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Another Sandals Question - my apologies

Indiana
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Another Sandals Question - my apologies

I have scoured over reviews and read many forum posts. I know many others have asked similar questions, so my apologies up front. I have always wanted to try the Sandals brand, and I'll have an opportunity in December. I have chosen St. Lucia for various reasons -- so now I have to choose which Sandals to book. I do not wish to pay the big bucks for a butler room. I splurged at a Secrets & Iberostar for a butler suite, and while we enjoyed them - it just isn't necessary for us to be waited on like that.

Secrets Halcyon is obviously the least expensive. However, less than $200 total separates the club level room at Halcyon from the bottom level room at La Toc. And, only $800 total separates the club level at Halcyon from the bottom level room at the Grande. Plus, the Grande is offering $400 in tour credit (which depending on how that is allowed to be used, could make it just a $400 "real" difference in cost. So, honestly those monetary differences are insignificant.

What I wonder is if the club level at Halcyon is really worth staying there and shuttling to the other resorts to visit, or if the non-club level rooms at the other resorts would be better than the Halcyon. I realize it is personal preference so I wanted to throw this out there.

We love the beach, and most likely we will be found lounging on the beach the majority of the time. I don't mind vendors as I have no problems saying no thank you. I understand the sand isn't powder white, nor the water turquoise. That is also ok. We just like a beach you can wade/play in about waist deep and not have to wear water shoes or worry about getting knocked on your bum by the waves. We also understand it is the ocean and there will be seaweed. We just don't like to fight loads of seaweed while in the water.

We enjoy the pool in the afternoon and love a nice swim up bar. Most of the times the swim up bars are crowded and you have to fight loads of drunks - THAT is what we want to avoid. We are a "young" 40, and enjoy a good time. But we have no desire to be around loud, drunk, obnoxious people (which I know completely depends on who shows up). But is there one that attracts that crowd more than the other?

We do not participate in water sports. We aren't big into pool games. We do like to have some entertainment in the evening, but even cheesy all inclusive shows are fine. We enjoy sitting around a bar with friends we just met in the evenings, listening to music, etc. We do not stay up late.

I do like a nice room, but it doesn't have to be huge - just clean and modern. We do like to dine ala carte and prefer many choices. Ideally, I wouldn't want to travel by shuttle to dinner --so staying at the resort that had the best restaurant choices would be ideal. We can shuttle a couple of times if we need to eat at a certain one.

I appreciate your help. We just prefer to make our base camp at the resort that will offer more of what we are looking for and minimize shuttling around (although we will shuttle just to see the others). I hope to say to myself, "Ahhh….we made the right choice."

Ontario Canada
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1. Re: Another Sandals Question - my apologies

Bridkoe...don't apologize...that's what these forums are for...hopefully providing answers to help travellers with their decision-making! :)

I can only answer your questions based on my own experience which does not include actually staying at the Halcyon or La Toc, but visiting there during 3 stays at the Grande, most recently this past Feb/Mar for 16 nights.

First I'll say that the Grande is our favourite as it ticks the boxes for what we like in a resort...a nice long beach and great pools (goes without saying, great service and staff too!). SGSL is the Sandals resort which sold us on the Sandals brand in 2005 and we are now working toward our 3rd free week (awarded after 70 paid nights with Sandals). For both our free weeks, we chose to book the Grande as we love it there! We have been to or stayed at all Sandals resorts (except Grenada & Barbados), and the Grande St. Lucian is our top favourite Sandals tied with Sandals Whitehouse in Jamaica.

The Halcyon is a lovely resort with beautiful grounds, but you might find the restaurant choices too slim, though you would find the resort quite peaceful and quiet (depending on the clientele there at the time). Here are some pics of the Halcyon from our St. Lucia trip in 2012: https:/…

La Toc is a beautiful resort and is the largest of the three Sandals. We have considered staying at La Toc, but find it a bit too hilly for us. The resort is almost like two in one...there are rooms and restaurants beachside and hillside and there is a resort shuttle van to transport you one to the other. For extra exercise you can walk the distance from bluffs to beach. The views from the bluffs are spectacular! La Toc has the most restaurants and we've enjoyed our meals there very much. When you mention "not getting knocked on your bum with the waves", this can happen at the resort as there can be a number of red flag days. Here are pics of La Toc from our St. Lucia trip in Feb/Mar: https:/…

We've stayed standard level, club level and butler level at the Grande. I would do either again in a heartbeat. The beach at the Grande is the best of all three Sandals, in my opinion, as it is the calmest and longest due to it's location on Rodney Bay. The Grande has one of the largest swim-up bars of any Sandals...40 seats...and so yes, it can get loud at times depending on the guests and time of day. But the Grande also has many other pools to choose from (we love the lagoon pools) which are much quieter. We tend to use all the pools at various times including sitting at the swim-up bar and socializing. If it gets too busy we simply retreat to the beach or other pools.

