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Antigua & Barbuda Hotel, Resort & Villa Reviews Reviews
Sandals Antigua Resort & Spa All-Inclusive 04/10/2004
Reviewers Rating: Great
My wife and I had the pleasure of spending our ‘weddingmoon’ at Sandals Antigua from the 21st of March through the 28th. In addition to our obvious joy at being married on the beach with our best friends looking on, we had an overall excellent stay. My advice to people that are worried about Sandals, and the ‘reputation’ the hotel in Antigua has developed on the Internet is to manage your expectations appropriately and you will not be disappointed. We did not expect the Bangkok Mandarin hotel, nor did we pay for a Motel 6.

I won’t bore you with the details of the flights to Antigua. Our first impression of the island as we flew over was positive. Deplaning onto the tarmac was a throwback experience to the 60’s and the Immigration queue was normal. We found the process for claiming baggage to be chaotic – the ‘red hat’s will try and secure your bags for a dollar per bag tip and take them through customs for a 10 yard walk to the hotel desk outside. The Sandals rep was there to meet us and after a few minutes wait for a taxi, we were off. We dropped 2 other couples off at hotels along the way before descending down the road to Sandals front door.
We were met there by a customer service person, seated in a comfortable area in the lobby, given cold towels and a glass of champaign, while the check in process was completed. We were upgraded to a Honeymoon Grand Lux room and soon on our way across the beautiful and expansive grounds. I hadn’t imagined the hotel grounds were as big as they were and our room was up a small hill and a flight of tile stairs (more on these stairs later). The room was fairly large, tiled floors with a balcony that overlooked the pool. The furnishings were dark wood and there was sufficient storage space for all our things.
The grounds were very well kept – there are lizards that scamper out of your way as you walk about but they were never an issue for us. There are also a large number of cats that roam around and we saw a few dogs on the beach.
Let me stop here and level-set on the hotel and hotel staff. This is not a 5-star resort. We live in Phoenix Arizona, home to a number of very well known hotels and resorts. Sandals is a very beautiful Caribbean, all-inclusive resort that we found to be clean, well cared for and staffed with people that would respond very warmly to you if you responded warmly to them first. The staff (maids, bartenders, waiters) did not go out of their way, however if you approached them with a smile and a ‘good morning / good evening’ you will always get a smile and a greeting in return. I will say the one exception to that statement was the bartender Althea – she’s was always very friendly and warm person and we enjoyed her tremendously.
Our room was spacious and well cared for – the bed was a 4-poster ‘elevated’ bed – Donna had to use a step stool to climb into bed and rolling out of bed in the morning was just that. Our room was cleaned in a timely manner each day and other than being careful not to leave food lying about – we did leave a dish with remnants from a slice of wedding cake on the balcony and it was covered in tiny black ants in about 1 hour – there were no issues with room décor or cleanliness.
One striking ‘feature’ was the nighttime symphony of creatures. I’ve been told it was the frogs that made what can best be described as an electronic ‘chirp’ throughout the grounds – a very pleasant but unusual sound that we completely enjoyed. There are also a number of ‘love baskets’ hung along the beach just inside the grounds of the hotel. These baskets are big enough for 2 people to lie in and we took advantage of them in the evening, looking out at the waves, moon and stars. The only downside to this luxury were a few bug bites on our legs from what I suppose were sand fleas – they were more of an annoyance than a problem.
Finally the tile stairs – if you wear flip-flops and these stairs are wet, please be careful – it rained the day of our wedding and on the way to breakfast I slipped and fell down 4 – 5 tile steps, wrenching my shoulder and startling my fiancé – she accused me of trying to avoid the wedding by taking a fall. I was fine, but be careful walking in smooth-soled shoes or sandals on the wet tile / pool decks.
We were never disappointed with the food quality or quantity. You have to make reservations in any of the 3 restaurants for dinner – Kimono’s , Il Palio or the OK Corral, however we never had a problem finding a time we wanted to eat. We did dine in the buffet one night and found the food of good quality. Breakfasts were in the buffet and again while not spectacular, it was good. The buffet service left something to be desired and a number of times we had to go find a waitperson for coffee, but if you manage your expectations (i.e. you’re on ‘island time’) you’ll be fine. Lunches for us were usually a hamburger or chicken wrap from the grill and we always found that spot tasty with good service.
We did take advantage of the spa while there and had a couple massage the day after our wedding. The massage was not the best we’d had but certainly not the worst. The Spa staff is friendly and helpful – my best man and I changed into our wedding attire there before the service and they were very helpful in getting us in and out the door. The wedding coordinators did a good job in handling the details of the wedding and the photographers they have on site there (not employed by the hotel) were very friendly. We had a good time with them as they took pictures of us for the wedding, at sunset on the beach and throughout the grounds (if you want pictures of your visit you can go get a photographer and they will take whatever photos you want – the CD is $85 and the quality and quantity of the pictures is very good). We also had a video of our wedding taken and were highly disappointed in the quality of the video – for $200 I would have expected much, much more.
