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Sandals has brought something fresh to the all-inclusive experience with its newest resort, Sandals Emerald Bay, Great Exuma, Bahamas. While my recent stay offered up all the bells-and-whistles associated with a Sandals vacation, there was also something completely unexpected — the feeling of being on holiday in my own beachfront cottage. I stayed in one of the resort’s Oceanfront Villas which look out on unobstructed views of the bay and beach. I had the best of both worlds, since I could luxuriate in private on my back patio, all the while knowing I was only steps away from plenty of options for dipping into the active, social life of the resort.
Sandals bought the Four Seasons Resort Great Exuma at Emerald Bay property last fall and quickly transformed the property to successfully meet its Jan. 22 opening date.
The all-suite resort is set along a one-mile stretch of white-sand beach and has a selection of 190 luxury oceanfront accommodations, including nine one- and two-story beach bungalows.
The new pool is the major new addition. Sandals renovated the Four Seasons’ pool to create a larger pool with two Jacuzzis, a fire-pit seating area in the center, a swim-up bar and the signature Sandals tower. There is also a quieter pool area with whirlpool and sofas that remains open a surprising 24 hours. Since Sandals Emerald Bay is one of the company’s Luxury Included properties, there’s butler service that extends to the pool and beach.
The property’s wow factor is an incredibly scenic 18-hole Greg Norman golf course that runs alongside a dramatic coast of rugged rocks and crashing waves. Agents should note that golf is not included in the all-inclusive rate.
While there were three dining venues at the Four Seasons Resort Great Exuma at Emerald Bay, there are five at Sandals. Il Cielo restaurant specializes in Italian cuisine and has plenty of natural light and an airy feeling; it’s the only restaurant requiring a reservation. The Bahama Bay restaurant has pool views. The Barefoot on the Sand restaurant offers a seamless transition from the pool to the restaurant; due to its popularity with guests, there may be an expansion of this popular venue. The Drunken Duck is a spot-on replica of an Irish pub, complete with a billiards table. The pub was crafted in Ireland, then shipped to The Bahamas and assembled on the property. Rounding out the five venues is Gordon’s Pizzeria. Guests can also opt for a candlelight dinner on the beach at no extra charge; the only requirement is 24 hour notice.
Sandals Emerald Bay has a Red Lane Spa with 22 indoor treatment areas and six outdoor treatment areas. Groups will find 13,000 square feet of flexible indoor and outdoor meeting space. The resort also has the 17-acre, stand-alone Emerald Bay Marina by Sandals, the first-ever marina for any Sandals Resort. The deepwater marina has 133 slips and is equipped to accommodate and service yachts up to 300 feet in length.
Exploring off-resort is easy since Island Routes Caribbean Adventure Tours has a desk just off the lobby. The Island Routes concept originated when Adam Stewart, the company’s CEO, came back from an Africa trip convinced he could apply the African tour experiences concept to the Caribbean. Yes, this is the same Adam Stewart who is CEO of Sandals Resorts International, so agents can expect a lot of synergy between the two companies. Island Routes currently offers nearly 150 tours at such islands as Antigua, Jamaica, St. Lucia and Great Exuma, all islands where Sandals has a presence. During my stay, I opted for the Half-Day Eco Harbour Tour Adventure, a powerboat cruise around Elizabeth Harbour. The tour was a great way to kick back and luxuriate in the blue waters and clear skies of Great Exuma. The tour includes snorkeling and a stop at an isolated strip of sand where we were able to roam and comb the beach.
This June, television viewers can get a look at the resort on the Golf Channel program, “Big Break.” The reality show follows the trials and tribulation of 11 young women seeking careers as golf pros. The whole resort comes into play during the show, including the women’s accommodations in the resort’s luxurious three-bedroom Royal Villa, which goes for $40,000 a week.