Sandals Royal Barbados is now welcoming guests. James Litston takes a first look at the resort group’s latest opening.
I feel as if I’ve floated into a scene from Blue Planet II. I’m snorkelling near Brownes Beach on the west coast of Barbados, and all around me tropical fish are schooling in dazzling profusion. Great clouds of sergeant major fish (so called for their vertical stripes) swirl around. Below me, swimming in and out of their shipwreck home, are colourful angelfish and bizarre-looking trumpet fish. Then, from the depths, a sea turtle appears and rises slowly towards me. It surfaces so close by that I can clearly hear it exhale.
What for me is a magical moment is an everyday occurrence here in Carlisle Bay Marine Park. Its crystal waters are perfect for diving and snorkelling, and its six wrecks attract an abundance of sea life. But best of all, this half-day trip has not cost me a penny. I’m staying at the new Sandals Royal Barbados, and – along with just about every added extra clients might wish for – this experience is included in the price.
Sandals resorts have elevated the concept of all inclusive to create their own market-leading formula dubbed “luxury included”. The result claims “more quality inclusions than any other resorts on the planet”, covering everything from drinks, snacks and meals to tips, scuba diving and all kinds of watersports. Even basic wedding packages are free (with a minimum three-night stay), and the only thing I’ve charged to my room so far is one or two spa treatments. It’s all very refreshing – as is not having to wear a wristband so often required by all inclusives.
This winning approach is so successful that Sandals now has 16 properties scattered throughout the Caribbean, of which Sandals Royal Barbados – which opened last month – is the newest. The resort is on the island’s south coast, just 15 minutes from the airport and right next door to its popular sister property, Sandals Barbados. But far from competing with its more established sibling, Sandals Royal Barbados essentially operates as an extension. The combined resorts have over 500 rooms, five pools, 12 bars and 17 restaurants, giving clients the opportunity to “stay at one, play at two”.
Both remain true to Sandals’ couples-only ethos, inviting guests to “live out your dreams in a resort made for love”. Whichever resort they choose, romantically-inclined clients can look forward to bathtubs built for two, all sorts of couples’ spa treatments and two-person hammocks scattered throughout tropical gardens. The only real difference, in fact, is the newer property’s upgraded accommodations: Sandals Royal Barbados is an all-suite resort with elevated Club Level concierge or Butler Elite service as standard.
My room – a South Seas Club Level Junior Palm Suite – may be entry-level, but it does not feel like it. Generously sized and classy, it is decorated in contemporary shades of white, grey and ocean blue, and features maritime artworks, king-size bed and a lounge area with complimentary mini-bar. Full-height windows lead onto a balcony complete with “Tranquility Soaking
Tub” (a Sandals trademark) tucked away behind billowy drapes. It is a cool and comfortable space in which to linger.
Clients with deeper pockets can upgrade to one of 16 further room types, ranging from swim-up and oceanfront suites to charming, safari-style “rondoval” cottages with thatched roofs, private plunge pools and sun-filled patio gardens. Privacy here and around the resort is enhanced by hibiscus and tropical plantings; once fully established, these gardens will be just as lovely as those next door, with hummingbirds busily flitting between the blooms.
In addition to stylish new rooms, Sandals Royal Barbados also features new innovations for the brand, including a rooftop pool and a glass-fronted infinity pool overlooking the ocean, plus a men’s barbershop and “Lovers Lanes”, a four-lane bowling alley. Also new are two dining concepts: Chi (offering Asian fusion cuisine) and American Tavern. As with La Parisienne (French), Neptune’s (Mediterranean) and Butch’s Steak & Seafood, all the restaurants are top quality but none outshine the sushi at Soy, curries at Bombay and authentic Caribbean cuisine at Spices, all three of which are at the original resort and are genuinely excellent.
Although reservations are required at some of the restaurants, there is no extra charge and clients are free to dine wherever they wish and as often as they choose. The same is true for activities, with no limit to the number of times they play tennis, for example, join a yoga class or take sailing or paddle-boarding lessons. As for me, I will be taking advantage of another snorkelling excursion in the hope of more turtle close-ups. But before I rush to sign myself up, I might just treat myself to one more poolside cocktail...
Book it: Seven nights at Sandals Royal Barbados costs from £1,919pp, including Virgin Atlantic flights and transfers, departing 27 September, 2018.
Karl Thompson, managing director, Unique Caribbean Holidays Ltd, UK tour operator for Sandals and Beaches Resorts.
Why develop two resorts side by side?
The location is ideal – they’re on a beautiful stretch of beach in the vibrant St Lawrence Gap area. We’ve effectively increased our inventory by adding 222 suites to the existing Sandals Barbados’ 280 rooms. Guests have access to both resorts’ entertainment and amenities, plus the full Sandals Luxury Included experience of gourmet cuisine, premium drinks, and both land and watersports – all unlimited and complimentary.
Will it attract a different clientele?
Sandals Royal Barbados is made up entirely of butler and concierge suites: our highest-level rooms. The new resort features Skypool Suites, Swim-up Suites and Millionaire Suites for a whole new level of luxury. Guests in the very top suites receive complimentary Rolls-Royce airport transfers for the ultimate VIP experience.
You must see potential in Barbados – why?
Barbados is popular with the UK market, and with increased airlift thanks to Virgin Atlantic’s direct Heathrow route, we expect demand to keep growing. We’re looking to open a Beaches here too.