: 7 including
Pools: 3 (the first ever Sandals roof top Skypool)
Whirlpools: 2
Travel time :From Sir Grantley Adams International Airport (BGI) 15 minutes. The two resorts are next to one another.
Resort: 15,000 sq. ft. spa. 4 lane bowling alley. The first ever Sandals roof top Skypool, Another of our resorts offering exchange privileges. Play at stay at 1 play at 2

 

Of all Sandals properties, together these two resorts have become my favorite design and layout. I think it is the most innovative. We’ve all heard stories or been influenced by Hollywood on the magic of Voodoo which purveys the islands. A colleague reacted very negatively to my wearing this Voodoo mask for our Masquerade Ball. She was correct when she said that it would bring bad joojoo bees. There is some sort of curse on me when traveling to Barbados. Circumstances occur where some are totally out of my control, but demons of malice, misfortune, jealousy, deceit and incompetence manifest my participation which is not mine alone. Yet the one who suffers consequences by their beguiling.  I come from a long line of family where we can sense the Mal'Occhio. When myself and others were acknowledged for our achievements in a seminar, the hair on the back of my neck stood up. I looked over my shoulder and was surprised to see who they were that gave me the joojoobees.

Please don't let me stop you from visiting this beautiful island and these awesome resorts. I've sent clients who have loved it. They are building a Beaches on Barbados, but I'd be afraid to bring my family there. Yes I'm superstitious

Grenada

Grenada Flag Grenada stamp

The island: 134 square miles
Official language: English
Vernacular languages: Grenada Creole English/French
Official currency: (XCD) East Caribbean Dollar $2.7 = US $1 on Sept. 14 2018
Rates are variable, so check current exchange for yourself at here

Flight time and approximate price:
I got a 5-hr non-stop flight out of JFK and paid under $600.00. All things being equal, dates of travel etc., the airfare to Grenada is more expensive. Most times, Albany flights are astronomical in price and the connections require ridiculous overnight layovers. There is the occasional score on price and flight time. I won’t elaborate because in the time it took me to write this line some couple will have booked and awesome flight with a great price and shorter travel time and yet someone else may have had an opposite experience.

Grenada, Sandals LaSource (SLS)

First stay: Dec. 13-21 2017 Travel Partner trip, then vacation
Beach: small private cove beach
Rooms: 250+
Restaurants: 10
Bars: 6 full-service including British Pub
Pools: 5 whirlpools: 2
Travel time from: Maurice Bishop International Airport (GND) 5 minutes

Noteworthy Points of interests:

The trip started with class room training, resort tour and research. There is no better way to know the ins and outs like personal experience. I stayed five additional days after the Travel Agent trip concluded. So between being with the group and my own time, I ate in every restaurant and some twice. The resort is an unspoiled hideaway but only minutes from the airport. It lies in the heart of Grenada's exclusive Pink Gin Beach. They created a man-made cove which allow for calmer waters and some beautiful fish. It features cutting-edge innovations such as Skypool Suites with infinity-edge plunge pools. One thing I really liked about the layout was how it has sort of an outdoor living room with an ocean-side pool.

I made the most of this stay. Though the island is small it is filled with several historic sites, forts, spice factories, rum distilleries and plantations, museums, rain forest with a half a dozen waterfalls. You’d need several more days to see it all.

I was able to visit so many places and do so many things, which is why this section is filled with photos and stories.

This was a true adventure. We were given the opportunity to drive dune buggies through town to the rain forest that led us to Annandale falls. It poured into a crisp and refreshing watering hole. I wasn’t aware that I was to bring a bathing suit. No worries. I wasn’t bashful about getting down to my Hilfiger boxer briefs, Not seen in this photo. This excursion and others like it are now on my must do list of activities to recommend.

Grenada has other falls to see, but I don’t know if you can jump off of the others. You could if you wanted to here. When we stopped at the falls there were locals offering goods and services. For a gratuity, this man would let you snap a photo with his monkey. Things are desperate in the islands. Everyone needs to make a buck, this gentleman found an honest way with something that a lot of tourist dig. I wish I got more photos of the vendors. At least I got to monkey around. (ba dum tss!)

I’m not a Hibachi fan but this group of Sandals representatives,
were some of the nicest kindest people you’d ever meet.

After two failed attempts, and one lower level certification at another Sandals resort, I finally became PADI Open Water Scuba certified. The cost of certification was only $400 compared to dive shops here at home that charge $600-700. The best part of being fully certified, at Sandals, I or any guest now gets unlimited free scuba diving included in the vacation. I had some real awesome diving explorations.



I had to have a photo of me and the Nurse shark. If you're going to have a photo with a shark, a Nurse is the one. I only want to see a shark by choice. I don't want to end up swimming with the fishes, if for some reason I get an unwanted visit, at least I'll go doing something I love. I was in fast pursuit of that Sea Turtle until the instructor reeled me in (another pun). One guy on the dive remarked that he thought the turtle owed me money or something the way I was having a go at it. (he was from England)



The colors are amazing; I’ve never seen such a lobster; look closely and you’ll see an eel in the bluish-green photo. The reason I love scuba diving. I find beneath the sea the most beautiful and tranquil place on the earth.


The Mon, my dive instructor, James Emmanuel


The team of dive instructors in Grenada and me. Everyone wearing a shirt with a of shade a pink was not planned. 

