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“Sandals Halcyon & scuba diving”

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Sandals Halcyon Beach Resort
Ranked #5 of 12 Hotels in Castries
Certificate of Excellence
Skerries, Ireland
Level Contributor
70 reviews
24 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 160 helpful votes
“Sandals Halcyon & scuba diving”
Reviewed 17 March 2009

The previous POSITIVE Halcyon hotel reviews are pretty accurate and I thoroughly enjoyed all aspects of my holiday with Sandals Halcyon, had no problems, and found them excellent value for money. Some of the previous negative reviews were made by guests staying at the hotel at the same time as ourselves. All I can say is that we spent many nights socialising with fellow guests in the piano bar until the early hours and enjoyed a light snack at 3 am in the beach grill on the way back to our rooms serenaded by the tree frogs (not crickets). Perhaps some of the younger guests had retired too early and thus missed all the fun.
I found the watersports staff courteous and friendly with the guest safety of paramount importance. They were not willing to bend the safety rules even for a professional mariner like myself (Sandals Policy). We did encounter 2 days of high winds when the watersports were cancelled. Another problem is that when there is a big swell on the beach they cannot launch the rescue boat because of the danger of it being swamped (as has happened in the past). This occurred on 1 day after the previous 2 days of high winds and watersports were cancelled even thought the actual winds on the day were light.
The rest of this long report is basically for divers, as I found this information hard to find and not well covered by reviews before I went to Sandals. All diving and snorkelling trips leave from Castries harbour. Shuttle buses run from each Hotel at 0820, 1020 & 1320 approx each day. The shuttle trip takes approx 15 mins depending on traffic. The dive boats are scheduled to leave the dock at 0900, 1100 & 1400 each day except Sunday when only the 1100 trip runs. The 0900 trip is always the 2 tank dive and mainly caters for qualified divers only. The later trips are for single dives, dive training and snorkelling. If you are staying at the Grande a different Dive boat (but similar type) leaves earlier directly from this hotel. Regardless of what hotel you are staying at all diving and most snorkelling takes place at various sites between Anse La Raye and the Pitons about a 20-30 minute run by Dive boat from Castries Harbour (add an extra 15 mins if you leave from the Grande). The Dive boats are 46’ feet long with twin screws and can do about 22kts. They have a very basic toilet and open deck freshwater showers to rinse off after diving. As the dive boats can accommodate up to 20 divers when full, in practise you get a 30 second freshwater rinse in between dives. Light snacks and water are also provided for the surface interval between the 2 tank dives. The Dive boats carry a first aid kit with oxygen and a VHF radio. All equipment (except wetsuits) is included and is maintained to a good standard. As the water temperature is 27 degrees Celsius a lot of people choose to dive in shorts and t-shirt even bikinis. If you prefer a wet suit you can hire a 3mm shorty for 5-10$ a day or buy one outright for 45$. These wetsuit prices are approximate and may vary. I brought all my own gear except tanks & weights, which was probably not necessary as the regulators and BCD’s provided are of a good standard. If you just want to snorkel then you are required to wear a lifejacket (provided) when you are in the water.
All qualified divers regardless of qualification level (Sandals policy) are expected to do a single shallow 30-40 minute first dive to check everything before being allowed to sign up for the 2 tank dives. If you have not been diving during the previous 6-12 months you may be required to do a quick pool check. If you cannot tick all the medical boxes on the disclaimer form you will not be allowed to dive. If you have any medical conditions make sure you bring a note from your doctor saying you are OK to dive with no restrictions. All diving is restricted to 20 meters (65 feet) and the tanks are 12 litres in size and filled to 210 Ats. The dives will last around 40 minutes unless somebody blows all their air. There is one wreck dive twice a week to the “Lesleen M” a (55 meter) 165 foot freighter which was sunk in October 1986 by the Department of Fisheries as part of a project to provide artificial reefs. It is covered with hard and soft corals, sponges and hydroids, and provides an ideal habitat for many fish such as queen and french angel fish (hangs around the propeller). Turtles, morays, jack and barracudas also frequent this wreck. The sandy bottom fringing the wreck is home to numerous schools of sand eels and divers should look out for our resident frog fishes, sea horses and black bar soldier fish.
The wreck sits on an even keel on a sandy bottom and it is possible to penetrate the hold and look in the engine room (engine has been removed). The deepest point of the wreck is in 65 ft. of water whilst the highest point is in 40ft. depth.
All the rest of the dives are scenic drifts or wall dives around Anse Cochon (Bay of Pigs), or twice a week in the Pitons area with some with a gentle to moderate current in places. Expect to see the usual abundant tropical reef fish with lots of morays, barracuda spiny lobster, octopus, reef squid, eagle rays, puffer fish, stonefish, and friendly turtles. If you are lucky you might see stingrays and flying gurnard. Stingrays were the biggest fish I came across on the 11 dives I did in the 2 weeks. According to the divemaster you will not see sharks or manta ray in this area. On the boat trip to the dive sites keep an eye out for dolphins and flying fish.
The dive groups were usually split into 6-8 people plus a divemaster who led the way. You form a line around the divemaster and if anybody spots anything interesting you attract the divemaster's attention who then summons the rest of the group by banging on the bottom of his tank with a stone. With the usual visibility of 25 plus meters this system works well and means you can sweep a large area. Occasionally you might be accompanied on the dive by a professional resort photographer who will happily sell you his usually excellent photo’s at 10$ each when you get back to the hotel. There is no pressure to buy and you can browse at your leisure in the hotel. As they say in St.Lucia “No pressure no problem”. A private dive for a minimum of 4 divers at 80$ each extra will get you a night dive or a dive to the other wreck the “Daini Koyomaru”. This Japanese dredger was sunk in the south end of Anse Cochon (Bay of Pigs) in September 1996 by the Department of Fisheries.
If the Local Coastguard gives a small craft advisory warning and they did twice during my 2 weeks then all diving will be cancelled for that day. In practise this means winds in excess of 25-30 knots, this is not usually known until the morning of your dive. Usually they will call your room to tell you if a dive you are booked on has been cancelled. Wind forecasts for the days ahead are hard to find and the only place I have seen them displayed for 24hrs in advance was when I visited the Grande.
Finally I want to thank John, the Dive boat captain and his crew for making us all feel very welcome on board, providing me with some lovely diving and I particularly praise his attitude to safety for all on board.
Richard
Marine Pilot & Divemaster

