Perks and Recreation – Episode 6 – Touring Day 3 & 4 – Sandals Royal Plantation and Beaches Ocho Rios

We wrapped up our touring with Sandals Royal Plantation and Beaches Ocho Rios.  Sandals Royal Plantation is a boutique style, ALL BUTLER, ultra luxury accommodation.  The fortunate folks who stay at this small but stunning resort can party at their neighbor, Ochi Beach (but the poor saps from Ochi Beach cannot visit the Plantation).

The views from Royal Plantation were amazing – they were getting ready to set up for a wedding while we were there and MAN! I can’t even imagine what those pictures will look like.  This even more exclusive offering from the Sandals brand hones in on the opportunities presented by having a small and more private experience.  Each guest reservation is assigned not one, but TWO butlers – your Beach Butler and your Room Butler – Say What???  Talk about service!!!

Our last stop (other than a pretty fun golf cart tour of Sandals Gold Club in Ocho Rios) was the Beaches Ocho Rios Resort.  This family friendly resort boasts a wonderful kids club and of course, Sesame Street characters!  Beaches specializes in vacations for all families, with special training in autism and special needs, making the Beaches brand the perfect family vacation.  Another cool fact – most resorts and resort brands begin to offer kids clubs at age 3 or 4; Beaches is from birth – with a 3 to 1 ratio for babies.  Families will not find a more amazing opportunity for rest, relaxation, and memory making than a Beaches resort.

I loved the water park at this Beaches resort, and the service was fabulous and fun – but the resort itself was a bit run down and outdated.  Its quirkiness was interesting, but it lacked continuity.  It was created out of three different resorts in the 1980s and that is evident in the differing styles.  Interesting facts – the Gift Shop is the place that used to house Liz Taylor when she came to visit the part of the resort that USED to be the Playboy Resort back in the day.  In fact, the penthouse of this Beaches resort was Hugh Hefner’s penthouse.  Kind of ironic, I think!

Strangely enough, there are NO Butler suites at this resort (not even the penthouse) – which I find a bit strange – but it is the lead in resort in this brand.

Overall – it is a fun resort but not one I would feel comfortable recommending unless certain criteria were met. 

I know there are people that wonder what the heck I am doing traveling all over the place during a pandemic.  Well, it boils down to the fact that this is my job and I believe there is still no better way for people to bond and have memory making experiences than through travel.  I cannot and will not PERSONALLY live my life in fear.  I will not allow What Ifs to determine my quality of life.  I do not judge people who have other opinions – but these are mine and I stand by them.

Life is short.  Make sure you are living it!

Perks and Recreation…Episode 1

To say that my summer has been busy would be a gross understatement – and I will be sharing a picture journal of my summer in the next couple of weeks – but today, and for the next week or so, I will be sharing some of my experiences on what travel professionals call a FAM – a Familiarization trip. I did one of these in April to Beaches Turks & Caicos and you went along on that journey with me! This time, I am in Jamaica touring the two Beaches Resorts and all six of the Sandals properties on this beautiful, history filled island. Hold on….it’s going to be a wild ride!!!

So, a little background – a Familiarization trip is available to travel agents who either meet certain criteria (sales in the brand, for example) or are invited to join. Some FAMs are at a discounted rate. Some, you have to pay just to get there (airfare), but ALL of them have the purpose of getting to know a brand so that you can sell it more effectively! Personal experience. Last year, I missed out on a Disney Cruise FAM (super bummer) and an AMAWaterways FAM (even MORE of a super bummer) – but in 2021, I have had the great opportunity to be invited to TWO Sandals and Beaches Resorts FAMs and this time, in Jamaica.

One Love – Jamaica – here outside the super fabulous Red Lane Spa!!

My family and I (minus my hardworking adult son who is now in the workforce!!!) arrived at Beaches Negril on the tail end of what was a tropical depression, soon to be named Hurricane Ida. She did some damage here, and when we arrived it took three hours to get to the resort from the airport (usually a 1.5 hour trip) and the resort took a bit of a beating. Flooding everywhere, the beach was in rough shape and our room had a leak at the minisplit (AC unit) due to the heavy rain. We took it i n stride, realizing the folks’ homes probably were in a lot worse shape than this beautiful resort and we needed to have some grace and give some time to get things squared away.

The next day, we still had periods of rain, but crews were out in full force on the beach and on the grounds. First thing, a maintenance person came to look at our leak (again, it was specifically because of the heavy rain, not an enduring problem). The standing water all over the resort had receded a LOT during the night and the pools were being over-filtered and all surfaces were being bleached and sanitized (something we saw OFTEN here).

As the weekend went on, we began to see what this resort typically looks like (it takes time for a community to clean up after a big storm) and it is lovely! We saw a number of beautiful weddings, birthday parties, family groups here enjoying the last wisps of summer vacation, and couples enjoying each other. The wedding sites they have here and the services offered by Sandals and Beaches are just BREATH TAKING and absolutely special. We saw THREE Re-Tie the Knot ceremonies and one first time wedding and each were beautiful.