From left to right: Maurice, Adrian, James, a young lady friend of theirs, me and Chelson. Honorable mention goes to Curtis, who didn’t come out, instead he went home to his young family.


Being a devout Roman Catholic, I got up early Sunday morning so I could take a cab into St. George so I could attend Mass at The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. It was the most welcoming and lively church I’ve attended. People were so warm at church. During the “peace be with you,” everyone filled the aisles extending themselves to what seemed like the entire congregation. Everyone was all dressed so nicely in their Sunday best, except me. I wish I got a video of the energy or at least a photo. I’ll just have to go back.

Toward the end of Mass, Fr. Anthony called up people with birthdays, anniversaries and any first time visitors that week. It was obvious, I was a first timer. I brought soccer balls and school supplies as part of “Pack for a Purpose,” on the trip. I returned to the church to visit with Fr. Anthony and give supplies.


My guest for this trip is the best friend of a girl who worked for me and is like my daughter.  At the time I was in Grenada, Afrin was finishing up at St. George’s medical college. She stayed at her apartment but was my registered guest so she could join me for dinner almost every night. We even went Scuba diving. Just a wonderful and beautiful young lady and I was grateful to have the company. Yes, my wife was aware and amenable to her joining me. After all she won’t travel apart from the children. Nothing is lonelier than having dinner by yourself at a couple’s resort. We’re not allowed to tell other guests that we’re agents so it is hard to explain why you’re alone. When I went to Antigua I took my friend and fellow agent Mark, who is the person that introduced me to Sandals, we had no issues. Still it felt awkward to have a male for a guest at couple’s resort. On our travel partner trip to Barbados (Sept 2018), a group of agents had a discussion about bring guests. Most agreed that it would seem awkward for two men. Whereas most didn’t feel the same in the case of two women. Nonetheless, a majority agreed, it would be more comfortable to appear as a couple. I figure I should be able to trust fellow agents, shouldn't I??? (see joojoobees in the Barbados section)

This young lady came up to talk to me while I was snorkeling and minding my own business. She thought I might be an owner because of witnessing in prior days my camaraderie with the hotel staff. I was surprised to find she had noticed me earlier in their stay. She asked about my full face snorkel mask. I offered it to her and taught her how to use it. We hit it off. She asked me to join them in the hot tub. My guest had been hanging with her girlfriend who purchased a day pass. The couple invited me to bring my guest and join them for dinner at Butch’s Steak House. My guest chose to go home with her friend because they were packing and leaving Grenada for goo. I went to dinner with the couple and boy was it interesting. I didn’t react to (action) so as not to make it awkward. She insisted I go for a drink with them afterwards and participate in Karaoke.  I had one drink to play along and then call it a night. I didn't need to get in trouble with the company again (different issues), but I did need to pack for home. Like my best friend always says, "you notice stuff happens to you that doesn't happen to a thousand other people we know?" he'll pause to create emphasis and follow with "Combined!!!" You would have never known they were on a delayed honeymoon.


Known as the spice island, Grenada is the second largest producer of Nutmeg and Mace (which comes from nutmeg). Other notable spices from Grenada are cloves, ginger and cinnamon. The island is a large producer of Bananas, Cocoa, citrus fruits, cotton and coffee. This gentleman owned a really cool spice and gift shop in town. I have a video of him demonstrating the various uses of nutmeg.



 

there is something special about Grenada. Though it is a third world country, I took notice that everyone still takes such pride in their homes and appearances. No matter how poor, if a stone wall of the house had fallen, that they still keep their homes neat and many paint their houses in bright cheery colors. I found the people of Grenada to be among the nicest I’ve ever met. Add to that, all there is to see and experience, and that ranks Grenada high on my list of Sandals destinations.

St. Lucia

St. Lucia Flag St. Lucia stamp

The island: 238 square miles
Official language: English
Vernacular languages: Saint Lucian Creole French
Official currency: (XCD) East Caribbean Dollar $2.7 = US $1 on Sept. 14 2018
Rates are variable, so check current exchange for yourself at here
Flight time and price: This one is really all over the board. I can’t find the info for my trip back in 2016 but I’ve seen 4.75-hr flight Non-Stop from JFK was $517/pp. I had client go out of Albany with a layover for 7-8 hr. travel time about $600+/pp

Sept 2016 - In my opinion, of all Sandal’s Islands, St. Lucia has the most activities, and has the most adventurous excursions. I've touched slightly on some, but when it comes to excursions that could be a whole other blog. Thus, we’re better off having a phone or in-person consult. 5185735626 call any time with questions About Island Routes or Sandals or Beaches.

As part of traveling to St. Lucia we, meaning travel agents, are required to tour the property and be schooled on all that each unique resort has to offer. So of course, we were going to see the other resorts. St. Lucia is another island in our chain that has reciprocal exchange privileges, where you can stay at 1 and play at 3. Of the three, Sandals Halcyon is the quieter resort and likely to have more mature couples. Whereas the Grand Saint Lucian which is the more festive and youthful of the resorts and La Toc is somewhere in between. The Resort sits on a peninsula sandwiched between the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean. The Atlantic Ocean is located outside of the resort across the street and the resort’s beach lies on the Caribbean. I went sea to sea within a three-minute walk, touching the Atlantic and the Caribbean. I know it is difficult to see in the blog but this cool panoramic. 

