Travel agent Stephanie Jepson gives her verdict on the new Sandals Barbados
As the owner of Courtney World Travel in Tewkesbury, Stephanie Jepson has been to her fair share of all-inclusive hotels across Europe, the Indian Ocean and Caribbean, but Sandals had so far escaped her holiday checklist. Until, that is, Sandals Barbados opened earlier this year in St Lawrence Gap. Steph, 48, was the first UK travel agent to visit the property, bringing 51-year-old husband Dave and her parents, who are both in their early-70s.
It was my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary and they wanted to go to Barbados – they’ve been three times before on cruises and they love it – so dad suggested we try the new Sandals.
It’s a lovely property. We were there when it had been open only a few weeks, so everything was brand new.
When you walk in, there’s a beautiful ornamental pool with fountains during the day and flames at night. In fact, the resort looks totally different at night because of all the fire pits.
The rooms are brilliant. I loved our Ocean Village sea-view room because it was quiet and there were lots of fountains outside. It had a beautiful big bathroom with mirrors that didn’t steam up, huge sinks, a sunken bath and a separate walk-in shower. There was also a large balcony with a table and chairs.
I liked the swim-up pools in Crystal Lagoon. The hotel has one of the longest swimming pools in the Caribbean – it’s almost like a lazy river – so if I had known how nice they were, I would probably have opted for one of those rooms. You just have to decide if you want the sea view or the swim-up pool.
Dine in style
The food was excellent – I couldn’t fault it. There were 11 restaurants including Dino’s Pizzeria, Mariner Seaside Bar & Grill, Schooners Seafood Grill for Caribbean food, Kimonos for Japanese, Butch’s Chophouse, Italian at Portofino’s and Café de Paris.
Each restaurant had a lovely ambience, but my favourites were the French and Italian, especially Café de Paris. Designed like a French pavement cafe, it offered a wide range of coffees and pastries, and was a great spot for a mid-morning or after-dinner coffee.
The Luxury Included package was great. There were several red, white and rosé wines to choose from and, of course, you could have whatever you wanted in your minibar. My husband likes light rum, so it was substituted for the dark. And as soon as I opened the bottle of champagne in our room, there would be another one waiting.
The service was just excellent. Glasses were refilled as soon as they were emptied, while the staff in the bars and restaurants remembered what we drank.
Up and about
The beach was pretty, and during the day, there was a singer with the most amazing voice – it sounds cheesy but it was actually a nice touch.
There was more to do than in other resorts I’ve been to. There were organised walks each morning, as well as aqua aerobics, yoga and a well-equipped gym. We tried boogie boarding as it was a bit rough to take the kayaks out.
The main pool was quite busy, but you could get away from everybody at the lazy pool. There was no pressure – you could have a busy holiday if you wanted, but you could also have a quiet one.
It’s also not one of those places that you can’t go out of the hotel. We went to Bridgetown and St Lawrence Gap several times, and everybody was friendly and didn’t hassle us.
There’s a departure lounge, so we were able to check out and enjoy our last day, before having a shower in preparation for our flight home. That was a nice touch as it means you can enjoy your holiday right up to the last minute.
The hotel staff were amazing – some of the friendliest I’ve found anywhere. They were singing and dancing all of the time, and nothing was too much trouble.
I’d sell this hotel to anyone, really – obviously couples and honeymooners, but also to grown-up families, and groups in their 20s and 30s. There’s so much going on and so many restaurants, it would suit a mixed audience.
Book it: A week at Sandals Barbados starts at £2,149 for an Ocean Village Beachfront Club Level Suite, and from £2,059 for a Crystal Lagoon Swim-Up Club Level Luxury Room, between August 27 and October 22. Both prices are based on the Luxury Included package and include flights and resort transfers.
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