We also got to take part in all the other fun and adventurous things included in an Ultra Inclusive resort like Sandals and Beaches. Kelly went diving two days and did the requirements to earn his Advanced Certification from PADI (diving is always included on property – advanced certification was extra), Char and I went snorkeling (I was really impressed how well the reefs have been managed right off shore with how many people visit daily), we went in a glass bottomed boat, rode a banana boat (towed by a speed boat), Char and I went water skiing (which was BEYOND cool in the ocean!), paddle boarding, sea trike riding and kayaking. We loved the two waterslides and little lazy river, and Charlotte found so much joy in snorkeling right in and near the swimming area – she found star fish, we saw stingrays, small fish pretty little shells. We loved it!

Reserve a cabana for a day – with your own personally assigned care taker, a fully stocked cooler and a great view!

Other seen wildlife on this highly touristy area were sandpipers, a pair on pelicans we named Edward and Edwina (they fished right off shore often), the BIGGEST hermit crab I have ever seen, lizards, kitties (pest control), and the craziest thing…..crabs that live in the hedges on propery….at night, they slowly skitter out to forage, but during they day, they sleep under the hedges – it was pretty cool to see!!!!

A resort “review” would be boring without talking about the food – and let me tell you there are tons of great options here – from Mariachi – the Mexican flare restaurant, to Stewfsih – the gorgeous breakfast and dinner place on the beach, to the Venetian – Italian delights, to Kimonos – hibachi grill and SOY – my favorite – the best sushi in town!!!! Notable mentions – the Mill – the resort buffet, Dino’s – WONDERFUL woodfired pizza place – WOW! Great pizza there! BBQ – your typical BBQ with a Jamaican jerk flare, and Yo-Yos – frozen yogurt bar with all the fixins! To wrap it up, Café de Paris…crepes, sweets and COFFEE!!!!!

Overall, we had a wonderful time enjoying this fun and adventurous resort as a family. But, all good things must come to an end and my family went home and my FAM began with a cocktail party meet and greet and a review of our blistering resort tour schedule. I will report all the beautiful sights back to you and hopefully give YOU some ideas about where you would like to spend your next vacation!!!

Back in the Saddle

You know what they say about “time flying”? It couldn’t be more true about the past two and half months!

When my daughter and I got back from our mega-road trip, I hit the ground running and had the BEST February and March EVER in the life of my business for bookings – Travel is BACK, Baby!!! I haven’t had a lot of time to catch my breath!

We even took a week long trip to Florida in February – stayed on Disney property, went to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, Busch Gardens, Sea World, Aquatica, Discover Cove and Magic Kingdom and I haven’t even written about that yet! Well, there is no lack of writing material – just TIME. And really, isn’t that what it’s about?

So here I am in Turks and Caicos….last month, my Regional Groups Manager for Sandals and Beaches reached out to me and asked if I wanted to join her on a FAM – this is travel agent speak for a familiarization trip. The idea is that you spend some classroom time getting to know a property/brand, learn techniques and strategies that market the brand best, get wined and dined and enjoy a few days of R&R in the mix. This FAM is at Beaches Turks and Caicos and I said “YES” without much hesitation!

So, I did what I have been helping my clients do to prepare for travel; I scheduled my COVID test so that I would fit within the “five days before departure” requirement, purchased additional travel insurance required by Turks and Caicos for all travelers in the event they have to be quarantined on property for any length of time, completed my on-line Turks and Caicos Travel Authorization within the allotted time, uploaded my negative PCR test, travel insurance document and waited to get the green light from Turks and Caicos. BINGO!!!

I arrived yesterday to a STUNNING approach to the islands and instantly felt at home (it reminds me so much of Eleuthera).

I am just going to give you a sneak peek of what I experienced when I arrived – but can I tell you, Beaches is AMAZING!! 5-Star luxury for the FAMILY!!!! Look, we pulled up in our taxi, got out, a gentleman dressed in a suit greeted us by name, told the porters where our rooms were, made some small talk with us and before you know it, a lady dressed like an upscale waiter arrives with glasses of papaya juice and a bottle of Appleton Spiced Rum…..Yes, Please. Directly afterwards, another gentleman in similar attire arrived with a silver platter filled with COLD WASHCLOTHS for our face after our long journey!!! Friends – this is isn’t the wining and dining part…..this is the Beaches Ultra Luxury Part!!! I was given a mini-bar menu (since this is a family resort, the minibars (which are free) are stocked with water, fruit juices and soda) and selected the alcohol I wanted waiting in my room – and voila – it was here!

The gentleman who got us registered then proceeded to walk us to our rooms, allowed us to each break the sanitation seal on our room, gave us a quick tour, and proceeded to the next person’s room to repeat.

So – my sneak peek – the arrival, the room, and my pledge to YOU that I will write it all down – take it all in – and convince you that Beaches Turks and Caicos is THE place for your next family adventure!!!

BTW – they are operating at a full 65% here – and more than thankful to be doing so – and you can tell!