My wife and I recently spent our honeymoon at Sandals Royal Bahamian. I didn’t know a great deal about the chain, or this specific resort before booking here. What I did know came from the advice of our travel agent, and from the resort’s web site. Because I’m a somewhat picky person when it comes to food and drink, I was initially hesitant to choose an all-inclusive resort. There were ups and downs.
I want to put this near the top of the review, since it is long: The tap water here is NOT drinkable, but other than the fact that they give you bottled water, and that there are water coolers scattered about, there’s NO direct indication of this. I specifically asked and they told me “No,” while giving me this look that screamed, ‘Oh my God, I hope you haven’t been drinking it!’ Be warned.
Obviously included dining is a major selling point for all-inclusive resorts. I would say that overall the food was acceptable, but not great. None of the meals wowed me, but none of the meals were particularly regrettable either. Some of the restaurants on the property require reservations, others do not, and on a couple of nights there were event dinners of some sort.
We ate at The Crystal Room which is their standard American ‘date night’ restaurant. In the States, this place would have been a rung above chain restaurants like Outback or Friday’s, but a rung or two below a Morton’s or a Legal Seafoods. The atmosphere was pleasant, but the food was average. Their menu didn’t have anything particularly interesting; I got the chicken, my wife opting for the vegetarian linguine in cream sauce. The linguine was tasty for being the vegetarian black-sheep of the menu, and the chicken was edible but a bit dry.
We were able to eat at both of the reservation-only restaurant properties, Kimono’s and Baccarat. Kimono’s is a Benihana-inspired hibachi place, and was, again, fine but not outstanding. At hibachi places, half the appeal is in the cooking performance, but our chef seemed kinda bummed out and spoke very softly, robbing us of that part of the experience. Chefs at other tables were obviously more energetic, as we could hear their performances raging from our quiet perches. Food was on par with other hibachi places I’ve been to in the States.
Baccarat, their “French” option, had it’s ups and downs but was the best of the dining experiences. They served me a remarkably tender, flavorful filet mignon cooked perfectly to medium rare. My wife tried their Lobster Thermidor, which was fine, but a bit chewy and unremarkable compared to the steak. The desserts at Baccarat were nigh to inedible - a boozy tasting apple tart drowned in Grand Marnier and a chocolate ‘cheesecake’ which sounded lovely on the menu, but bore no resemblance to anything I’ve ever known as cheesecake. Both desserts left the distinct impression that they had been prepared days earlier, and not particularly well to begin with. At the end of our stay, we concluded that every dessert at every restaurant shared these problems, and were entirely missable across the board. If you vacation here, skip dessert - it’s not worth it.
As for drinking, there are many bars across the resort, all free of charge and tipping, that will make you whatever non-specific drink you care to quaff, seemingly in any quantity you wish, from about 11am until 2am. Every Concierge-level room is also home to a charge-free “mini” bar sporting full fifths of standard glass-bottle-but-no-name Vodka, Gin, Scotch, Rum, regular and light beer, red and white wine, and a few mixers.
With few exceptions, you’re relegated to what one might call ‘generic’ drinking. Most bars make drinks with no-name alcohol, although not plastic-bottle ‘gasoline’. There’s one ‘full-flavored’ beer and one light beer, and a house Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet. There is an upper echelon of guests, called ‘butlered guests,’ who, if feeling particularly demanding, can dispatch their personal butler track down a more specific beverage choices. That level of service, however, comes at considerable additional up-front expense.
I was entirely certain before arriving, that the resort would be a parade of inebriated jackasses. However, the flip-side of the ‘meh’-quality of the alcohol seems to be that people drink either for flavor, with frozen concoctions that mask the “flavor” of the underlying liquor, or they drink just as much as they need to reach whatever level of intoxication they desire. (read: weak drinks) Also, since Sandals resorts are couples-focused, no one’s really trying to prove anything or drum up liquid courage. People seemed pretty well behaved.
We attended two events put on by the resort. The day of our arrival we hit the Island Party, over on their private island, Sandals Cay. It proved to be a great chance to meet other couples. A buffet-style dinner introduced guests to some island cuisine, and a nearly-mandatory conga line got everyone in a dancing mood. We also attended their Junkanoo Street Party which also featured lots of local flavor including food, dancing and fireworks. Food at both events was decent, but again, unremarkable.
If you look hard enough, or ask, there seems to be policy for almost everything that goes on at Sandals. My advice to any future guests would be simply not to look for it and not to ask. For instance, the pool closes at 7pm, but if you’re in the pool after 7pm, no one will tell you to get out, and indeed, we saw couples sporadically frolicking in the pool throughout the night. It seems it’s a pretty permissive environment as long as you don’t ask, and what you’re doing isn’t impinging upon anyone else’s good time.