The beach / water sports. Is there a bad Caribbean beach? I think not and while Dickinson Bay beach is beautiful, long and wonderful to walk, it is rather narrow at spots in front of the hotel. It was kept very clean by the water sports staff. Chairs were a little hard to come by later in the morning, but we never had a problem finding one someplace in front of the hotel. The one disappointment was the number of people on the beach. Around 10:00 each morning, the cruise ship passengers would descend and they’d leave around 3:00 or 4:00. All the beaches in Antigua are public and everyone is entitled but there are a lot of people so if you are expecting privacy and no children on the beach it won’t happen until Saturday. We sailed Hobie cats (after a 10 minute lesson), Donna water-skied and we tried the water trikes. People we talked to during our stay were a little disappointed with the scuba dive trips, but from people who had taken the snorkeling trip they were very satisfied.
There was an excellent mix of guests at the hotel – all ages and from all over the world, with a large contingent from the UK. We were told Sandals had been making a big advertising push in the U.K. and both British Airways and Virgin Atlantic fly wide-bodies into the Antigua airport – how they stop those plans on such a small landing strip is a wonder to me. The average age of the guests there during our stay was mid-late 30’s.
The entertainment staff was very good, although the entertainers were not that spectacular. We did catch the calypso band once night and (because it was after all our honeymoon) we didn’t participate in many of the evening organized activities other than the Saturday night Newlywed game – which we won! (rightfully so as we were the only newlywed couple playing that night). The nightclub didn’t open until 10:00 and the only night we tried it we found it deserted except for the DJ and one other couple.
We did 3 activities off property during our stay. We did the trip to Shirley Heights on Sunday and I would recommend you get there early. We had the misfortune of being caught in an election ‘motorcade’ (more like a very peaceful but rowdy election rally on the roads in and around St. John) and didn’t arrive until well after sunset. The food was good and the drinks ok. The steel drum band was playing when we arrived but for some reason the reggae band took an hour to set up and we left to return to the hotel before they started playing.
Eli’s Adventure Antigua trip was excellent. Eli picked us up on the beach just to the left of the hotel and after a fun and informative day around the northern part of the island, including a short hike to the top of Great Bird Island, a snorkeling lesson for those that needed it and a trip to Hells Gate (Devils Bridge one of the locals called it as well) we spent about 30 – 45 minutes snorkeling. We did see some whales off in the distance on the trip which added to the fun. I highly recommend this tour – you can book it directly with adventureantigua.com. We also did the Dolphin swim and found that a great experience. This is expensive and you need to book well in advance, but the location is a 5 minute cab ride from the hotel and we actually walked back afterwards. We capped off the stay by taking a horseback ride offered by one of the beach vendors (Sylvester) to Ft. James Park – this was excellent, cost US$40 per person and included 2 gallops on the beach each way and a ride to a sugarmill. The hotel will advise you not to sign up for jet-ski or horseback riding with the beach vendors, but I’d highly recommend the horseback ride with Sylvester. Be careful of the ‘rum punch’ served at the bar in Ft. James – no fruits were harmed in the making of our drinks and I almost had to ask Sylvester which end of the horse I should be facing when I got back on.
A final comment on the beach vendors. We did not find them particularly annoying – a simple no thanks would usually suffice, but there was one person who took it upon himself to spend 10 minutes with us each day just chatting. They are simply trying to make a living and are not as insistent or as ever-present as beach vendors in Puerto Vallarta Mexico.
We did spend a few hours in St. John, after getting our marriage license. The shopping is ok if that’s what you go for and we did find some interesting local shops for clothing.
Overall our trip was a memorable one – we did not want to leave and I at least am still having trouble adjusting to non “island-time’ this week. We most likely would not return to Sandals Antigua simply because we’d like to explore other islands, but we will be returning to a Sandals property – we got a ‘stay 6 nights and get the 1st and last free’ voucher from Sandals good for our first anniversary. We’re not ‘foodies’ and enjoy the ability to eat and drink to our hearts content (or not as the case may be) without having to open our wallets – other than to pay for the trip up front. We likes the couples / adults only environment and met some wonderful people – 2 couples from Chicago that were fantastic, a couple getting married there 2 days after us – John from County Cork and his Layla from South Africa. We will try Sandals again and someday, when other islands are ticked off the list may revisit beautiful Antigua. On a scale of 1 – 5, I’d rate the hotel as a 3.5 to 4.0 – not necessarily value for money, but if you can find a smoking deal, go for it. Overall the trip rated a 5 + and I can’t think of a better way to start a new chapter in one’s life than a wedding on the beach in the Caribbean.

Brendan and Donna

5 stars Sandals Antigua Resort & Spa All Inclusive

Sandals Antigua Resort & Spa All Inclusive
Hotel Details | Book Hotel | Book With Air
Couples-only resort on half-mile beach
  • Resembling a pastel West Indian village, this couples-only hillside/beachfront resort features relaxation and day-and-night fun.
  • Adult, heterosexual couples (singles, children, and homosexual couples are not allowed) choose from eight accommodation types, including round, conical-roof cottages.
  • Myriad water and land sports, four pools, five restaurants, a nightclub, and theme-dress nights attract couples seeking a romantic getaway.
  • Rooms are available only in the All Inclusive Plan.

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