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Are Sandals resorts as great as they seem? or go Iberostar?

Joliet, Illinois
9 posts
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Are Sandals resorts as great as they seem? or go Iberostar?

looking to visit Jamaica in July for our 5 year anniversary. Are Sandals' resorts really as wonderful as they seem on the commercials? we like Whitehouse, Royal Caribbean, and Grande Riviera and have ruled out MoBay, Negril, and Carlyle.

we know nothing about the Royal plantation.

Or should we try the Iberostar Grand Rose Hall? I just dont want to pay a lot of money for Sandals if they do not live up to our expectations!

Glen Mills, PA
Destination Expert
for Montego Bay
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5,526 posts
37 reviews
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1. Re: Are Sandals resorts as great as they seem? or go Iberostar?

I have not been to any Sandals properties, but have been to the IB Grand twice and loved it. If I had to pick an alternative to the IB Grand, I would look at a Couples property.

Orlando, Florida
Destination Expert
for Jamaica
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4,387 posts
25 reviews
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2. Re: Are Sandals resorts as great as they seem? or go Iberostar?

First, I would never view a resort, any resort, by what I see on TV nor would I expect them to be "as wonderful" as you see in a commerical. Real life is never the same as a movie.

Having said that though, I would say that yes Sandals are wonderful resorts. But I would still read the reviews, make a list of what you want and then compare the two resorts.

Saskatchewan, Canada
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2,974 posts
25 reviews
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3. Re: Are Sandals resorts as great as they seem? or go Iberostar?

I would say that the Iberostars and Sandals are equally great - just perhaps differently. We stayed at Rose Hall Suites with our kids and could not get over the service, food. We have also stayed at Sandals and had great service and food. If you like watersports, they are included in the price at Sandals and at Iberstars they are not. Having said that, my husband scuba dives and you can get as much diving as you need (or would even use in a trip) for $400-$500 per person and if you don't use the dives you can use them in a future trip (within 5 years) to any Iberostar. I would recommend either for your anniversary.

Likely the best option is to decide where you want to stay (MoBay, Ocho, Negril, Whitehouse) and then figure out the resort. For an anniversary, as another person posted, I would also check out Couples.

Joliet, Illinois
9 posts
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4. Re: Are Sandals resorts as great as they seem? or go Iberostar?

thanks! that is actually really helpful. I would like the water sports to be included b/c it would be great to just have everything included and not feel guilty for spending the extra money on stuff like that. for that reason, we may rule out iberostar.

i actually have not looked into Couples at all...but heard that they are more "mature" than Secrets or Dreams or Sandals...i frankly forget which.

any of you been to a couples resort that you would recommend that I can compare sandals to? out of the sandals, i'm leaning towards the royal caribbean one now.

thanks!

Edited: 10 June 2013, 16:04
Rochester, New York
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2,240 posts
100 reviews
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5. Re: Are Sandals resorts as great as they seem? or go Iberostar?

mmravle: If you would like to receive a Powerpoint presentation my wife and I put together describing the Sandals Royal Caribbean Resort and Private Island experience, please send me a TripAdvisor private message with an appropriate email address to send it too. Many have found the presentation informative.

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382 posts
78 reviews
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6. Re: Are Sandals resorts as great as they seem? or go Iberostar?

If I were to go back to a sandals it would src. It is far enough away from the airport not to be bothered. We met plenty of young couples and if you want to party go to smb or margaritaville. We now stay at CSS which is considerably less expensive and includes more. If you are looking for the young crowd couples it is csa.

Joliet, Illinois
9 posts
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7. Re: Are Sandals resorts as great as they seem? or go Iberostar?

Hello! i watched your power point and it was amazing!! thank you for sending it to me, it must have taken a lot of time to create it and i really appreciate it...i always love looking at visitors' photos versus the professional ones to get a more realistic glimpse.

just out of curiosity, have you ever heard anything about a "Couples" resort? they are pretty similarly priced but i am wondering what the differences are. any info is great. thank you!

Cocoa Beach, Florida
Destination Expert
for Cancun, Riviera Maya, Negril
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16,066 posts
72 reviews
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8. Re: Are Sandals resorts as great as they seem? or go Iberostar?

