Me and my husband just spent a glorious two-weeks at the beautiful Sandals Emerald Bay (February 26 - March 11). Last year we stayed at the Sandals Royal Plantation in Jamaica and wanted to try somewhere different and for two weeks instead of one. We loved the Royal Plantation and will go back someday but Emerald Bay is now our choice of the two.
A previous reviewer left a small bio which I thought was helpful so I will do the same. We are a couple in our early 40s, no children, and have travelled extensively with experiences in the high-end range of accommodations/service, etc. Our purpose of the trip was to get some downtown after a major career change and health diagnosis. We wanted relaxation and we got it.
99% per cent of our trip/experience was amazing. The 1% per cent I'll leave to the end.
I've read that many people feel the Butler service isn't necessary. I disagree. It's incredibly comforting to know that you have three wonderful caretakers looking out for you during your trip and the knowledge and assistance they provide all add to the pampering experience that if you're booking at a Sandals you must be looking for. Our Butlers were Stephen, Harris, and Michael. You cannot find a better ambassador for the beautiful Exuma Islands than Stephen. We wanted to get to know the island and its people and Stephen was amazing sharing with us the Island's history. Harris is from Jamaica and gave us that beautiful Jamaican vibe we had last year and his smile always made my day. Michael is from India and his infectious laugh made us feel like we were old friends. All three of these men are true professionals in their field and we felt very fortunate that we had two weeks getting to know them. They take the time to get to know their guests and their routines/habits and do everything they can to ensure you don't want for anything. Job well done gentlemen!
We booked a Coco Plum Penthouse Luxury suite which was very nice. I would have loved to have been able to leave the patio door open to hear the ocean waves but the air conditioner turns off when the patio door is open. The room temperature is set at 70F/20C which we found too hot/muggy and you are not able to change it. Next time I will book a room with a larger patio. We are patio people and like to lounge/eat on the patio at the end of the day and the patio on our suite was too small for that. The bed was very comfortable and bathroom was lovely.
BEACH / POOL
We are beach people so most of our time was spent on the beach. Our Butlers set up a sheltered cabana on the beach most days for us. The sand is groomed daily and it white and soft - just perfect. The water is clear and turquoise blue. We were surprised by how few guests utilized the beach. On three particularly windy days our Butlers found comfortable spots around the quiet pool which was lovely. Staff would come around with watermelon and our Butlers always popped by to ensure we had everything we needed, often bringing us a nice drink or munchies. We never spent a day at the large pool but walked by and observed it daily. The "pool people" seemed to be enjoying themselves with the music/swim-up bar/ and entertainment/games.
The food was amazing at each restaurant and we ate at them all. The wings and bread pudding at the Drunken Duck were amazing (especially with a nice cold Guiness); the grilled shrimp at the Barefoot was addictive; the morning coffee/tea with pastry at Cafe Paris was incredible; we had afternoon flatbread pizzas from Dino's and a nice evening meal of Chicken Parm; the Bahama Bay Buffet always had great choice for breakfast, lunch and dinner - the omelette station was my fav; we ate at Il Cielo (Italian) restaurant three times and La Parisienne (French) two times and everything we ordered was great. There is so much choice I don't see how there could be complaints with the food.
ACTIVITIES OFF RESORT
Island Routes is I guess a separate but affliated tour company for Sandals. We did two off-resort excursions. The first was renting a Jeep to do our own Island tour ($150 CDN). It was amazing. We drove to George Town and took a ferry taxi to Stocking Island ($12 CDN per person return) and had lunch at the Chat'N'Chill (it was okay, less than I expected though). We didn't realize that you can walk over the hill and the St. Francis resort is there. We then went off in search of what we heard was the prettiest beach in all of the Exumas - the Tropic of Cancer beach. We spent a few hours on a gorgeous long and completely isolated stretch of white sand beach and then found out it wasn't the Tropic of Cancer beach! All the beaches are so beautiful I can't see how one is prettier than the next. We did the amazing Thunderball 007 Tour through Exuma Water Sports. Ray and his son Trevor were our captain and tour guides. The tour is amazing! All the stops (swimming pigs, having tame nurse sharks swimming around you, the unbelievable snorkling at the Thunderball grotto, lunch (included) at Staniel Cay Yacht Club (the Conch fritters and the Goombay Smash drink are perfect), the visit with the Bahamian Rock Iguanas, the sandbar in the middle of the ocean, all of it was incredible. It's expensive though at $375 CDN per person. It's a full day - pick up around 8:30am from the resort and back around 6:00pm. We found out though sharing stories with fellow travellers at the airport coming back that there's also another company which Island Tours doesn't mention that does the same tour for $160 CDN per person (Four C's Adventures). Exuma is a small island and I think Sandals should promote all of the local service providers and allow their guests to choose which one they'll use. There are probably a lot of other excursions that could be available but not offered via Island Routes - so next time I'll do some research to learn more before I go.
ACTIVITIES ON RESORT
Because we spent most of our time on the beach, we didn't participate in the many activities that took place around the main pool during the day but there seemed to be many fun things happening. Because of the red-flag weather most days, the watersports were beached but there were a couple of yellow-flags where we saw lots of kayaks, and Hobie Cats in the water. Each evening a different singer/activity was scheduled. Lots to keep you entertained! We aren't golfers but heard the course was incredible.