  • Stayed March 2009, travelled as a couple
    • Value
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Helpful?
47 Thank seawindmill
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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English first
windsor ontario
2 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 9 helpful votes
Reviewed 14 March 2009

MY husband and I just returned from spending two weeks at Sandals Halcyon. If you are looking for a romantic getaway Sandals Halcyon is the way to go. This is our second time at the Halcyon, we love it there. It's quiet, intimate and very romantic. The staff is great. They are very personnable, and they will go out of there way to please you. The resort has cottage style rooms, they are only two stories and embelished in alot of foliage. The grounds are immaculate. There are three restaurants at the Halcyon, Bayside, which is buffet, the Pier and Marios. You do not need reservations either for the Pier or Marios. You also have a choice of many other restaurants which are at the Sandals Regency and Sandals Grand. We tried them all, the food is very good. They have a shuttle that will take you to the other two. you can even spend the day at them also. The other are very big, but also very nice. We found that the staff at the other two were not as personnable as the Halcyon. Diving is also included. My husband is a certified diver, he loved it. He did nineteen dives in the two weeks. So if you are looking for a great romantic getaway, Sandals Halcyon is the way to go.
Oc2puss
Windsor, Ontario

  • Stayed February 2009, travelled as a couple
    • Value
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Helpful?
4 Thank oc2puss
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Nova Scotia
Level Contributor
16 reviews
6 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 7 helpful votes
Reviewed 13 March 2009

If your a big all inclusive fan, this is you dream vacation! Being in the hospitality business, I appreciate great service that's not faked, forced or phoney. Watching managers working with waiters and support staff is refreshing and relaxing. There's nothing worst than some [--] mgr. trying to impress by bossing staff around, it's embarassing and uncomfortable.
The hotel genuinely wants you to have a great vacation and will do whatever they can to accomadate your requests.
I was very impressed with the resort, and it's staff.
Was my first trip to a Sandels resort, won't be my last!
Keep up the good work.