There are tons of threads comparing Sandals to Couples. I have stayed at both chains multiple times, most recently last year when I stayed at Couples Swept Away in September and at Sandals Grande Riviera and Montego Bay in April.

There is no age difference between the two chains but IMO there is a difference in the personality of the resorts themselves. Sandals MoBay and SGR had a younger crowd ( as they have each of my stays) as they are more lively, esp, SMB. I do not care for either of these resorts (was there for wedding).

We do not feel Sandals is worth the additional cost. However, if you need/want butler service (we would never pay those prices to stay at a Sandals) or glitzy rooms or mega pools, Sandals is a better fit.

Couples IMO and IME provides a better overall value:

- all rooms get continental breakfast room service. Some offer all day room service in all categories. Not so at Sandals

- all rooms have in room mini bars that are customized with your choice of alcoholic and non beverages. Only higher end room at Sandals offer this

- there are no tiered perks at Couples. At Sandals, beach and pool chairs are reserved for butler guests, and they can make dinner reservations. Some say this does not affect service. I can say that I felt like a second class citizen.

-My basic room at SGR was small and had zero outdoor area. At SMB, I had a small terrace. My basic room at CSA is large with a huge terrace. My basic room at CN had a terrace facing the garden. Choose your rooms carefully. The basic rooms I had at Sandals were not as nice as the basic rooms I have had at Couples. We do not book the best and at Couples the rooms are not fancy.

The beaches at Swept Away and Negril are gorgeous and perfect for swimming as well as walking.

CSA has a fabulous sports complex.

Couples provides floaties for use in the ocean. We love to float in the clear and calm ocean in Negril. Only Sandals Negril allows floaties in the ocean.

Food IMO and IME is better at Couples. It was mediocre at SGR and better at SMB but overall food at Couples for us was better all the way around.

Edited: 12 June 2013, 11:11
Cocoa Beach, Florida
Destination Expert
for Cancun, Riviera Maya, Negril
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16,066 posts
72 reviews
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9. Re: Are Sandals resorts as great as they seem? or go Iberostar?

I forgot to add that I would never choose to stay at an Iberostar in JA, personally. A Spanish owned chain with cookie cutter resorts on a man made beach is not our preference

Having stayed at Iberostar Grand in MX, we are not interested in another of their resorts though, no matter where it is located. Really disliked their reservations policy for dinner and found it pretentious and highly overrated.

Chambersburg...
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2,624 posts
59 reviews
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10. Re: Are Sandals resorts as great as they seem? or go Iberostar?

Nothing is really like it seems in a commercial. thats just the way marketing works. I mean the Big Mac looks way better in a mcdonalds commercial then when you unwrap the thing to eat right? As with any marketing, any resorts brochures and commercials are going to be showcased with models and the best lighting, and staging and photo shopping and editing later. This is not just sandals but any resort.

As far as differences between couples and sandals or the difference between any resort chain really, may not seem like much but its all subjective to the individual. For instance: Couples in Negril has a few more activity and excursion options than Sandals Negril does. But Sandals Negril has more restaurants, bars & pools on property. So you can easily see how perhaps the active traveler who wants more activity and entertainment would find couples more suited to them but the guest who prefers to experience more relaxation, drinks and culinary delights may prefer Sandals larger variety. Sometimes its not about which one offers more or which one costs less money, its about which one includes all the things that are important to you as the guest. For this you will probably want to just visit the sites and compare and contrast (maybe make a list of pros and cons?)

One thing I will say, as far as websites go, Sandals is definitely top dog in marketing, but they also have the most clear and detailed website that I have seen. It may take some exploring and reading, but its really great that every detail and aspect of what to expect is outlined for you. They even have sections of "what is included" and "whats NOT included" so there is no confusion, a section for "before you arrive" on your resort page so you get the scoop on weather, transfers, what to pack, resort attire and more. The room categories clearly outline what amenities and features are in the room, its location on the map as well as view and sales promotion. I mean its just a very well thought out site for the guest who likes to know exactly what to expect for their money. Its one of the main reasons we chose sandals for our honeymoon. I wanted the only surprises to be good ones lol.