The first thing you hear when you step onto Sandals Royal Caribbean is nothingness. Though the grand resort sits a mere 12 minutes from Montego Bay’s Sangster International Airport, the place feels much farther from commotion. If there isn’t a sing-along happening at the Piano Bar, the resort hardly makes a peep.
Sure, you could point to the fact that the Jamaican hideaway is an adults-only, all-inclusive escape to explain the quietness. And you’d be partially right.
You could also say that some of the thoughtful practices around the property — a near-silent electric Royal Duffy boat escorts you from the mainland to a private island — are the reason for the hush. And that would be a spot-on observation, too.
When it comes down to it, though, we think there’s a much more basic explanation: couples on the property are so engrossed in their own worlds, whispering sweet nothings into each other’s ears, that they don’t have time for anything else.
But solitude is only one reason to pack your bags for a stay at this escape. Read on for three other things about Sandals Royal Caribbean that make us want to scream our delight from the top of the Blue Mountains.
Sandals Resorts has worked tirelessly in recent years to shake the somewhat unflattering stigma attached to the phrase “all-inclusive.” But rather than merely spoil its guests with expected perks (water excursions, cooking classes, tennis clinics) found at luxury hotels, Royal Caribbean decided to elevate its overnight experience with the introduction of the region’s first over-the-water villas in December 2016.
And when we say “over the water,” we’re not talking about some lazily constructed balcony sitting over a stream; no, the 12 villas here literally rest atop the Caribbean Sea. Sleepwalk down the stairs from your extended sun deck if you’d like, but if a fiddler crab starts nipping at your toes, don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Views are much safer from the couch or the private infinite pool on the balcony. The scene is nearly as stunning inside your villa, where you’ll find a section of glass flooring looking directly into the waters below.
But beyond those sights, the bungalows stand out with a kitchenette that has a fridge stocked with Red Stripe beer, soda and bottled waters. Rooms are uniquely decorated in elemental themes. In the water-inspired villa, for example, the elegantly understated bathroom features aquamarine tile and a freestanding tub. It all comes together for what feels like a trip to Tahiti without the time-zone-hopping.
Another blemish in the “all-inclusive” space has traditionally been sub-par cuisine. That isn’t the case here.
While the resort doesn’t make a hubbub about individual chefs (we told you that discretion was important here), all the cooks deliver the goods when it’s time to eat, be it a loungey lunch at The Mariner Seaside Bar & Grill or a formal French dinner at Le Jardinier. Six other dining spots, including Royal Thai, which sits on a private island connected to the villas, also serve unlimited nibbles through the day.
But there will be occasions when you can’t seem to pull yourself from your tanning session to go eat. It’s then that the resort’s Butler Elite service comes in handy. (We’ll discuss its non-culinary talents a little later.) Order what you’d like from the room service menu and your butler will bring it to your door.
If you’re lucky enough to get Alex or Orion attending to you, we have to whisper something else to you: when you ask nicely, either will allow you to order off the menu. Have a hankering for, say, coconut-crusted snapper and pineapple rice? Alex will work it out with the kitchen. Same goes for jerk chicken pizza or even Belgian waffles — whatever your famished heart desires.
At any high-end resort, it’s the staff’s job to make you feel as if you’re the only person on the property. Sandals’ butlers do just that without pretense. Nothing feels forced. Anybody can make small talk about the weather or give you directions to Scotchies — the world-famous jerk chicken shack is less than five minutes from the resort — but these gents know how to have an organic conversation with you about music and can assist in picking out a gift for your significant other at the shop.
They’re not the only ones, though. The warmth can be felt from the boat driver taking you on the quick jaunt to and from the villa. And just after your States of Slow massage at Red Lane Spa, Candace will patiently explain the importance of drinking water and rubbing your joints with Island Remedy tension relief aloe gel. It’ll genuinely feel more like advice from a loved one than a sales pitch.
But none of that should really come as a surprise. Jamaica is generally applauded for its pleasant demeanor. Still, the smiles here go beyond mere congeniality, which takes us back to Sandals’ mission of shaking the critical image that travelers have of all-inclusive resorts.
The brand knew the importance of hiring the right staff to help in recalibrating mindsets. At the same time, it understood the role that fine dining and game-changing accommodations played, too.
It all works here. This isn’t your great aunt’s all-inclusive experience by a long shot. This is something different, something bolder. And hopefully, at some time during the still of your stay, you’ll be able to fully appreciate it.