On our second day at the Beaches Sandy Bay resort in Jamaica, a
letter from management appeared under our door. It was a
hurricane-warning letter, urging us to attend a 10:30 a.m.
informational meeting about Hurricane Dean building in the West
Indies and predicted to hit Jamaica by Sunday.
Weather in the Caribbean can be unpredictable, especially during
hurricane season from May to November. Jamaica has experienced some
major and minor hurricanes in the last 30 years. Sandals Resorts
has actively trained and prepared all staff members, on an ongoing
basis, for these natural disasters.
First of all, the staff at Beaches Sandy Bay went into hurricane
emergency mode days before the hurricane hit and kept guests
informed with morning and early evening meetings in the lobby.
Printed maps and information from CNN and weather Web sites were
posted on bulletin boards to keep guests aware of the location,
size and strength of the hurricane. A plan to move all the guests
to second and third floor rooms in the buildings furthest from the
beach took place the day before the hurricane arrived.
Management encouraged guests to leave the island, offering to
help with travel arrangements. With phone lines jammed, and threats
of the airport closing on Saturday, many of us felt safer at the
resort, rather than traveling to the airport and waiting for hours
for a possible flight home. For those who stayed, management
assured us that they would do all they could to keep guests and
their belongings safe and secure.
Prepared for Safety
As we had originally planned, we left Beaches Sandy Bay in
Negril on Saturday and drove three hours to Beaches Boscobel Beach
in Ocho Rios. Already the resort’s staff had relocated all guests
from the beachfront Lanai Suites to the solid concrete main
building. As we toured the resort, staff members were boarding up
the Fitness Center windows and marking “X” on all the glass sliding
doors with silver duct tape.
We awoke early Sunday morning to plywood boards being hammered
into the window frames of the windows and doors of the Venetian
restaurant. A letter from management, under our door, stated that
Hurricane Dean was imminent and expected to slam into Jamaica at
approximately 2 p.m. To ensure our health and safety, they gave us
guidelines to observe:
- Stay calm, the storm must run its course.
- Guests are advised to stay in their rooms, or the lobby area,
and not go outside until the hurricane is over.
- All bathtubs should be filled, the drapes drawn, and bathroom
- Remove all patio furniture and place inside the room.
- After the hurricane, guests shouldn’t roam the resort until
the initial evaluations are done.
Since breakfast was still being served at the Bayside
restaurant, we decided to have one last buffet next to the main
pool. The weather was overcast as we observed lounge chairs being
stacked. It began drizzling as staff removed fan blades from the
ceiling fans in the Bayside bar, while guests carried bottles of
champagne and wine back to their rooms to wait out the storm.
Management asked most of the resort’s staff to stay at the
resort from Saturday through Tuesday. They worked round-the-clock
shifts to keep guests safe, informed and well fed. There was one
staff member for every two guests. We were informed that power
might be turned off, however, the resort had generators that would
activate. Candles and matches were brought to our room, just in
The storm hit at 1:30 p.m. and lasted until 8 p.m. We lost power
for about 30 minutes, and then the generators took over. There was
a lot of wind and rain, yet the resort ran smoothly. Food was being
served in the lobby and downstairs restaurant. Staff members kept
guests busy with crafts, games and movies. There was never a sense
of panic from the staff, so guests remained calm.
Rewards after the storm
The following morning the rain and wind stopped, and staff
members began cleaning up the beach, pools and walkways. Boards
were removed from windows, and the Bayside restaurant was ready to
serve lunch at noon. The main pool was cleaned and ready for
swimmers by 2 p.m. Guest relations called guests to check on their
well being and obtain travel agent names and numbers to be notified
that their clients were safe and well.
Later in the day guests received a letter from Gordon “Butch”
Stewart, CEO of Sandals Resorts, stating: “It is our pleasure to
honor our commitment for a full replacement vacation/holiday as
advertised and promoted. Our Blue Chip Hurricane Guarantee ensures
that your luxury vacation at Beaches is replaced.”
Every guest who booked a one-week vacation, received a free,
one-week trip within one year at any Beaches resort based on
availability. For one day of inconvenience that is an extremely
A hurricane can be dangerous and put a damper on one’s vacation.
We wished the airport ran as smoothly as Sandals resorts. With long
lines and lengthy delays with planes arriving hours late, we
eagerly look forward to our free week vacation, later in the year,
when the hurricane season is over.