All-inclusive. Couples only. Adults only. If these words entice you, look no further than Sandals for a relaxing, romantic and affordable Caribbean vacation. My recent trip to Sandals Royal Caribbean in Jamaica was nothing short of satisfying. Today, I’ll tell you a truthful account of my stay, what to plan for, what to leave out, and what to consider if you’re thinking about booking with Sandals.
The Butler Room & Experience
We booked five nights at the Royal Caribbean resort in Montego Bay, where we were pleasantly surprised by the all-inclusive mentality and convenience of the trip. We splurged on our room a little to be oceanfront and have a butler experience.
We benefited from having a fully stocked bar in our room and being able to use a designated lounge for refreshments throughout the day. Our butler Kemar gave us our own personal cell phone to reach him or his partner butler Ian for anything throughout the day.
They assist you in setting up dinner reservations, setting up chairs on the beach and booking activities for you, among other requests. Our butler Ian surprised me on my birthday by decorating our room and drawing a bath, which was a sweet gesture.
Our room was situated oceanfront, literally steps from the sand and sea. Right outside were three hammocks swinging above the water, and multiple dock areas leading out to the ocean for spectacular, calming views. This was a quiet area, set away from the bustle of the main beach area.
The location was great, but the room itself was a little outdated and the bathroom was small with a single sink. Regardless, there are several room options for any budget or taste, whether you plan to spend a lot or little time in your room. This specific resort even has over-the-water rooms!
The entire resort had several secluded areas and never felt too busy or overwhelmingly crowded for my taste. There were always chairs open by the pool or beach, fire pits, lounge chairs in the sun or shade, and cabanas.
There is even a private island with a restaurant, pool and bar on it. You can get over to the island by taking the boat which runs every 10 minutes. The staff was very attentive bringing drinks to you whether you were at the beach or one of the several pools.
We rented a cabana for a day and enjoyed a relaxing, private area right on the beach. This rental was worth the money, and I would highly recommend it for anyone looking for a romantic beachfront experience. You can even rent them for only half a day if you want to save some money.
They include a cooler full of beer and non-alcoholic beverages as well as sunscreen. The staff will also bring you drinks from the bar if you ask. Note: you can only book these once you arrive at the resort, not in advance.
A major part of the all-inclusive package is being able to order as much food or drinks as you want from any restaurant. I advise to make reservations for all your dinners as soon as you arrive to the resort with your butler or the concierge. Even though it’s a couples-only resort, the spots go quickly for the most popular restaurants; the French restaurant Le Jardinier and the Thai restaurant Royal Thai. Scotty and I enjoyed Le Jardinier for my birthday dinner.
The outside setting in the garden type setting was very romantic. We ordered the duck, lamb and split the chicken cordon blue. Everything at this restaurant was mouth-watering delicious.
If you aren’t aware, Jamaican rum is the best. Appleton Estate is the specific brand you should try while you’re there. The resort doesn’t have any shortage of other premium liquor as well. Also, it’s good to note that meal portions are small at all of the restaurants, so it wound up being perfect for us to split our meals and try various dishes. All of the fish I tried during the trip was extremely fresh and tasteful. Scotty’s beef was good, but he wouldn’t describe it to be the best quality compared to other cuts he’s had when we’ve traveled.
One of the signature Jamaican dishes you should try is the jerk chicken. This seasoned chicken is full of flavor and great by itself, on a salad, or in a quesadilla. The lunch food provided at the resort at the Mariner Seaside Bar & Grill was great for a quick bite to eat and surprisingly Americanized. We liked that we were able to order a pizza from Bella Napoli Pizzeria or grab a burger and fresh fries on the beach.
At the Regency restaurant, I had a glazed salmon and he had the filet. We were seated outside by the water with a great view. One element I loved about the resort and all of the restaurants was the outdoor seating arrangements. At Eleanor’s Caribbean Cuisine we had the pork chops, snapper and shrimp. These were all delicious and the snapper had a kick of flavor to it, which I loved.
Another element specific to Sandals Royal Caribbean is that you can visit, dine and drink at the other nearby Sandals resorts by shuttle bus, and it’s included. One evening, we went to eat and grab drinks at Sandals Montego Bay, which is a 10 minute bus ride away. We dined at Cucina Romana, an Italian restaurant on the second floor with great views of the ocean and resort below.
The pasta we ordered was a blue cheese, Alfredo mix which was different, but tasty. After our dinner, we grabbed some drinks, watched performers in the main lobby and headed back to our resort to relax. Our last night, we ate at the Royal Thai restaurant, but I would say it was our least favorite of the restaurants. While our spring rolls were amazing, our main fish and chicken dishes weren’t satisfying to our specific preferences. I think we just don’t like Thai food in general, which is odd for me because I love to try new cuisines.
In the evenings after dinner, we hung out in either the piano bar and lounge area, watched the events on the main stage, or found a secluded spot by the fire to wind down. There was also the Cricketers Pub that turns into an energetic venue at night. There was a DJ during the nights, and lively bartenders that put on a show for us mixing drinks.
Overall, I would say there were several benefits to staying at an all-inclusive resort. While this was our first time and my first time ever staying at an all-inclusive, I didn’t quite know what to expect. I definitely wasn’t sacrificing quality. The price being set in stone from the beginning makes a huge difference in your overall spending. While we spent extra this trip for the butler room and oceanfront views, several rooms are affordable and worth the price for being such a packaged deal. Compared to what we usually spend on drinks and food, this was probably the most value for our money. We were also able to book a trip to Dunn’s River Falls and Prospect Plantation through the hotel (New post coming soon) for an additional price.
The resort also offered free photo sessions to anyone. We decided to do this and took photos on the beach for a memento. Ultimately, we loved not having to pay a bill every time we left the bar or restaurant, since you could just get up and leave. The only items we wound up spending extra on outside of the all-inclusive package were photos, the tour, the cabana rental and tipping our butler. It’s expected to tip your butler at the end of your stay. Additionally, we earned points for all the nights we spent, totaling $220 towards our next Sandals trip. Their Sandals Select rewards program is free and you automatically gain points each vacation.
What to Leave Out
While we enjoyed some of the perks that came with having the butler service, I wouldn’t say it made our trip. As an organized person, I’m content with booking dinners and arranging activities myself with the concierge. We also had some major confusion with our butler and booking the wrong things for the wrong time. One of them booked the wrong cabana for the wrong day, and when we explained this he argued with us and said there were no refunds. We had to escalate it to management to get it cancelled and this took up a few hours of our day, which was stressful. There were other communication issues such as dinner and tour time changes not being given to us, so we weren’t pleased with that either. In the end, we explained our troubles to an assistant manager who was very understanding. She provided us with a $250 credit for our next Sandals stay, which we already used to book a vacation this year.
I would also advise to leave out add-ons that the Sandals e-mails and resort will encourage you to do. These include massages, beachfront candlelit dinners, and private airport escort services. These items quickly add up and aren’t worth the money. For example, we heard from couples that the dinner on the beach was extremely windy and the food was cold.
Overall, I would give Sandals Royal Caribbean a solid 4 out of 5 stars. Of the three Sandals in the Montego Bay area, it seemed to be the best in terms of its beachfront area and resort layout. We just booked our next trip for the end of May to a different Sandals with our parents. So far, they’ve got me hooked, and I can’t wait to experience Grenada.
Other Caribbean Destinations
What do you think?
Have you ever stayed at an all-inclusive? What was your experience? Comment below!