  • Stayed February 2009, travelled as a couple
    • Value
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    • Cleanliness
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Helpful?
4 Thank BarGuyNovaScotia
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Level Contributor
6 reviews
3 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 8 helpful votes
Reviewed 11 March 2009

St Lucia was a wonderful travel experience. The hotel was really cozy and romantic with very good restaurants. The poolside room we had was really nice and new and clean. It was on the second floor and had a balcony. The buildings were only 2 stories high. People at the resort work very hard and were generally very friendly and helpful. The beach was really beautiful and the water warm. We got to use the sail boats and went on the free snorkelling excursion. They have so much to offer and you can take a free shuttle bus back and forth to the 2 other Sandals resorts. We tried all of the restaurants which the service was good and the food was excellent. There was one exception: La Toc at the Regency was a lovely atmosphere and our server was good. The appetizers were nice, just not as hot as we would have liked them, but the main meal was not good at all. I ordered the steak and it was inedible. I could hardly cut it with my knife. My husband had the chicken which was dry and overcooked. The desert of creme brule saved the day as it was really good. It was a nice place but the food was not the best.
The overall experience we had was wonderful and we will go back there someday! This was also our first Sandals resort and it definitely won't be our last! We really like their system with the all-inclusive resort.

  • Stayed March 2009, travelled as a couple
    • Value
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Helpful?
3 Thank RS10SS
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reading, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
126 reviews
29 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 83 helpful votes
Reviewed 11 March 2009

Despite the sometimes poisonous negative reviews, I am glad to say I experienced the resort myself first hand, and we had a great holiday here. I joined TripAdvisor as I was incensed by the negative comments about this place, which nearly ruined our much anticipated vacation.

Do not be put off - Halcyon Beach, and St Lucia, is a great destination.

We booked through Virgin Holidays - flight from UK took 8 hours, usual Virgin Atlantic service. Be prepared for slow immigration checks, which did take over an hour, but I've had far worse at San Franciso and Boston. Sandals staff greeted us post-immigration, and we then had the 90 minute minibus ride to Castries. It is windy, and the roads are rough in places, but that is Saint Lucia for you !

Arrival at Sandals Halycon was extremely friendly - champagne welcome, luggage taken to room, keys issued within 10 minutes (they do warn you about not losing the safety deposit key, which I notice some people have complained about this week on TA - but it's fair enough - there is only one key to the safe in each room, and it's big enough to put a Digital SLR and Lens, wallets, mobile phones, money etc in).

We stayed in room 700, old style block - lovely. One of the great things about Halycon is it is small - yes it is more suited to those looking to relax in the gardens, listening to the sound of the garden birds and ocean waves - if you want the background of jabbering tourists by the pool - try the other Sandals on St Lucia. We loved the peace and tranquility, as did the many British and Canadians staying there (about 80% of the residents - one couple has been coming to Halycon for over 10 years).

Back to the room - air con worked fine, big TV, comfortable bed, clean bathroom - colonial style 2 -storey block - which again gives this place a certain charm - we visited the Grande St Lucian one day, 3- storey blocks, garish red roofs, geared to the US market and younger crowd - give me Halycon every time !

Food - I would have liked a change of menu more frequently (it changes once a week) - and expect to wait for a table unless you are prompt for dinner at 6.30 pm or choose the main Bayside eatery - but all the restaurants (Bayside, Marios and The Pier) offer excellent food, and a good choice of vegetarian, meat and fish. Breakfast in the Bayside was a delight - fresh cooked eggs, pancakes, omelettes, waffles, crepes - plus lots of hot and cold buffet choice.Antipasti buffet at Marios is a highlight, as is the daily seafood catch at The Pier. And for the peckish, there are nachos on tap at the Beach Bistro and Afternoon Tea at the Paradise Pool.

