On a recent trip to the sunny shores of the Caribbean islands of St Lucia and Antigua, our Julie enjoyed a taste of all-inclusive luxury, sampling a variety of Sandals resorts. Here's her travel diary...
Thursday 23 June
Starting off from home for my overnight hotel at Gatwick, I was looking forward to the next few days away sampling the hospitality of Sandals in St Lucia and Antigua. Three hours after I left home, I finally arrived at Gatwick airport! It was really wet and very busy with lots of rain and flooding in London (it should have taken 1hour 40 mins), many trains were in the wrong place, and they were packed, and all running late. I believe the trains actually stopped running due to the flooding later that night so I was happy I was already there.
Friday 24 June
After a very restless night’s sleep and a fire alarm going off in the hotel at 3am, I got up at 5am to go to the airport to meet up with the rest of the group at the north terminal. By 6.30am, most had arrived so we proceeded to check-in... only to find we were on standby, and maybe not going anywhere as the flight was overbooked. After a two hour wait, we were finally given our boarding passes at 9.30am, and told to run to the departure gate for our 10am flight with British Airways. Then we found we had been upgraded to Club world sleeper seats, so it finally looked like my luck was beginning to change! Wow! It was so comfortable with our large fully reclining flatbed seats champagne and a la carte menu. So eight hours and 10mins later we arrived in St Lucia relaxed and totally chilled out. It was 1.30pm lunch time, 35 degrees and 5 hours different to UK time.
After collecting our luggage we made our way to the Sandals club lounge to wait for our transfer to the Hotel Sandals Regency La Toc in Castries, which took just over one hour along the main road over the mountains towards the other side of the island.
On arrival at the hotel we were taken to the club lounge and checked into our sunset bluff butler suites which were large suites furnished with dark wood and 4 poster bed, Jacuzzi bath, shower room, lounge area and veranda overlooking the sea, with our fridge full of cold drinks and the champagne ready and waiting. Our private butlers were anxious to help where ever possible with anything we needed, like unpacking our cases, running our baths, or getting our breakfast served in our rooms - and, with our individual mobile phone to call them when we needed them, they were at our assistance whenever we wanted them.
After settling into the suite, we just about had time to shower and get ready for dinner. Our dinner tonight was in the main buffet open air restaurant at the main reception area, which we travelled to in little mini golf buggy, where a massive Caribbean buffet was on offer - mmmmm lovely!!!! So, after a lovely dinner, a couple of rum punches, dancing and games with the audience, it was time for bed as I had now been up really 24 hrs and was shattered - so off to my large comfortable four-poster bed and a good night's sleep, my bed was awesome and a large kingsize draped in white cotton sheets with a swan decoration made from towels and petals saying welcome, it was beautiful.
Saturday 25 June
After what can only be called a beautiful night’s sleep on my 4poster bed, we were up bright and early for breakfast which we had in the buffet at the main resort restaurant at 9am. We commenced our first hotel inspection at the Sandals Regency La Toc where we were staying. It was spread out over 220 acres of lush tropical grounds with 331 rooms 5 separate villages: Emerald Village, Honeymoon Hideaway village, Piton oceanfront village, Sunset Oceanside Bluff village, and Sunset Bluff village, which you can travel between by golf buggy as they are quite a distance apart and are often very steep and hilly. With 21 categories of room in the hotel, we were pretty busy looking at most of the different varieties, including oceanfront butler suite with tranquillity soaking tubs, and private pool millionaire suite with sanctuary pool, walk out beach front rooms ,and many more; far too many to list, but they were all beautiful. Plus, there's at least 9 different places to eat in resort from Italian at Armando's to Japanese teppanyaki at Kimonos or Caribbean food at Pitons. The hotel also has extensive golf facilities and Red Lane spa and a dive centre, so after 2 1\2 hours walking around the hotel, we were off to the next one - Sandals has three resorts in St Lucia, and guests are able to use the facilities of the other resorts on a 'stay at one, play at three' exchange scheme.