Also what we love about the Grande is the open air lobby which is the social hub of the resort. We grab a drink at the lobby bar and sit in one of the comfy sofas and listen to music. People will dance or gather at the tables to play a game of cards or just sit at the firepit and overlook the beautiful grounds and beach below. Here are our pics of our stay at the Grande in Feb/Mar (I'm not a very good photographer and there are a number of blurry pics!): https:/…

The added promo of the tour credit is wonderful ....the island is so beautiful and to be able to participate on one of the excursions for no dollars is a great opportunity.

A few other things to mention...check out this section of the Sandals website to do a comparison of the three resorts (hope the link works): http://www.sandals.com/compare/

It will give you a comparison of size, restaurant #s etc.

Also...take a look at the Sandals site to see if club level is worth it to you. We usually do book club level at Sandals but it truly isn't a necessity for us. If having a bar in your room is a must...simply ask one of the bartenders to fill a cup with the liquor of your choice and use it as a mixer in your room with the soda, juices and water in your room refrigerator. There are other nice inclusions with club level and we do find the club level staff at the Grande to be outstanding.

Also...if you are going on vacation longer than a week...perhaps consider doing a split stay between two of the resorts. We do this often in Jamaica between the Sandals resorts there.

Good luck with your decision...I don't think you can go wrong with any of the resorts!

Indiana
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2. Re: Another Sandals Question - my apologies

Excellent! I just booked The Grande!!

Ontario Canada
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3. Re: Another Sandals Question - my apologies

lol, good for you Bridkoe...I think you made an excellent choice!

I hope you don't mind some additional advice, especially as this will be your first time to a Sandals resort. Just a few random pointers:

1) Tipping at Sandals is prohibited and strictly enforced. Staff can face discipline or lose their employment if caught accepting a tip. The only exceptions on resort are the butlers and spa staff . There will be a 12.5% surcharge on spa services which some folks consider a tip...I tend to tip over and above that. All staff with the exception of the butlers take part in a gratuity bonus based on booked sales...this ensures all staff from the grounds keepers to the maids to the maintenance staff receive a gratuity...not just the front line staff such as bartenders and wait staff. The shuttle driver to the resort is not a Sandals employee, and a tip for him/her is greatly appreciated and as well, for the sky caps at the airport.

2) The Grande is built on a peninsula. Ocean view rooms face the Atlantic, not the beach. Beach view rooms face Rodney Bay which is the beach. I mention it to avoid confusion as I know that some folks have booked ocean view thinking they were going to have a view of the beach.

3) Be sure to walk the beach to Pigeon Island...the park has a small entrance fee and you can climb Fort Rodney which is very historic and has awesome views from the top.

4) Take some time and visit the other two Sandals resort to satisfy your curiousity. You have full exchange privileges day and evening with included transportation. Sometimes we go for dinner...highly recommend Kelly's Dockside at the Halcyon or La Toc Restaurant at La Toc. And sometimes we just go to spend part of the day including lunch (Armandos was excellent at La Toc).

5) if there is anything you are dissatisfied with...be sure to bring it to the attention of management. They will go miles to ensure you are happy!

6) Sign up for the SSG program after your stay...you can do so online and it is free. This will mean dollars off your next Sandals stay (any Sandals, anywhere) as well as other perks as your stays increase. Sandals has the best returnee guest program in the business...we've enjoyed 2 free weeks and are on our way to our 3rd free week. Here is the link to the program: http://ssg.sandalslifestyle.com/

7) definitely get out and see this beautiful island...we took the Simon Says speed boat tour and it was terrific!

8) if you suffer motion sickness at all, be sure to take anti-nausea meds for the ride from the airport to the resort. The roads, though well paved, are twisting and hilly at times. The other option is to book a helicopter which gets you to the resort in about 20 mins.

If you have any questions...feel free to ask!

Shorewood, Illinois
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4. Re: Another Sandals Question - my apologies

BridKoe you sound just like us! The advice TP55 gave you is spot on! We are booked for our 3rd trip St Lucia. It is our favorite island! We are doing a split stay between Halcyon and the Grande. I had a terrible time deciding between the three and for a while was booked at La Toc instead of the Grande. Like TP, we really want to try it, but the hills just aren't for us. You will LOVE the Grande! When are you going?

Milford...
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5. Re: Another Sandals Question - my apologies

Also agree that TP55's advice is definitely spot on....We stayed at SGSL last August (our free week) and really enjoyed it. We did visit the other two and based on what is important to us (diving, etc), SGSL was the best for us. We have been to all the properties and really put SGSL in the top 3.