The staff is another big part of the experience at Sandals. In the beginning we both found the staff interaction very awkward. Everyone was hyper-outgoing and very friendly, and every staff member you pass will say, “Hello!”, ask you how you are doing, and if you’re having a good time.We grew accustomed to it over a day or two. Also, as time passed, we saw flashes of normal humanity peek through the presumably mandated hypomanic veneer.
Also adding to the charm were the cats. I suppose one might not be as thrilled if one were allergic, but the resort has three cats which are ‘owned’ and cared for by the resort who wander the grounds charming interested guests, eating table scraps, and lying in the sun for hours on end. I’ve read other reviewers who hated the cats, but we liked them.
As many cynics might expect, all-inclusive is not always ALL-inclusive, and some extra-cost items and activities can be billed to your room and others require cash. Wines beyond house wine, available only at reservation-restaurants, was additional. Similarly, jet ski rentals are cash-only, and strange to boot, as they appear to be administered by shady locals, who don’t actually work for the resort, but whose presence is merely tolerated at the far end of the resort beach. Likewise, other resort activities that involve gasoline/diesel, like tours, parasailing, SCUBA diving classes, or deep-sea fishing are all extra cost items. Generally, this stuff creates a brief, transient moments of bitterness every time something costs extra where you think to yourself, ‘All-inclusive... except THIS!’
Things we would have done differently:
We would have signed up for snorkeling immediately on arrival, since it was often cancelled.
We would have made restaurant reservations on the first day, since they filled up so early.
I would have brought a bottle or two of top-shelf liquor with me (or bought in town.)
We would have spent more time on the Cay (their private island).
We should have remembered to enjoy a sunset from the fitness center balcony (best view at the resort - not to be missed.)
This that were unexpectedly great:
We were really grateful to have a north-facing room. Balcony was always shaded throughout the day and had a great view.
We were grateful for one of their boat captains, Stefano, who was a real pro. Other pilots we rode with scared the crap out of us; This guy was clearly very skilled.
We were grateful for Playmaker “Crazy Ray.” He was, quite seriously, the one single staff member who had the biggest impact benefitting our good time.
We are grateful that we didn’t pay for the Internet service, and simply went a whole week without using the TV, Internet or cell phones even once.
All told we had a great time. I don’t know that we would go back again to this specific property, but we’ve had a pretty great time. Partly this hesitation to return is wanderlust - why go to the same place twice? That said, we are considering returning to another Sandals resort in another location. In our case, a large part of the appeal of a resort like this was that we didn’t have to do a bunch of planning to orchestrate our honeymoon. In my opinion, it’s all about expectations. Having been to one, I can say for certain, this is NOT a 5 star resort (but isn’t priced like one either), so if you expect that, you’ll be disappointed. If you expect a 3 star resort, you’ll be thrilled. If you expect a 4 star resort, you’ll be in the ballpark. I would say that nominally, if everything went perfectly, this resort would be 4 stars. Practically speaking, it was around a 3.5. I’ve rounded to 4 to give the benefit of the doubt.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- •New, extra comfortable, ultra luxurious Day Beds added poolside on Sandals Cay •Sandals Cay now has Zen Spa and Fire Pits.-----•Butler Service, 24-Hour Room Service, and Rolls Royce or Mercedes Transfers for select suite categories. •Over 10,000 sq. ft. of the Island’s most impressive Freshwater Pools•Sandals Cay – Nassau’s only resort with Private Offshore Island & Restaurant.•Ten Dining Options featuring an array of cuisine from French to Bahamian. •Minutes away from excellent duty free shopping in Downtown Nassau on Bay Street and world class gambling on Paradise Island.•Weekly Late night decadent Chocolate Buffet offering specialty coffee •Voted Sandals Resorts “World’s Leading All-Inclusive Company” 16 years in a row. •Voted Sandals Resorts “Caribbean’s Leading Hotel Brand” 18 years in a row. •Voted Sandals Royal Bahamian “Bahamas’ Leading Spa Resort”. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Sandals Royal Bahamian Spa Resort & Offshore Island Hotel Nassau
- Sandals Royal Bahamian Spa Resort And Offshore Island
- Sandals Bahamas
- Sandals Royal Bahamian Cable Beach
- Sandals Bahamian
- Sandal Resort Bahamas
- Sandal Royal Bahamian
- Sandals Royal Bahamian Spa Resort & Offshore Island Bahamas/Nassau