We were now taken to see Sandals Halcyon Beach hotel, just north of Castries. Stretching 1039 feet along a beautiful fine sand beach, this hotel is smaller at just 22acres, and has a very relaxed feeling, and is very popular with British guests. Halcyon Beach has 169 rooms and 10 room categories: once again, butler suites are available, but this hotel only has two villages: Caribbean and Honeymoon hideaway. Most of the rooms in this hotel are the same, but the main difference is whether it is beach front or more inland. Many rooms are walk-out beach rooms, and many boast private pools. There's six different restaurants, including Kelly's dockside grill, Mario's Italian, Soy sushi bar, and Beach bistro for burgers and hot dogs. Once again, Sauna and gym facilities are on hand, and also a dive and snorkel centre. After another hour of walking around the hotel and grounds we were off to our third hotel of the day
By now it was 130 pm & lunch time when we arrived at the Sandals Grand St Lucia at Gros de Islet 15 miles north of Castries and a very much deserved lunch was on hand after 4 1/2 hours of walking around in 35 degrees of heat, we were all starting to flag a bit. We were greeted in a beautiful open reception area and taken to the buffet restaurant for lunch. About an hour later we were all fit again ready to look around this beautiful hotel
With 302 rooms set in 17 acres of land and 16 categories of room type ranging from the top beach front Rondoval Butler Suite with private pool or Caribbean Beach Front Butler Suite with pool or Caribbean oceanfront penthouse suite or swim up pool rooms. Once again all were simply beautiful. The hotel is set on an Islet of land in between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic and you can choose rooms facing either way. There's at least 14 different venues to eat including Bombay Club Indian Restaurant, Jerk Shack Caribbean food, Mariners seafood or Kimonos Japanese to name but a few. Once again Red lane spa gym and dive centre. This was a beautiful hotel and so far my favourite. By 5pm we were ready to go back to our own hotel as it had been a long hot day and we had walked about 13 kilometres around the 3 hotels and grounds. So after about an hour journey back and a short stop in Castries we were back at our hotel to shower and dress for dinner. To enjoy our cocktails and dinner in Armando's Italian restaurant with the hotel management, before a good but short night sleep as we had to be up at 5 am to go to the airport for our flight to Antigua in the morning
Sunday 26 June
Up at 5am bright and early ready for our transfer to St Lucia domestic airport which was only 15 mins away unlike the international airport which is at the other end of the island and about 1 1/2 hours away. We checked in for our Liat Airways flight at 0820 to Antigua and flew in our little plane for about an hour, arriving in Antigua at 0925. After collecting our luggage and doing the short transfer to our hotel we soon arrived at Sandals Antigua on Dickinson Bay.
On arrival we were taken to the club lounge to check in to our rooms, leave our luggage, and begin our resort and hotel tour straight away. This hotel just seemed amazing and was soon my outstanding favourite of the four hotels we had seen or stayed in. Lazing gently on a fine white sand beach settled amongst the palm trees with 373 rooms and 25 room categories between the Mediterranean village and Caribbean Grove. Once again many butler suites and private pools and beach front walk out rooms. Dining included Barefoot on the Beach seafood restaurant, Cafe Du Paris French patisserie & ice cream bar and the Drunken Duck pub. After our tour around the hotel grounds and rooms, we had a lovely lunch from the pizzeria. Then we were off to complete our Sandals training for the rest of the afternoon. So once again by 5pm, we were all flagging again, as it had been a long hot day with a very early start. So now it was time to go off to our rooms to shower, dress and be ready for dinner and cocktails at Mario's Italian restaurant before bed time.
Monday 27 June
This morning we woke up to sunny blue skies and little white puffy clouds. Then after a buffet breakfast we all went down to the beach to get on our catamaran that was taking us out for a day’s cruising and snorkelling in the beautiful Caribbean sea.
We set off from the hotel just after 9am travelled to the capital of St Johns to collect a few more passengers then set sail along the coastline which was lined by fabulous houses villas and well known hotels. Plenty of suntan cream was the order for the day; it was scorching. After passing several forts and land marks and passing Yepton beach jolly harbour hawksbill and several other hotels, we anchored up over a reef to snorkel and we saw various fish and a small sting ray as we swam against the strong current. It was hard work to keep swimming towards the catamaran, but we all made it back safely. All back on board, a buffet lunch was served by the crew. We set sail for a swim at Yepton beach just outside St Johns which was beautiful and lovely and cool in the water. The sun was hot and still scorching and many were now well tanned and a bit burnt as it was now 445pm by the time we arrived back at our beach.
So back off to our rooms to shower and get ready for dinner and cocktails with the hotel manager at the Barefoot on the Beach restaurant which was very nice I had calamari and surf and turf. Mmmmm! This was a good ending to the day, & finally off to bed at 11pm, tired, well fed and tanned, and I think we could say a good day was had by all.
Tuesday 28 June
All packed up and ready to go home, we had a day to relax by the pool and beach before we left our beautiful hotel to go home. Our flight was not till 830 pm, so we had all day until our transfer at 6pm to the airport just 15 mins away. On arrival at Antigua’s bright and pretty new airport we checked in for our flight home. It was then that we found out we had club class seat and flatbeds again - wow, what a treat! So after dinner, we all snuggled down to a peaceful night’s rest arriving at Gatwick at 0925 the next morning feeling calm and relaxed from our club class experience.All in all, it was a really special trip seeing some beautiful hotels although it was busy for the first few days it was also fun making lots of good friends along the way.
If you're interested in a holiday relaxing with Sandals, why not contact us today? Julie will be happy to answer any questions you may have.
01234 326 778
Mediterranean Village, Sandals Grande Antigua
Sandals Regency La Toc St Lucia
Sandals Halcyon St Lucia
Swim-up rooms, Sandals Grande St Lucia
Sandals Regency La Toc, St Lucia
Barefoot on the Beach, Sandals Grande St Lucia
Sandals Grande Antigua
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