All agents are encouraged to support the Sandals Foundation and the “Pack for a Purpose program.” We welcome and appreciate guests participating as well. The “Pack for a Purpose Program” encompasses bringing school and medical supplies that are desperately needed when traveling to the islands. I'm even happy to share how I can help you in support of the program with buying supplies in exchange for kind assistance in transporting them. When you arrive simply drop the items at the front desk.  I can also arrange for you to do a Reading Road Trip, and experience first-hand the gratitude of the students and teachers for you bringing things that we take for granted. I’ve had clients do it and return to tell me it was so worth the nominal cost for such a touching experience.  I really embraced the program, so on my trip to St. Lucia, I loaded up with all sorts of supplies, soccer balls (deflated them for travel), jump ropes, coloring books etc. I believe the kids should also experience fun as well as learning. 

 

I had everything neatly packed in small cardboard boxes inside a larger cardboard box. I shared the ride down with another travel agent. When I got to JFK ready to check the box as baggage, the airline rep informed me that it is prohibited to ship a cardboard Box internationally. I said to her, what do I do with all this stuff? It’s over a $100 worth of goods that I’m bringing to very needy kids in the islands. You want me to just leave it behind? Mind you, the only store on our side of customs doesn’t open for two hours, and we needed to be boarding about then. So forget trying to make it through customs again. Her reply, I don't know what to tell you? So I run over to Dunkin Donuts in desperation and I asked if they can give me big bags. The guy was glad to help and gave me six large bags. After I loaded the bags up, my friend Mark and fellow travel agent, informs me that the airline is going to charge me $25 per Dunkin Donut bag as is the fee for checked luggage (that’s going up for most every airline). By this time all sorts of airport employees are in on trying to help me get the goods to the kids. It hits me as I notice a maintenance person, they have big durable garbage bags. We took four bags, stuffing one inside the other for support and loaded everything in it. While I went in search of tape, Mark tied a sturdy knot to form a handle. In the photo you can see how many times we wrapped it in masking tape. Must be ten times, but at least it was good enough to fly and handle getting tossed around by the baggage people

Of course because it is me, I can't do anything without running into issues, controversy, adversity, injustice or incompetence, even going to the beautiful tropics.

By this time all sorts of airport employees are in on trying to help me get the goods to the kids. It hits me as I notice a maintenance person, they have big durable garbage bags. We took four bags, stuffing one inside the other for support and loaded everything in it. While I went in search of tape, Mark tied a sturdy knot to form a handle. In the photo you can see how many times we wrapped it in masking tape. Must be ten times, but at least it was good enough to fly and handle getting tossed around by the baggage people.

When we arrived at Sandals La Toc, the resort randomly pulled names to assign agents different level accommodations so we can experience it all. God rewarded me with a Butler suite and what an experience (more about that in the consultation). The butlers assigned to my suite asked what was up with the odd shaped package. They thought the story very funny, but they expressed gratitude as well. I make everything sound funny. Just as I finished the story, when a gentleman walked up who was equally curious. Victor, a manager at LaToc was very touched by both my generosity and effort. The discussion of The Reading Tour came up and I expressed my interest. Victor arranged for me to visit a school in Castries.   While in town Victor and I visited the local cathedral where his family are parishioners. Due to time the driver took me to the airport. In my experience it is well worth the cost for private transfer, especially if it is a long ride.

It is not required but again encouraged for everyone to bring supplies. The first morning we gather for a seminar and the instructors spread the supplies on a table for everyone take a photo. I’m not saying this for props but for as gracious and generous as Sandals is to us, you’d think that more people would bring stuff. Especially knowing how much it is greatly needed. I’m guessing people just bring what little room they have left in their carry-on because there is a cost to checking a bag and less convenient. I’m sure the schools would love the luxury of running to Staples to fill their desperate needs. Very little goes a long way so consider “Packing for a Purpose” on your next vacation.

While at the Grand Saint Lucian you can go just outside the resort to Pigeon Island National Park for $7 entrance fee. It is full of military ruins (one has a bar located inside, and a trail with signs pointing out the tropical vegetation. We hiked up to the outlook, which sits high above the island as illustrated. About half way up is Fort Rodney, which protected the English fleet in Rodney Bay below. Even further is the apex of the hill which is more of a mountain. From the fort and above it is a picture perfect post card as illustrated in my photo. I was asked by my fellow agents, Mark and Katherine S to join them on a hike. I hadn't eaten like the others, because my pizza got dropped. My buddy Mark who is impatient didn’t want to wait for me. The most I had that afternoon was a Virgin Dirty Banana (with rum, it WAS my favorite drink at Sandals, more on the NEW one another time), but I had no time to waste if I was going to join the others. I should have eaten and gone alone. Essentially I did as the story unfolds. Mark started up to the summit without Katherine and me. We caught up to him at the fort. He had little interest, so Mark marched up ahead. Katherine and I were taking photos of each other at the fort. When I was ready to start my ascent of this very rocky and steep hill, Katherine realized she had an appointment for a photo shoot back at La Toc and couldn’t trek any further. As I was making my way up, Mark was coming down. Stubbornly, I was bound and determined to get up there and take photos of the spectacular views. I kid you not, this was no easy hike. When I finally reached the top, I realized I neglected to bring water and I was “very” alone, hungry, dehydrated and exhausted. Adding insult to injury, I went to take photos and the battery on my phone had died. Thankfully I brought suntan lotion, but even with that I was beginning to burn. With the phone dead I couldn’t call for help, a ride, or the boss that I might miss the shuttle back and be late for the event. That is prohibited and I would have forfeited the privilege of doing the fam trips. Going back down was a harrowing experience because I could see more clearly how the edge was much closer than I realized. The stones beneath my feet made every step treacherous. One could easily slip on the stones and slide right off and be a definite goner. I had to stop every so often to take what little cover there was. When I reached the bottom I was on the ground, nearly passed out. A German family that spoke very little English realized I could use water and gave me a bottle. When I said I think I’m going to die, they laughed thinking I was kidding and moved on. I had the wherewithal to at least ask them the time. It was later than I thought and if I didn’t hurry I would miss the shuttle. I was disoriented and ran to the wrong gate. I caught a cab, but I, the guy who always carries a wad, only had enough on me to get me to the front gate of the GSL. I barely caught the shuttle, but I made the cocktail reception on time and I’m still going Sandals strong. I make it a much funnier story in person.

