After recent renovations, the Grand Pineapple Beach Antigua retains its Caribbean flare. // © 2011 Sandals Resorts International
For years now, it seems as if the major all-inclusive resort companies have attempted to out-do each other by adding luxury components to their resort offerings. We have seen the rise in swim-up suites, personal butlers and upscale spas. While this one-upmanship was going on, Spanish chains, such as Riu, entered the market and promptly began filling their hotels by offering affordable all-inclusive vacations to the neglected budget market. Considering the high occupancy rates of the Spanish chains and the economic downturn in the U.S., it has been an ideal time for the major all-inclusive brands to try something different.
Sandals Resorts International’s newest brand is Grand Pineapple, currently represented by two properties, the Grand Pineapple Beach Negril and the Grand Pineapple Beach Antigua. I recently stayed at Grand Pineapple Beach Antigua, described by hotel executives at the resort as being a 3½-star property. In no way is Sandals Resorts turning its back on providing luxury, however. A case in point is the overwater bungalows currently under construction at Sandals Grande Lucian. But it is also clear that the budget vacation market is worth targeting.
Grand Pineapple Beach Antigua was originally built back in the 1960s. The 180-room resort has been a Sandals property since 2008, but one primarily marketed to the U.K. and, more recently, Canada. Currently, guests from the U.S. make up 20 percent of the business.
After completing a phase one renovation at a cost of $1.2 million, Sandals felt the property was elevated enough to begin marketing to the U.S. Thankfully, the renovation left intact the Caribbean charm of the resort, evident in the bright colors, tin roofs and shuttered windows. This summer, the brand will begin the second phase of renovations, which includes the Gardenview Rooms and Oceanview Rooms.
Instead of going exclusive after the couples or family markets, the Grand Pineapple brand will target a wide customer base. Key to the resort’s success will be the reasonable price tag for a vacation as well as personalized service. During my stay, I was especially impressed by the level of service, which was comparable to what I have experienced at more expensive, five-star all-inclusive resorts.
The atmosphere at Grand Pineapple Beach Antigua is laidback, but since guests’ ages average on the older side, they don’t seem to mind the lack of organized activities. However, tour operator Island Routes has a desk, and guests can book a variety of excursions. In my experience, however, Island Routes tours are priced on the higher end.
There are several restaurants on the property. One of the elements setting Grand Pineapple Beach Antigua apart from competitors is a beach shack restaurant called The Outhouse, offering a daily lunch of serve-yourself ribs and grilled chicken. The open-air restaurant is perched on a bluff and has wonderful views of the sea. The Outhouse was already in place when Sandals bought the property; in fact, it’s been growing in popularity since the early ’60s. There’s really nothing quite like it in Sandals’ array of properties.
Travel agents selling the Grand Pineapple brand should be clear by telling clients that they are not buying a five-star all-inclusive experience. A selling point, however, is the fact that Grand Pineapple guests have visiting privileges at Sandals Grande Antigua.