Sandals Royal Plantation Resort

I have been away for a while busy with my position of choral director, but I am updating my blog so I will have several posts soon!  This summer, before the madness of  directing a large choral program began,  my husband Jim and I relaxed at our second Sandals Resort, and I am so glad we did.  As much as we loved Sandal’s Whitehouse, now South Coast, we loved Royal Plantation Resort even more.  It is Sandals smallest and most intimate all inclusive resort.  It is truly all inclusive as the room, food, alcohol, water sports, gratuities and transport from the airport to the hotel and back again are all included.  No children are allowed at Sandals Resorts.  That’s what their counterpart Beaches is for.  Sandals Royal Plantation has 74 rooms, and each room comes with a pair of butlers.   One of our butlers, Marvin, greeted us with a glass of champagne upon our arrival and took us on a tour of the property while our bags were delivered to our room.  Royal Plantation sits on a hill overlooking the ocean.  Outside the lobby is a porch with comfortable furniture, a coffee bar, and games such as chess.  In the afternoon, a wine bar is set up on the porch.  Beyond the porch has a wide black and white tiled terrace with a small pool, and a large spa that threads around it at the edge of hill.  The terrace has a restaurant at the end.  There is inside seating and outside seating as well as an old-fashioned white bandstand.  On the second floor of the lobby is a formal drawing room and the French restaurant, Papillion.  A large staircase on each side of the terrace winds down to the beach.  On one side of the beach is a restaurant with a patio. That restaurant turns into a seafood restaurant at night.  On the other side of the beach there were more tiki huts and chairs available plus the watersports.  Sandals offers paddleboards, kayaks and Hobe Cat sailboats for guests’ use.   Royal Plantation also boasts it’s own spa with full service facials and massages as well as pedicure and manicure services.  While the Royal Plantation resort is small and intimate, it sits next door to the new Sandals Ochi Resort which is a large resort.  Royal Plantation guests have reciprocal privileges at Ochi which boasts huge pools with swim up bars, the Ochi Beach Club and 16 restaurants as well as night life such as the Rabitt Hole Speakeasy.  There is shuttle service to and from the Ochi resort that is easily accessible.

Jim and I had never experienced butler service before, so we weren’t sure what to expect.  Our butler team was Marvin and Orren.   Often one would be on duty during the day and the other would be on duty in the evening until 10:00 p.m.  They offered to unpack our suitcases.  They brought us breakfast in our room each morning.  All we had to do is put a placard on the door with our order and what time we wanted it delivered and our breakfast was there on time, with a smiling Marvin or Orren.  No matter which one delivered breakfast, they covered our in- room table with a white table cloth and presented me with a flower.  During the day, if we wanted anything, a drink, or something from our room, they would provide that service.  They retrieved one of Jim’s books from the room when we were on the beach one day and Jim wanted to read.  One night after we closed the bar down, we came back to our room to find flower petals from the door to the bed.  Towels were made into two swans surrounded by more flower petals on the bed.  Battery operated candles were placed strategically around the room.  Another night, a bath had been drawn with flower petals and candles.  By the end of the week, I nicknamed them, Marvin the Marvelous and Orren the Outstanding.  We couldn’t have asked for better service. They truly provided us with a relaxing and pampered stay.

I spent most days lazing on the beach, swimming and sailing.  At Whitehouse (South Beach) there was a lot of beach area, but since that resort is in a protected cove, it was thick with seaweed and not at all good for swimming.  Royal Plantation’s beach area is smaller, but beautiful and the water was gorgeous for swimming.   There was always a beach butler nearby to bring a drink from the restaurant.  They even brought me lunch in my tiki hut a couple of times.  One of the advantages of a small resort was that the watersports guys, all young guys in their 20s, were not busy so they had time to go sailing with me.  Jim refused to sail with me after I tipped the Hobi over last year and the watersports guys had to come get us.  (Hobe Cat sailboats are designed to do that.  It’s okay, but Jim was not amused.)  The weather was a bit rough this summer and Royal Plantation does not sit in a protected cove, so sailing there means sailing on the open sea.  I thought it best not to go it alone, although I sailed the boat most of the time.  Obrien, one of the watersports guys, and I raised hell out on the waves and Jim was content to watch from shore.  This time, I didn’t take a knockdown, although that still surprises me considering the heavy weather we sailed in.  Our last two days I took advantage of some of the points we were awarded for rebooking and went to the spa for a massage and a facial.