I made sure to get a photo in front of the Atlantic. The panoramic above 

Sandals La Toc (SLU)

First Stay: September 2016 (Travel Partner trip)
When traveling with agents from Association of Bridal Consultants, the hotel pulls names randomly. I drew a Butler suite at La Toc. I think it was Good Karma
Beach: shorter, private cove beach,
Rooms: 331 rooms, 19 categories
Restaurants: 9
Bars: 8 full service including Irish pub
Pools: 3 whirlpools: 4
Travel time from: Hewanorra International Airport (UVF) 100-120 minutes.

Noteworthy Points of interest:

St. Lucia is another of our “stay at 1, play at 3” exchange privileges, (golf included) 
Shuttles runs repeatedly throughout the day and evening between the resorts which are 20 minutes apart, give or take a few.

There is an Executive 9-hole golf course on site at Sandals La Toc. Of course I took the opportunity to get the experience of playing the course. It is all about knowing my product so I can share an informed opinion with you. My caddy (caddies are compulsory at La Toc and in Jamaica) told me that at the time the company was expanding it to 11 holes. I’ve never heard of an 11-hole course but it looked like these holes were going to play longer for the avid golfer. If you’re not an avid golfer it won’t matter to you. If you are, then you know Executive courses are not what you’d typically play. However, it might be perfect if you just want to squeeze in a little golf, but don’t want to take up a whole day. It’s my understanding that they will not continue with a back nine, because in 2017 Sandals purchased a beautiful 18-hole golf course and country club just 15 minutes from any of the resorts. All Sandals guests get unlimited golf with no greens fee on St. Lucia. Getting back to St. Lucia is second on my personal list of future destinations.


Throughout my life starting at the age of 12 I have played many courses, Executive to exclusive country clubs and some very nice public courses. I got better but never good. Still I’m qualified to render a fairly expert opinion. I liked the Executive course at La Toc, but wasn’t blown away. Naturally, hard to compare an executive course to an Emerald Bay. Either way nothing improves my game. ☺ La Toc has been described as the most sparkling jewel in the islands. It is a magnificent 210-acre estate set on a half-mile, crescent-shaped beach, cradling exotic coral bluffs, lush hillsides and rolling fairways. It has stunning oceanfront suites and the private enclave of the Sunset Bluff Village.

Grand Saint Lucien (SGL)

First visit: September 2016 (Travel Partner Trip)
Beach: long and public
Rooms: 310+, 16 categories
Restaurants: 12
Bars: 6 full-service including British Pub
Pools: 5
Whirlpool: 4
Travel time: From Hewanorra International Airport (UVF) 90 minutes

Noteworthy Points of interest and insider tips:
I mentioned most everything in my story, but a few more notes it has spectacular over the water bungalows, a very large pool full of activity and a beautiful beach.
This is a fun resort.

Sandals Halcyon (SHC)

First visit: September 2016 (Travel Partner Trip)
Beach: long public
Rooms: 169, 10 categories
Restaurants: 6
Bars: 7 full service including British Pub
Pools: 5, most have a whirlpool attached or close by,
Travel time: From Hewanorra International Airport (UVF) 75 minutes

Noteworthy Points of interest about Island History, tours and insider tips:
Small, charming, perfect starter for St. Lucia, lowest price of the three properties. Generally, has mature guests.

Again remember our “stay at 1, play at 3 privileges.” So everything the others have to offer you can indulge yourself.

I can’t find any of my photos. I won’t bother putting a stock photo here. Remember you can got to my Sandals site, https://www.sandals.com/?referral=112531&agentid=ANCO7108 to see more or if you’re raring to go book your trip. Don’t forget to email me.