There are negatives to Halycon - but let's put in perspective. It is open to the Caribbean Sea, and 3 days we were there we were unable to swim in the sea due to the waves. Watersports also not available these days. But the paradise pool (the quiet one) more than makes up for it - again, if you want guaranteed watersports, then the Grande St Lucian is probably better for you - but you might also struggle to get a beach lounger there. Next time, we will stay at Halycon, but know we can also get the shuttle to the Grande for the watersports and dip in the sea.

Tours from all the Sandals are easy to book (tour desk lady was one of the most helpful people we met there), and there is lots of choice. We did the Land and Sea Adventure (superb value, including lunch at a hotel in Soufriere) and Rainforest Skyride. We also took the Sandals shuttle to the Grande, and then walked up the causeway to Fort Rodney on Pigeon Island - definitely worth the $5 entrance fee.

Departure was simple - again, be prepared for Caribbean pace and limited facilities - but we used the Virgin Check In and Chill service - boarding passes issued at the hotel at 11 am, bags taken direct to airport and did not have to bother with them again until London. Return flight to Gatwick was 7 hours 25 mins.

Ok, some people do get unlucky - we got a blocked toilet on the last day, but it was dealt with by reception immediately. We also got some days wet weather, but overall we enjoyed ocean side cocktails, Caribbean island pace of life on restful gazebos in peacful garden surroundings, sunsets, great food, and really friendly service (cannot complain about a single thing related to the staff, everyone was top notch).

We will be back next year,and we will be at the Halycon Beach.

  • Liked — Peaceful setting to experience island pace of life
  • Disliked — Exposed beach meant that high winds can prevent sea swimming on some days
  • Stayed March 2009, travelled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Check-in / front desk
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
    • Business service (e.g., internet access)
Helpful?
9 Thank rilasata
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Denver, Colorado
Level Contributor
3 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 3 helpful votes
Reviewed 10 March 2009

Please! Please! Please! Save your time/money and go somewhere else. This place is sooooooooo ridiculously boring (no words can ever describe how lame this resort truly is) If you like to sit around and read books all day and then go to bed at 6:30 p.m. this place is your paradise. For those of you who actually have a life and like to meet people and have a little fun go to the Grande if you really have your heart set on going to St. Lucia. The Grande is pretty lively well past midnight. The Halcyon is a sharp contrast with the crickets being the loudest all evening long. This place really sucks. I'll never forgive my travel agent Lonie Goutermont from the virtuoso group for not doing his homework and ruining my honeymoon. I spent about $ 4,500 on my vacation and was bored to death at this resort. The water sport department is a fraud. They were shut down 4 out of 6 days. Primary excuse was "water is too rough mon" I called B.S. on this because the water had "RIPPLES" just like on a lake. One day they told me they didn't have their "rescue boat" for the day so they weren't allowed to let anyone use any of the equipment. I was soooooo irritated by these clowns. I was convinced that they were getting high in the back as their eyes were all blood shot ( I personally don't have a problem with this but DO YOUR JOB! We're paying a lot of money to stay here.) Call me crazy, i'm sure this couldn't be true in St. Lucia. Anyway, for what it's worth my wife is 36 and i'm 30. This place is NOT for this age group. If your 50 + and an introvert who likes to read books all day and hear crickets all night then this place, like I said before, is your paradise. I've rambled on long enough and have plenty more negative stories but it makes me sick to my stomache to think about it. Anyway, if you still go to the Halcyon you deserve it.

  • Stayed October 2008, travelled as a couple
    • Value
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    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
3 Thank B717Pilot
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Oakville
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 7 helpful votes
Reviewed 9 March 2009

The people who rave about this resort must have stayed somewhere that we did not!

The brochures with their retouched photos promise luxury and what is delivered is third class worn out and tired indifference.