Besides the relaxing days on the beach or at the spa, we took advantage of the restaurants offered at the resort.  The main restaurant was the one on the Terrace, called, the Terrace.  The Terrace offered inside or outside dining.  The interior of the restaurant was quaint, but the outside was set with white tablecloths and candles at night. Dining there was excellent.  We had breakfast there only one day, but we were well satisfied with the buffet including omelets to order.  We ate lunch there one day and dinner there three nights.   While Jim ordered beef dishes, I ordered seafood and lobster.  The best meal was during Jamaica Night when the restaurant set up a huge buffet outside on the terrace and served all kinds of Jamaican food ranging from curried goat to rice and peas to lobsters grilled to order.  Jamaica Night sizzled with spicy, tangy flavors that are the essence of Jamaica.  Every night, a small band or a singer would entertain us from the old-fashioned white bandstand on the terrace during dinner.  Another option was the restaurant on the beach.  During the day they served sandwiches and burgers coconut shrimp, jerk shrimp and Jamaican patties.  I loved the shrimp while Jim loved the Jamaican patties.  At night it turned into a seafood restaurant and I ate some of the best surf and turf I’ve ever had there.   The French Restaurant, Papillion, is on the second floor of the lobby and while I didn’t consider the cuisine French, it was fabulous.  I had  a seafood dish one night and lobster another night and it was some of the best lobster I have eaten.  During dinner, Oliver, the pianist, plays softly on a grand piano.  We loved all three restaurants so much that we only ate one lunch and one dinner at the Ochi resort.  We had lunch at Neptune’s there one day and dinner at their hibachi grill another evening with two other couples we had befriended.  While the Jamaican fare at Neptune’s was good, we were not fans of the hibachi restaurant and found it flavorless.  Our new friends shared our opinion of the hibachi restaurant.

After dinner, we were pleasantly surprised at the nightlife.  At eight o’clock every night the main show would start at the white bandstand on the terrace.  There were bands and singers, but the night I enjoyed most was the night when there were acrobats who did all sorts of things like eating fire, contortions and strength poses worthy of Cirque du  Solei.  On Jamaica Night, the show included singers, musicians and dancers who told the story of Jamaica.  We enjoyed listening to the shows either from the tables of the Terrace Restaurant or the porch while sipping wine with our new friends.  After the show, the Wobbly Peacock, which is right between the terrace and the lobby was always open until 2:00 a.m., and they served delicious scotch eggs as well as pub food drinks.  Oliver, the pianist, was there three nights during our stay and he could play anything.  I had so much fun singing old jazz standards with him that we closed the bar down each night he played.  One night we ventured over to the Ochi resort and went to the Rabbit Hole Speakeasy with our new friends.  Our butler had to give us the day’s password to get in, which we thought was cool.  The round door leading to the Speakeasy was guarded by two guys in zoot suits and the cocktail servers were dressed in flapper dresses complete with fringe.  The menu of drinks were all from the Prohibition Era.  The whole concept of the Speakeasy was so much fun.  We went there on a particular night to hear Mama, a singer some other guests had recommended.  Mama came out in a gown worthy of a 20s era torch singer and had a good voice.  The only problem was the Speakeasy wasn’t a large space and the oversized speakers were turned up to blast level.  We all decided to leave as it was just too loud.  What would have been far better would have been Mama with a pianist.  Sometimes less is more.  Take it from a singer and choral director.

We loved Royal Plantation so much that we didn’t spend a whole lot of time at Ochi.  We were so entranced that we booked again for next year.  I had planned a trip to Germany and Austria, but by the end of the week, we couldn’t resist another trip to Royal Plantation.  I can’t wait to swim in the bright blue water, eat more lobster, sing with Oliver, and see Marvin and Orren’s smiling faces again.  We left Marvin and Orren and the beach butlers an extra tip as they were so fantastic and we will certainly request them for our stay next year.  (Butlers are the only ones allowed to receive tips.)  If you want a vacation where you can relax and be pampered, I can’t recommend Royal Plantation more.  By the end of this school year, I am going to need it!






Sandals Resorts Whitehouse

Last July, Jim and I tried a Sandal’s resort for the first time. If you want a childfree vacation where you will be pampered, Sandals offers the ultimate experience. Everything from transportation to the resort, gratuities, use of the sailboats, kayaks, paddle boards, the snorkeling boat, all dining and drinks was included. You truly can leave your wallet in your room. Many of Sandal’s resorts are on the island of Jamaica. Once we landed in Jamaica, we made our way through customs to the Sandal’s lounge where were offered bottled water and Red Stripe beer as well as rum cake. The Sandals employees took our luggage, and we didn’t have to touch it after that. No bag drag here! From the airport, it is almost an hour’s ride over the mountainous terrain of Jamaica to get to the Whitehouse resort. The ride itself was an adventure. When we arrived at the resort, we were greeted with champagne in a beautiful lobby. Our luggage was taken to our room by helpful employees.