Jamaica


Jamaica
 Flag Jamaica
 stamp

The island: 4200+ square miles
Official language: English
Vernacular languages: Jamaican Patois (I love a Patois accent)
Official currency: (JMD) Jamaican Dollar 135.50 = $1US on Sept. 14 2018
Rates are variable, so check current exchange for yourself here
Flight time and price:

  • From JFK to MBJ - About 4-hour Non-Stop flight, I’ve seen $350-$600/pp
  • From Albany MBJ - In 2015 my flight was 5.5-hrs including layover $440/pp
  • From JFK to KIN - About 4-hour flight Non-Stop $400-$600/pp

 

Sandals and Beaches have half (10) of all their current properties (20) in Jamaica. It is the country where Sandals was born of a vision by the Chairman the Hon. Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart. Who is also Jamaican born. From a modest unrelated business, with determination and effort he built an empire. It is quite an amazing story, that was made into a book, “All that is Good.” I own a copy. It can often be found on any of the properties. Jamaican people are genuinely friendly and I mentioned I love a Patois accent. The mountains, white sand beaches, lush foliage, rolling rivers and cascading waterfalls make a beautiful landscape. Which makes this another of our adventurous destinations. You can do a lazy raft ride on Montego Bay's Martha Brae River. Climb world-famous Dunn's River Falls in Ocho Rios. Watch the cliff divers at Rick's Café in Negril.

April 2015

My first trip ever FAM trip (Travel Partner Trip) and the first of many classes was in Jamaica. I didn’t take many photos because I was a newbie and didn’t realize how invaluable it was to have them to share.

Sandals South Coast Whitehouse (SWH)

First Stay: April 2015 (Travel Partner Trip)
Beach: pristine 2-mile white sand
Rooms: 370+
Restaurants: 9
Bars: 7 full-service including British Pub
Pools: 4
Whirlpool: 4
Travel time from: Sangster International Airport (MBJ) most common airport from US 75 minutes

Noteworthy Points of interest:
Jamaica's only all-beachfront, all-ocean view resort set on a 500-acre wilderness preserve. Sandals South Coast brings guests closer than ever to the water, featuring Over-The-Water Bungalows, Latitudes° Over Water Bar, an Over-The-Water Wedding Chapel, and Jamaica's largest pool. Everything you can image is beachside at Sandals South Coast, including the new Sushi on the Sand restaurant set along the resort's pristine 2-mile white-sand beach. One of Three Sandals resorts with over-the-water villas and bungalows with butler accommodations.

Sandals Negril (SNG)

First Stay: April 2015 (Travel Partner Trip)
Beach: a long 7-mile public beach
Rooms: 225+, 16 categories
Restaurants: 7
Bars: 5 full-service including British Pub
Pools: 4
Whirlpools: 3
Travel time from: Sangster International Airport (MBJ) 60 minutes

Noteworthy Points of interest:
This world-class beachfront resort combines a laid-back atmosphere with refined elegance. Spanning the longest and best stretch of Jamaica's famous seven-mile beach, this is the only hotel in Negril to have won the coveted Green Globe Award, for being environmentally-friendly. The architecture has been designed to be lower than the highest palm trees so it doesn’t take over the landscape.


Beaches Negril (BNG)


First visit: April 2015 (Travel Partner Trip)

Beach: 7 miles of a pristine public beach

Rooms: 220+
Restaurants: 7

Bars: 7 full-service including British Pub

Pools: 6

Whirlpools: 3
Travel time from: Sangster International Airport (MBJ) 80 minutes

Noteworthy Points of interest:
Not going to BS anyone. It was my first Fam trip and I was totally overwhelmed and tired so I don’t have much first-hand experience I will say if it is anything like what we experienced in Turks and Caicos, they really have thought of it all and I did do a private tour of Ocho Rios so I have more knowledge of it. A common thread of Beaches is that it too easy to feel like a kid at Beaches, Xbox, games, fun, ice cream, hot dogs... Ice cream trucks, macaroni and cheese trucks. The moment you walk into any Beaches you officially enter a carefree fun filled zone. BNG is located on the widest stretch of Negril’s famous 7-mile Beach and has an 18,000 sq. ft. Water park with 650.ft lazy river and 200-foot water slide.
November/December 2016

Sandals Montego Bay (SMB)

First visit: November/December 2016 (Travel Partner Trip)
Beach: private cove
Rooms: 260+
Restaurants: 9
Bars: 4 Full-service bars including British pub
Pools: 6
Whirlpools: 3
Travel time: From Sangster International Airport (MBJ) 10 minutes
Noteworthy Points of interest:
Another Stay at 1, Play at 3 exchange privileges.

If you want to party it up, this is your spot. The airport is close by, so it has become a Montego Bay tradition to wave at the planes. As you watch people leave the island, you can be thankful you’re still in paradise. Though it is the very first Sandals, the company is always redesigning to always improve guest’s experiences. It is a masterpiece featuring stunning new accommodations including the Oceanfront Swim-up Suites, Romeo & Juliet Suites, and Beachfront Butler Suites. They were in the midst of making the lobby open-airy. The main bar Oleander restaurant have been renovated. A beautiful wedding chapel was constructed and as you can see under construction when we were there, Sandals is constantly innovating the all-inclusive experience. Montego Bay is where the party never stops on Jamaica’s largest white sand beach.

The Wedding Chapel

How else was I going to get to see it in person if I didn’t wait until the contractors left?

Sandals Royal Caribbean Montego Bay (SRC)

First Stay: November/December 2016 (Travel Partner Trip)
Beach: 2 private coves
Rooms: 225+
Restaurants: 8
Bars: 5 Full-service bars including British pub
Pools: 7
Whirlpools: 5
Travel time: From Sangster International Airport (MBJ) 10 minutes

Noteworthy Points of interest:
On this Fam we stayed at the Royal Caribbean but again visited the others which have Stay at 1, Play at 3 exchange privileges. To paraphrase Sandal's own description, Britain to Bali-exotic adventures renowned for its refinements and British traditions of a bygone era, such as high tea, croquet and continental breakfast in bed. It isn't as if you can't picture a high tea, all the same I wished I captured photo.
Surrounded by manicured gardens and roaming peacocks picture below, this elegant resort features innovative suites including Swim-up Crystal Lagoon Suites and Over-the-water villas. As pictured above you can take a very cool boat ride to their private offshore island. It features a pool with a swim-up bar, a secluded private beach that makes for a romantic retreat. Again, Stay at 1, Play at 3 exchange privileges.