Check in threatened us with near death consequences if we were to lose the key to our room safe, presented a warm glass of champagne and then attempted to elicit a $600,00 deposit for unspecified future requirements.....

The so called signature restaurant is a tumbled down building much in need of repair - light fixtures with bare bulbs, shingles missing, and a menu with six items! The major concern was that diners arrive in a shirt with a collar...shorts and sandals are fine, but your shirt must have a collar! The food is inedible - even fish dishes are destroyed.....slimy fish appetizers and a wine list [with a respectable assortment ] that elicits "we don't have any of that sir" no matter what you order, round out the evening

Our so-called ocean view room was completely enveloped with overgrown vines - if you leaned out on the balcony and pushed the vines aside, one might catch a glimpse of the ocean. Room air conditioning rroaring and rattliing noisily throughout the night...no room service, no fridge or minibar in the room, no robes and a maid who ordered my wife out of the room as she was "ready to clean it!"...paint chipped and missing, and sheets that were ripped as they didn't fit the worn out mattress.

The horrible Carribean custom of "leaving a towell on a beach chair means you own it for all time"is observed here so we ended up either sitting on the sand or getting up at 6:00 AM ,and missing breakfast so as to secure a beach chair and a little bit of shade.

The Italian restaurant, Mario's serves tiny but generally tasty portions but has the same "we don't have that sir" wine list...closed one night, [I've never been to a resort in some 25 years of Carribean vacations that closed a restaurant at any time during high season]....but we ate there the other six nights...other choice was a bus ride to one of the other resorts, but reports by other guests that week of being treated like "second class citizens" cancelled those plans

The breakfast / luncheon pool restaurant was generally run of the mill - one of the nghts we were there, the owners insulted every guest who wasn't a somehow preferred sandals customer by holding a "special customers only" dinner in the middle of the dining room for the rest of us "plebes" to watch from another section of the restaurant.

The best part of our trip was an afternoon of "zip lining" at a location that nothing to do with the hotel

We spent thoudsands to be a little pampered at what is purported to be a five star resort - the Toronto papers advertising "Half Price St Lucia" when we returned home really capped thing off..

Did I mention that my written complaints to the Hotel General manager elicited a [paraphrased] "if you don't like St Lucia, don't come back"

Sandals - you ought to be ashamed of yourselves!

  • Stayed February 2009, travelled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
7 Thank UnhappyOakville
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Additional Information about Sandals Halcyon Beach Resort

Property: Sandals Halcyon Beach Resort
Address: Choc Bay, Castries GM910, St. Lucia
Phone Number:
Region: Caribbean > St. Lucia > Castries Quarter > Castries
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Beach Business Centre with Internet Access Fitness Centre with Gym / Workout Room Free Breakfast Free Parking Restaurant Room Service Shuttle Bus service Suites Swimming Pool Wheelchair access
Hotel Style:
#4 Family Hotel in Castries
#4 Top resorts Hotel in Castries
#5 On the Beach Hotel in Castries
#5 Romantic Hotel in Castries
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): ££££
Hotel Class:4.5 star — Sandals Halcyon Beach Resort 4.5*
Number of rooms: 169
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
•Friendly to the physically challenged with low rise architecture •Fully air-conditioned Caribbean cuisine restaurant on its own 150 ft pier over the •Caribbean Sea •Houses 169 Rooms with true personal service and intimate experience •English-style afternoon tea served at the Paradise pool •Tableside service at the Beach Bistro •“Stay at one, play at three” free shuttles to Sandals La Toc Golf Resort & Spa and Sandals Grande St. Lucian Spa & Beach Resort•Sandals Resorts “World’s Leading All Inclusive Company” 16 years in a row •Sandals Resorts “Caribbean’s Leading Hotel Brand”, 18 years in a row ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Sandals Halcyon Beach St. Lucia Hotel Castries
Sandals Halcyon Beach Castries
Sandals St Lucia
Sandals Halcyon Beach Resort St. Lucia/Castries

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