Once we landed in Jamaica, we made our way through customs to the Sandal’s lounge where we were offered bottled water and Red Stripe beer as well as rum cake. The Sandals employees took our luggage, and we didn’t have to touch it after that. No bag drag here! From the airport, it is almost an hour’s ride over the mountainous terrain of Jamaica to get to the Whitehouse resort. The ride itself was an adventure. When we arrived at the resort, we were greeted with champagne in a beautiful lobby. Our luggage was taken to our room by helpful employees.

At Whitehouse, we had eight restaurants to chose from ranging from French, Italian, seafood, Japanese, Jamaican, and gourmet European fusion. There was also a coffee shop which offered pastries, made to order crepes, as well as fantastic coffee. The meals at Whitehouse were all delicious. Even Jim, Chef Fussy Pants, enjoyed the dining. The meals were even better than we have had aboard Celebrity Cruise Lines, and that is quite a feat. I truly enjoyed all the fresh seafood, including the huge Caribbean Lobster I dined on one night, and we both loved the jerk dishes at lunch time.

During the day, there is a breathtaking beachfront with tiki huts to read, relax or nap. While we were there, swimming in the ocean did involve a lot of seaweed, but that’s because Whitehouse sits in a cove and recent storms had pushed the seaweed into shore. There were four pools, three of which had swim-up bars, and lots of lounge areas. Two of the pools had DJs playing reggae music and an activity director who offered pool games. In addition to the beach and pool, there were 16-foot Hobi Cat sailboats, kayaks and paddle boards for guests’ use. I grew up sailing so I took advantage of the Hobi Cats. There were always employees watching the pools and the water, so help was on hand if you tipped a sailboat over. (Yes, I did that, and Jim got his first taste of being dumped into the brine. He was not amused.) The employee in charge of the boats even offered sailing lessons. A snorkeling boat with a glass bottom went out three times a day to offer snorkeling or just gazing through the glass bottom. For those who were already certified as divers, a dive boat was also available. All of these activities were included. Sandals’ did have their own dive shop on site and offered dive lessons and certification for an extra fee. In addition, there was also a 40 -foot catamaran that offered sunset cruises. We got a free sunset cruise as part of our package, and it included a bar, DJ, and a chance to jump overboard and swim in a cove with beautiful azure waters and no seaweed.

In addition to the water activities at the beach and pool, Whitehouse has a spa on site that offers hot and cold pools in a lush courtyard garden, as well as massage services and saunas. As part of our package, we were treated to a couple’s massage complete with herbal iced tea and candles. The Sandals employees know how to create the most romantic moods and settings.

At night, Sandals offered homegrown Jamaican music such as reggae bands, steel drum bands and such in a small theater on site. We were there the week before Jamaica’s independence day, and it was wonderful to see people proud of their island culture. We both enjoyed the music, and thought it was well done and a lot of fun. Friday night of that week, we were treated to a white party. All the employees were dressed in white. They set up all kinds of chocolate delights in the courtyard and had a reggae band playing so everyone could dance. What fun! After the evening show, there was always a DJ or karaoke offered at Martini’s, the upstairs late night bar. We met two other couples there and had a good time talking and dancing.

Besides the beach activities and nightlife Sandals’ offers, another part of the resort company that Jim and I appreciated, was that Sandals gives back to the island. Sandals is a part of a program that sponsors teacher training in Jamaica. American teachers come to Jamaica to work with the children and teachers, and in turn, stay at a Sandals’ resort for less than half the average rate. Sandals’ is also part of ocean conservancy efforts.

The best part? No kids. We didn’t hear one whimper, whine or meltdown. Sandals is an adults only resort. It offered quiet spaces if you wanted to relax, beach activities if you wanted to be active, and parties if you were in the mood. Sandals is a top pick for honeymooners or anyone who loves the beach, fine -dining and relaxation with no kids in sight. Sandals’ counterpart, Beaches exists for families. What is not to love about this company? Jim and I are going back this summer to the Grand Plantation resort which will be our first time staying in a room complete with an English- style butler. Stay tuned for new information!

As far as costs are concerned, try to book when Sandals is running one of the 60-65% off sales. We went in July and got the sale price. Of course, if you book another vacation with Sandals, you accrue points. Our price for Whitehouse was $3,200 last year. The Grand Plantation resort with a butler this year will be $3,100 because we booked before we ended last year’s stay.