I’ve never enjoyed a piano bar or I should say a piano bar ACT like these gentlemen. I’ll play the video when we meet.

ARE You Ready for a vacation? 5185735626

Sandals Inn (SIN) Montego Bay

First visit: November/December 2016 (Travel Partner Trip)
Beach: public, directly across the street, very small
Rooms: 50+
Restaurants: 3
Bars: 4
Pools: 1
Whirlpool: 1
Travel time from: Sangster International Airport (MBJ) 5 minutes
Noteworthy Points of interest:
It is our smallest the least expensive SANDALS resort. I’ll reiterate, the “Stay at 1, Play at 3” allows you full exchange privileges to Sandals Montego Bay and Sandals Royal Caribbean only ten minutes away. Which means in addition to the three specialty restaurants at the Inn, the other nine gourmet restaurants are at your disposal. As well, all the other amenities. It is an authentic and intimate Jamaican boutique with 24-hour room service for all guests. Not my first option but Sandals Inn offers a lot at an economical value.

A view of the beach from Sandals Inn

Sandals Ochi (SOBR) Ocho Rios

First Stay: Personal Dec 2016 Subsequent to a Travel Partner Trip in Montego Bay November/December 2016
Beach: half a mile of white-sand
Rooms: 500+
Restaurants: 16
Bars: 11 full-service including British Pub and Speakeasy
Pools: 105 Whirlpools: 22 (that includes all the private pools at the villas)
Travel time: From Sangster International Airport (MBJ) 90 minutes
Noteworthy Points of interest:
OCHI has a very lively Caribbean vibe with constant beach parties at night. Many excursions are available. The prices are lower than most of the other resorts on the West side of the island. Ochi is the only resort with a Speakeasy so close to authentic it truly transforms you back into the Roaring 20’s. I’ve seen it first hand and the acts are awesome.

The Beach party is about to explode. No surprise I didn’t get any good or appropriate photos after the massed poured in. Like I said NON-STOP entertainment.

I can’t tell you where it is,
but this is the door to the Speakeasy. You’ll have to find it for yourself and you need the daily password. “Is you is or is you not my baby?”

I’m known for being candid and forthright. Ochi is not my favorite area and not my favorite resort. Yet others rave about it. The beach side is where all the fun happens. I stayed on the Great House Estate hillside in a secluded butler villa, which when traveling alone doesn’t do me any good. The hillside and beach are separated by a public road. You have to take a shuttle to get to the other side. In my opinion, it has sort of an adult spring break feel. Though neighboring Royal Plantation is the opposite of Ochi, very quiet, with a mellow elegance. Remember it is an all butler resort so the people going there are looking to lay back and be pampered. See Golf Section.

My driver brought me to Jimmy Buffet’s Margaretville where there was this cute little shopping center.

One of my favorite people in the company Mr. Donovan Dobson and me.

Sandals Royal Plantation (SRP) Ocho Rios

First visit: Personal site tour Dec 2016 Subsequent to a Travel Partner Trip in Montego Bay November/December 2016
Beach: 2 private cove
Rooms: 70+ luxurious all-ocean view suite Very exclusive all butler service resort.
Restaurants: 5
Bars: full-service including British Pub
Pools: 3
Whirlpool:
Travel time from: Sangster International Airport (MBJ) 90 minutes
Noteworthy Points of interest:
Bordered by the rolling hills of the St. Ann Mountains and the crystal clear waters of a calm bay known as The Ocho Rios Riviera.

Royal Plantation is the perfect seclusion for those who are serious about taking life easy, yet desirous of every refinement. Offering the intimacy of an elegant private villa and the panache of a world-class all-inclusive Caribbean beach. (see the golf section below Beaches Ocho Rios section)

 

 

 

 

Beaches Ocho Rios (BOR)

First visit: Personal site tour Dec 2016 Subsequent to a Travel Partner Trip in Montego Bay November/December 2016
Beach: private cove 
Rooms: 220+ 
Restaurants: 7
Bars: 7
Pools: 5 and a Water park 
Whirlpools: 2 
Kiddie pools: 1
Travel time: From Sangster International Airport (MBJ) 90 minutes 
Noteworthy Points of interest: 
I did a fast track semi guided tour so other than being on property I didn’t experience any of the amenities. I’ll say what I said about Beaches Negril. Like Turks and Caicos, they really have thought of it all! Xbox, games, fun, ice cream, hot dogs, Ice cream trucks, macaroni and cheese trucks. I saw the 27,000 square-foot Pirates waterpark and surprise I even took a couple really bad photos. A common thread of Beaches is that feel like a kid at any age entering a carefree fun filled zone.

