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It sounds like a near-impossible challenge: How do you take a resort full of couples celebrating their anniversary, honeymoon, engagement or even wedding, and make everyone feel special?
The all-inclusive, 222-room Sandals Royal Barbados, open since December 2017, does just that — and its tricks are ingenious.
When clients pull up to the resort in their airport transfer, staff members will gather to sing a welcome song. A little cheesy, sure, but the couple wearing “Mr.” and “Mrs.” T-shirts appeared to eat it up, as did the blonde next to me whose sweatpants read “Wifey” across her behind.
My boyfriend, John, and I were there to celebrate a milestone birthday — we smiled politely and set off with our luggage. We were directed to the concierge lounge to check in. Meanwhile, the couples who had splurged were led into their rooms by their butlers.
It was immediately clear that there are two experiences at Sandals Royal Barbados — the one with a butler and the one without. Which one is best for your clients depends as much on their personality as on their budget.
Not only do butlers check in discerning guests, they also can reserve restaurant tables, nab the best poolside seats and make activity reservations. In addition, butlers can even walk guests to restaurants (so guests don’t have to find their way). We even saw butlers helping couples with their bowling skills, taking their pictures on the beach and offering celebratory rounds of shots to wedding parties in the pool.
John and I are the type of people who really like to be left alone on vacation. We can get up and get our own drinks, thank you, and prefer privacy over fawning — so not having a butler was right for us. But for the newlyweds and those getting engaged or married at the resort, the extra attention seemed to feel just right, especially when the butlers hung “Just Married” signs on their doorknobs, posted notes on their suites reading “She said yes!” and placed straw hats embroidered with “Just Married” on their pool chairs.
We weren’t entirely left out, though: On the night of John’s birthday, the staff decorated our bed with flower petals and towels shaped like stingrays around a birthday card, and brought him a slice of chocolate cake with a candle for dessert.
Still, with so many people having butlers cater to their every whim, it left us alone — blissfully alone — to wander to the beach, pool and restaurants unnoticed. We still got whatever we needed, including every restaurant reservation we asked for, a space on the treadmill without a wait and frozen drinks at the swim-up bar all day long.
In fact, a couple days in, I realized the calories from those mudslide cocktails were quickly mounting. I asked a waitress at breakfast for Splenda packets and, from then on, handed bartenders a couple with every drink order so they could make me sugar-free frozen mojitos. Even the do-it-yourself version of a Sandals Royal Barbados vacation is pretty customizable.
While the resort is a newbuild and there is still some construction around the edges of the property, the flower-filled lawns are beautifully manicured, and there are mature coconut palms.
What’s more, Sandals Royal Barbados may be the 16th resort in Sandals’ portfolio, but it boasts several firsts for the brand, including a barbershop, a chic bowling alley, a rooftop pool and bar and a glass-edged infinity pool by the sea. In fact, there are so many pools that we always got front-row lounge chairs, no matter what time we showed up.
We also had no problem getting a table at any restaurant, including the three new concepts: American Tavern, which serves crowd-pleasing comfort food, such as pot roast and fried chicken with waffles; Chi, a pan-Asian restaurant with dishes that are so Americanized I almost didn’t recognize them; and Butch’s Steaks and Seafood, which is named for the company’s owner.
The resort calls itself “all-suite,” but, as is the case on many cruise lines, the term doesn’t mean you get two separate rooms. That said, every room, even the lowest category ones ($600 per couple per night), have terraces with soaking tubs on them and showers built for two. The resort has some of Sandals’ signature suite-types, designed to wow honeymooners and wedding couples alike. Crystal Lagoon Swim-Up Suites (a $180 per couple, per night, upgrade) allow you to walk out of your room right onto a poolside terrace, with lounge chairs in the water. Rondovals (a $680 per couple per night upgrade) are individual thatched-roof huts with tiny plunge pools in private fenced-in yards.
During the day, many couples are happy to soak up the sun and the cocktails — and plenty of them brought their own insulated thermoses for fewer trips to the bar. For those who like more activity, Sandals includes a variety of water sports, including snorkeling and diving, plus beach volleyball and even “bubble” soccer. At night, in addition to the bowling alley, there are pool tables, bands, bars and an outdoor lounge with banquettes that have individual TVs.
Sandals Royal Barbados also offers full access to Sandals Barbados, the next-door resort that predates this one by three years. (It was previously an Almond Resort.) It feels less sleek, and there are no tubs on the terraces, but it’s just as clean and has a great coffee bar and an upbeat vibe. We enjoyed wandering over for the variety of footlong chili dogs they serve poolside (awesome, even with our New York standards for hot dogs) and woodfired pizzas (not as awesome).
As we waited for our pizza, we surveyed the rowdy volleyball game in the pool and listened to a butler on a cellphone try to track down his missing honeymooners — “You weren’t on the beach, and you aren’t in your room, so now I am trying to find you!” — and agreed we had chosen the right room category. Then we set off to our room for an afternoon siesta, feeling special in the knowledge that nobody would be looking for us at all.The DetailsSandals Royal Barbadoswww.sandals.com