Definitely go to the other properties and make sure that if you are going on the 5pm shuttle, make sure you get there 10-15 minutes early as many people were going at that time to the others for dinner. Some had to wait for another shuttle as the others were full.

Have a wonderful time!!

Indiana
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6. Re: Another Sandals Question - my apologies

Dec 13-20

Indiana
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121 posts
49 reviews
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7. Re: Another Sandals Question - my apologies

So helpful! I love Trip Advisor. So, more questions :)

I reserved just a basic room, I believe they called it the Rodney Bay Honeymoon Deluxe. I looked at the map and know these are located on the 1st or 2nd floor of various buildings. I am guessing those rooms face the back of the resort (since there are pool facing rooms that are sold, also on the 1st and 2nd floor of the same buildings), is that correct? Other than the building that starts with an M (sorry, mind went blank) that faces the parking lot/tennis courts....are the rooms in other building that face the back ok? I am just wondering if I need to ask my agent to upgrade me to a pool facing room -- or if there is a charge to change the room (aside from the cost difference?)

Also, I read somewhere (review or on the forum??) that there are cabanas on the beach you can rent if you don't have a butler suite. Anyone know the cost or the chances of actually getting one? Seems like there are many butler category rooms, and I wasn't sure how many cabanas there were. Thinking this would be a nice splurge one day. We had one at Secrets Maroma Beach, and we enjoyed the spoiling! Do they serve lunch and drinks to the cabanas there as well?

I am considering getting a helicopter flight, as I get very car sick if I am not in the front seat. I also read some people had to wait over 2 hours at the airport to even get on the included shuttle. I have no desire to do that. I assume that since your luggage can't fly with you, it wouldn't be possible to take a heli back to the airport on return? I am likely going to book a private transfer for the return. Do they make you arrive at the airport 3 hours in advance like they do Mexico, Dominican Republic, etc? If so, can we use the Sandals lounge on return or is that only for arrivals?

Thanks all!

Ontario Canada
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8. Re: Another Sandals Question - my apologies

Bridkoe...I find those particular room category locations a bit confusing. My info from the resort says that those rooms are all located on the 1st or 2nd floor of the Cap Estate, Rodney Bay, Monchy or Pigeon Island bldgs...but...the website map says that they are in the Cap Estate, Bonne Terre, Monchy or Pigeon Island bldgs. So questionable on whether it is the Bonne Terre or Rodney Bay bldg. The only garden views that I can envision in the Monchy building face the Atlantic as the other side of that building faces the lagoon pools. But the name of the room category being Rodney Bay makes me think the rooms in the other buildings would face...Rodney Bay! In one of the room photos on the website, I can see what looks like the pool deck of the Upper Cascade pool which is on the Rodney Bay side of the building. I also recall BSBgirl (who stayed at the resort after we did), saying that she was told the lowest category rooms face Rodney Bay. Hopefully someone who has stayed in that room category will be able to confirm the location.

I believe that butler guests have the complimentary use of the cabanas once during their stay and at one time there were only a particular 3 cabanas the butlers could choose for their guests. I'm not sure if that is still the case. Cost of the cabanas for anyone to rent was approx $100 for a full day and $60 for a half day (don't hold me to that price, but I believe it is close). There is a Cabana Concierge who will deliver drinks and lunch as well as cold towels or whatever else you might need.

I totally understand you wanting to take the heli! I suffer from motion sickness too, but must admit that I took my travel meds and followed a few other travel tips for motion sickness and I arrived none the worse this trip. But the fact we were in a limo might have helped! I've not heard of any issues with long wait times at the airport for the shuttle...they are usually pretty good at leaving in decent time. Depending on the number of planes landing when you arrive, immigration might cause a bit of a delay...we were 40 mins in line arriving in Feb.

The ride back to the airport from the resort leaves approx 4 hours before flight time...to allow at least 2 hrs travel time in case of traffic, and to check in for your flight. The Sandals lounge is only accessible for arrivals. But there are places to grab a bite to eat in the airport, which is quite small. And the wifi worked great there too!

UK
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9. Re: Another Sandals Question - my apologies

You can get the helicopter back to the airport, they collect your luggage earlier in the day, then you collect it at the airport when you arrive.

Personally I really enjoyed the car ride back to the airport last year. Chatting with the driver makes the time pass and I was almost disappointed how quickly we seemed to get there.

Ontario Canada
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10. Re: Another Sandals Question - my apologies

TVJ...just curious...where do you pick up your luggage when you arrive at the airport on the way home? Is there a secure location where they keep it?