 

Golf in Jamaica:
Any guests of Sandals in Jamaica has free unlimited golf. Sandals Grand Riviera, Royal Plantation and Beaches are only 25 minutes from the golf course. The other resorts are hours away and guests have to pay for their own transportation. I don’t think a game of golf is worth losing four plus hours in a car instead of being on a beach. At the tail end of a fam trip in Montego Bay, I took a couple of my nights to research the resorts on the East side of the country. Naturally, I availed myself of the opportunity to experience the course. I really liked the layout. Caddies are compulsory and mine was the best. His name is Dale. I don’t know if he was pulling my leg, but he told me everyone calls him Tiger. I didn’t ask him why but certainly doesn’t look anything like Tiger Woods. I play poorly, but I play fast. I don’t dilly-dally with practice swings and I don’t stop to look for lost balls. Although Dale was so great at spotting every shot, never a ball did I lose. That in and of itself makes for a great round. It wasn’t long before I caught up with the folks in front of me. I was having “some” (lol) difficulty, which is not uncommon for me. Out of absolute agony (lol) for having to painstakingly watch my swing, Dale decided I needed help. With great trepidation in his voice for not wanting to offend a guest he asked me why do you drop your shoulder. I told him don’t be bashful keep correcting me. With hints here and there, I was striking the ball really well and my swing was fluid at least for that afternoon. Dale was so awesome. Unfortunately, I couldn’t take him, or that same swing back to States.

You can't realize the value until you know what you're getting and how it compares

People will often ask is it worth it. So I’m going to give you some examples of different things in comparing the value of Sandals and Beaches resort to what you might experience here at home in the States.

The caliber of Sandals and Beaches cuisine is Five Star Global Gourmet. The comparison of prices come right from the owner of several of the Capital Regions (local) finest restaurants banquet and catering. Among the type of places his holdings have included a steak house, seafood, tapas, and the nicest public golf course and country club, and the list goes on. I’m also including some of my personal experiences.

At a local diner for two people at the very least for a simple a breakfast, two eggs bacon English muffin coffee you’re paying $32 for two tax and 20% gratuity. For a basic lunch $15/a plate not including beverages let us say you just drank water (not likely if you’re at an all-inclusive $40 tax and gratuity included for two.

Just going out for drinks during the summer hanging out on a deck overlooking local traffic. At our resorts if your drink goes warm you ditch and get a fresh one. You wouldn’t do it if you were paying for each drink and how many would you go through in the course of a day. You know yourself but let’s say average drink from least to most $11 plus tax and tip figure $15/pp $90 per couple for three drinks.

Glass of wine (Sandals and Beaches serves Robert Mondavi wine): on average is $10 or $12 at most places
Beer Domestic $5.50 Imported $7.50
Premium liquor which is all that Sandals carries: $12-$14
Soda is $2.00 at least in any fine restaurant.

Now comes dinner average prices/pp for comparative cuisine without alcohol:

Appetizers: $15

Salad: $12

Side dish: $10

Avg. Entre, few examples: 9 oz. Filet $45, 12 oz. Lobster tail $46, Sea Bass $45, lots of others some less some more

Dessert: $15

Coffee or Tea: $2.50

That’s $100/pp



Let’s say you each have two drinks averaging out beer vs premium liquor, $11 and one of each of the above that’s $122 x 2 equals $244 $19.5 for tax and a 20% gratuity, unless your stingy or generous and higher like.
 $312 tax and tip.

Later on you head over to a local pub, grab a couple beers ($6.5) and can’t resist ordering chicken wings ($10) rounding up because avg. person would leave more than a few bucks $30 tax and tip for two.

Potentially you could run it up to $500 per couple just in food alone for one day. Now you might not eat like that in one day but over an average of 7 days on vacation that would be $3,500+.

Let’s look at accommodations, the local Marriott overlooking strip plazas, gas stations and office building is $190/night. We won’t even bother with Disney or Universal ridiculous prices. A boutique hotel on the new England coast or Jersey shore on the very low side is $250. My family did one night at a Staybridge in Syracuse NY it was $270 with fees etc. if you stayed seven days that’s almost $2,000.00.

I’m not going to do multiple examples of the type of al inclusive activities offered at Sandals. My buddy owns a small summer resort motel in Lake George to rent a paddle board is $30 and kayak $30.

While I was in Grenada I completed the PADI SCUBA CERTIFICATION for only $400 here at home to do in a Lake that’s cold in August is $600. The best part is that as a guest at Sandals SCUBA DIVING is free and unlimited.

A round of golf with cart at a local municipal course $94 for two.

Add all that up above and it comes close to $6,000.00 not even counting so many other things there are to do on resort, with that amount you can get very chic boutique rooms and in higher levels of accommodations WITH BUTLER SERVICE.

If you want to talk about being pampered Butler is the way to go!!!!!

You can reserve a vacation with $49/pp and then another $302 down in 21 days. Make payments as you go, and pay it all but final balances are due 45 days before travel. Remember what I said earlier rooms can go from 4 available to sold out in blink. Wait no longer get pampered in Paradise call me at (518)573-5626 * or click on this pretty photo.

MY ins and outs of TRAVEL

My experience in attaining better fares and Non-Stop flights was to fly from one of the major airports, JFK, Logan (BOS), Newark (EWK) and the like.