NOW FOR THE 1%
I'm big on first impressions. I'm a detail/process gal so I notice things. The week prior my travel agent suggested I do the "online check-in" on the Sandals website because I did not receive an email from Sandals asking for our preferences as I did last year when we booked in Jamaica. The online registration asks for your name and arrival/departure dates - I entered in my name, my husband's name and our arrival date (Feb 26) and our departure date (Mar 11). I received a confirmation back with a confirmation number for our stay and my name was wrong - that irks me given that I typed in my own name so clearly someone on the Sandals end receives the information and then types in back in. My travel agent said she contacted them prior to us arriving and that my name would be fixed - it wasn't and didn't get updated during our entire stay. Upon arrival at the resort I wasn't impressed with was the sheer disorganization of the check-in process. We were dropped off at the "Butler Lounge" with at least 50 other couples. I had to ask a number of times what was going on because no one was approaching us. Then a Sandals employee asked us for our Room Voucher which I provided. At least another three Sandals employee came up and asked us for the same thing. At one point, we were the only two people in the Lounge - no other guests or employees. I found someone and asked again what was happening and was then told they were waiting for our room to be ready and that someone would come and get it when it was ready. It was already at least an hour since we had arrived so we were quite hungry so I asked if we could wait in a restaurant. We were escorted us down to the Barefoot by the Sea and was then told it would be a 45 minute wait?? So we went to the Buffet and was asked our room number which we didn't have but they allowed us in anyway thankfully. We went back to the Lounge after eating to wait until our Butler came to get us - by this time about three hours has passed since we arrived. There is a form you are given to sign off on which our Butler gave us - my name was wrong, my birthdate was wrong, our check-out date was wrong - all of which I crossed out and put the correct information in. Okay, so a bad process/beginning but I could look past that. Throughout the first week there were minor issues with having to wait for the simpliest questions to be answered by the front desk staff. They were all nice to deal with but I didn't get the impression that it was overly efficient. Throughout our first week our Butlers were aware that we were staying for two weeks. At the end of the first week on Sunday, I received a call early that morning from Stephen our Butler asking if I had a copy of our Room Voucher (I didn't because I had given it during the check-in). Then I received a call from Harris our Butler asking if I had any emails/etc. confirming the two week stay. Obviously they had us checking out that day. Harris was very sweet not wanting me to worry but that was the issue - despite my online check-in and corrections on the form. I pulled up the confirmation email I received directly from Sandals after I online checked-in where I personally entered in my arrival and departure dates but was told the confirmation number was only for a one-week stay. I provided my confirmation email from my travel agent with our booking information for the two-week stay. The Room Voucher I gave on my first day was apparently locked in an office which was closed that Sunday and apparently no one had access to that room. There was a lot of back and forth with the Butlers (who were incredibly helpful) and management. There was uncertainty whether we'd be staying in the same room or upgraded to a different room on Sunday (as we found out our room was double booked) and then the same on Monday. Our travel agent was involved and indicated she was dealing with the matter as well and that everything would be sorted out. Michael arrived at our room with Sonja (one of the managers). Sonja told us that Air Canada had "proven" that we had paid for two weeks so everything was good. Perhaps it was use of the word "proven" but it left me with the impression that Sandals thought we were trying to pull one over on them. I was confident that throughout the check-in process of correcting Sandal's mistakes that I had already provided enough proof that our reservation was for two weeks. Then she mentioned that they were fully booked so our request for an upgrade couldn't happen?? We didn't request an upgrade, we knew our room had been double-booked and just assumed that if we had to be moved it would be to something similiar or upgraded to a higher category of room to what we paid for. Her approach left me feeling that we were guests who were complaining and were demanding an upgrade when that wasn't the case at all. So my 1% disappointment is with Administration. I simply did not feel that administratively the details are being properly and correctly looked after and having read other reviewers' notes, they too seemed to have had some issues with the Administrative side of things.
Despite the 1%, the trip was amazing. The resort and the staff are so great to deal with. We will go back!
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- •NEW!! Jogging Trail on property - 2.6 miles long •Greg Norman designed 7,001 yard golf course with 6 signature oceanside holes•Three fresh water pools including the Caribbean’s largest zero entry pool with a central fire pit•24 hour room service to all rooms and suites•Seven exciting dining options to choose from•Red Lane Spa with sixteen extensive treatment rooms•Personalized off resort excursions arranged by our Island Routes Tour specialists•Sits on 1 mile of the Exuma’s best powdery white sand beaches•6 Har-Tru tennis courts including a sunken stadium court•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 Emerald Bay “Caribbean’s Leading Luxury All-Inclusive”•Awarded #9 spot in the 2012 Readers' Choice Awards "Top 12 Resorts in The Atlantic" ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Sandals Emerald Bay Hotel Great Exuma
- Four Seasons Great Exuma
- Great Exuma Four Seasons
- Sandals Emerald Bay Golf, Tennis And Spa Resort Great Exuma, Bahamas