I live right under the flight pattern for Albany International, so whenever possible I look to fly from home. With few exceptions, the only Sandals or Beaches destinations that can be reached from Albany without long layovers and very high airfare prices are Nassau Bahamas (NAS), Montego Bay Jamaica (MBJ) and Providenciales Turks & Caicos (PLS). That’s not to say there isn’t the occasional anomaly. No matter which airport, it is advised to arrive at the airport three hours in advance of your flight. Of my flights to the islands that were not out of ALB, began via car or train on the way to JFK. Train pricing is all over the board (pun intended). The nice thing is once arriving at Penn Station, it is an easy trip to JFK. Take the LIR(R) to the Jamaica station, get off there and go up one platform to take the air train which stops at every terminal in JFK including Federal Circle which has multiple hotel and car rental companies. If driving plan on at least a 3-hour car ride from Albany. I suggest giving yourself at least an extra hour in case you have traffic, to get parking and shuttle to terminal. You can figure $110/RT for gas and tolls. Any time I’ve traveled by car, I’ve had the luxury of riding with my fellow agent and friend Mark. Our first trip Mark found an affordable park-n-fly vendor, http://airparkparking.com for $17.95/day.

Ironically, we haven’t been on the same trips since 2016. Since then I’ve gone solo on my trips. Rather than drive and risk falling asleep at the wheel, I find it more relaxing to take the train. Most flights out of JFK are early AM, except this next one is 11:59 PM. Regardless of time of day, you need to be at the airport three hours ahead of time. I learned on my last trip you cannot check a bag any earlier than seven hours prior to your flight. On one trip, I waited in the terminal (more on that when we have a conversation) on another I stayed at the Best Western the night before and took the hotel shuttle. It was surprisingly clean and reasonable. I ordered from their suggested pizza vendor and it sucked. So much for NYC pizza.

Any of the island airports included in this blog are ones that US citizens travel through to one of our resorts.

Since flights fluctuate based on time of the year, departure airport, day of the week, length of stay and other factors there is no true way to give exact data on the costs etc. So, any prices that I may share are either from my own experience or an estimate based on research. The price is for one-person round trip, and of course subject to change.

Just to provide a sample comparison, I did a quick online search on 03/25/18. I used Dec. 02nd to Dec. 07th as my travel dates on round trip flights departing from either ALB or JFK with Nassau (NAS) Bahamas and Montego Bay Jamaica (MBJ) as destinations. For the most part, those are the only islands where you can start in ALB and get there the same day. That said I got a flight going out of Albany Airport (ALB) for my family traveling to Turks & Caicos (PLS) that is the same cost as JFK. I live 5 minutes from (ALB). It requires connecting flights, but who cares. The trip is still approx. 6 hours. There is the occasional anomaly on other flights, but only if your stars align

ALB to MBJ was $482
JFK to MBJ was $319
Both about a 2 hr. flight connecting in CLT, and from CLT to MBJ about another 3 Hrs.
How is this for irony?
ALB to NAS was $319.00
from JFK to NAS was $416.00
Again, both about a 2 hr. flight connecting in CLT,
From CLT to NAS for about 2 Hrs. and 20 minutes

To further reinforce my point, in the 30 minutes I played around searching, the connections and prices changed to longer and higher prices. I swear the airlines track your searches and mess with you by jacking up the choices you’re searching. I have better luck going through Sandals. I’m not saying that for my benefit because I don’t earn a commission on flights. The best thing to do is when you’re ready to go, ask me to research flights. You always can verify my research with your own.

www.travelmath.com site will give you comparisons on travel time but it isn’t a true read for everything.

The most important thing you’ll need to begin your journey is a current passport that is valid up to six months after your dates of travel.

You can go without clothes, but if you don’t have a passport, you’re not going anywhere. It is compulsory that information given to me as your agent or the airlines matches what is on your passport. Any errors will result in TSA & Customs prohibiting you from traveling. To make your reservation for the resort, we need your given name, passport info, address, email, phone number, credit card and emergency contact. If you have any dietary restrictions or allergies, please inform me at the time of the booking so I can notify the resort to make arrangements with the restaurants. If you have any concerns about handicap accessibility, it is important we address that when choosing a resort. Some are more accessible than others. If it is your honeymoon or your anniversary there are bonuses given so you have to let me know and I’ll tell you how to make that happen.

No matter your destination nation, you haven’t officially arrived until you clear customs. Like anything else, the time you spend in line and reporting to the Customs agent will vary. Retrieve any checked bags, and bring all your luggage to the Sandals Welcome desk outside the terminal. Transportation to the resort is included with any Sandals or Beaches vacation. They’ll set you up for a shuttle and you’ll be on your way to paradise. Private car transfers are available for an additional cost and I can make those arrangements for you.

When checking in at the resort, they will ask for a credit card to hold for any incidentals, such as gift store purchases, cabana rentals, spa treatments, or excursions. The only people from the airport to and on the resort that are permitted to accept a tip are shuttle drivers, tour guides, spa personnel and butlers. If a server, bartender or other staff accept a tip they will be terminated. Given how most of these countries are impoverished, the temptation for them could be strong. Even though you want to show your appreciation, handing them a gratuity will put them at risk of losing their jobs. If you want to do something nice, ask me about the “Pack for a Purpose” program.

Unless you’re going off property you won’t need cash. I typically carry a lot of cash, except it seems when I need it. However, if you’re going take your own cab, take excursions, or do any shopping, especially with street vendors, you’ll need cash. Foreign money exchange is available at the front desk. I suggest converting to the local currency (listed above) before venturing out so you don’t get hosed. The American dollar is typically much stronger.