Written on: 29/12/2009
After my husband and my recent stay at the Sandals Royal Caribbean in Jamaica (Nov 5-Nov 12), we felt we needed to share our experience with others, so that they can be better prepared than we were. Our trip was not what we expected. Some of our expectations were derived from reading reviews and some were based on email conversations with our travel agent. Regardless of who the expectations came from, they were not met. It is hard at times to determine if our frustrations are a result of our Sandals experience or from our experience with our travel agent.
We had a problem before our vacation even started. It was a Sunday morning when my husband received a call on his cell phone from Air Jamaica saying that our departing flight out of Philadelphia was canceled. Our options were to fly out of Baltimore or leave the next day. We returned the call and stated that we would fly out of Baltimore. We immediately emailed our travel agent, Amy McHugh with Dream Makers Vacation Services. We were confused as to how the airline got my husband's cell phone and why they called us instead of her. She looked into it and found out that they had only changed our departing flight out of Baltimore. They still had us returning into Philly. To fix this we ended up having to switch to US Air. Because we were going with a different airline we had to pay for another set of tickets and wait for Air Jamaica to refund our money. We were told that this would take four to six weeks. Six weeks came and went and still no refund. When we asked Amy to look into it she said that Air Jamaica did not have our tickets indicated as cancelled, but exchanged. Air Jamaica told her that they would take up to another two weeks. This came and went and still no refund. Air Jamaica still did not have it shown as cancelled. It was another week until our refund arrived.
When we arrived at the Sandals lounge in the Airport (Montego Bay) it was overwhelming. We had three different people trying to get their hands on our bags. We were in the lounge relaxing when a nice gentleman approached us to get our drink order. While we were waiting a woman came in and said that the Royal Caribbean shuttle was leaving. We went and got on the bus. When we arrived at the resort we found out that we were not to be on the shuttle, rather we were supposed to be driven privately in a luxury car. We had no idea. This is a small thing, but there were so many small things like that, that it was very frustrating.
When we arrived at the resort we were escorted to the concierge office. Check in was very easy, but we were under the impression that the butler checked you in. When the butlers showed up, we were told their names were Calvin and Orlando. I instantly got excited because in a lot of the reviews we read, they were spoken very highly of. They took us on a tour of the resort (we were traveling with my sister-in-law and her fianc for their wedding). At the end of the tour they split us up and took us to our rooms, or so we thought.
We were shown to this beautiful room. It was exactly what we had expected. As the butler was showing us around the room he opened the door giving us access to the lazy river. At this point we were excited because that meant we got an upgrade. We half expected an upgrade because in most of the reviews we read, people received free upgrades. As he was continuing to explain things to us his cell phone rang. He hung up the phone and said we were in the wrong room. At this point we still thought we were getting an upgrade. Instead we were taken to a room that was anything but our expectations.
The room was in some desperate need of upgrading. A lot of the other rooms on the resort utilized key cards, which when removed from the room turned off lights and air conditioning to conserve energy. This way true of my in-laws room, which was a few room levels below ours. This was not the case with our room. Our room had a regular key to a warped door that when shut, shown light through and appeared to be open. The bathroom oh the bathroom. At one point during our trip planning we were considering downgrading rooms. We were advised to stay away from certain rooms that if we chose those rooms we would lose our spacious bathroom. If this bathroom was spacious I don't want to see a small bathroom. This door was warped as well, only much worse. You would actually have to lean into the door to get enough force for it to close. There was a one inch gap from the top to the bottom of the door. The marble countertop had a wide crack in it that was filled with caulk. The shower would be real hot or real cold, but it was difficult to maintain a constant temperature. There was no room at all between the toilet and the door or the toilet and the shower. The remainder of the room needed painted, as the knots in the wood were showing through and years of wear were visible. I guess I should add that instead of downgrading rooms we ended up UPGRADING, due to a special that was being run, we saved money by doing so. I would be afraid to know what we upgraded from
Being that we were told that one of the things the butler would do would be to draw you a romantic bath with flower petals and candles, and the fact that we were told that the bathroom was spacious we were expecting a whirlpool tub. Obviously we didn't have that. My husband commented to the butler that this was not what we were expecting. His comment was we go by what's on the paper. He made no effort to correct the situation.
Originally the room we were scheduled for did not have butlers. When we switched, my husband and I were apprehensive about it. We would have no idea of what to ask them to do. The more we read the more we got excited about the prospect. One thing I was excited about was ironing. I was planning on having our butlers iron for us. On the second day we found out that ironing is only free on the first day, after that you have to pay for it. We found this out from my sister-in-law, who heard it from the travel agent. Something she forgot to tell us. Our second day we asked the butler to reserve chairs on the beach for us and to bring us a cooler of beer and soda (something the travel agent said they would do). We asked this at 7:30 in the morning. We were told that he would if any were available. At this point in the morning, I would hope that some would be available. We never did get a cooler.
That same day we had another issue. That evening it was raining. We called the butler and requested an umbrella. We were told absolutely he would bring it. It was 10 minutes before our dinner reservation and we still hadn't seen the umbrella. When we called again we were told that there should be one in the room. There wasn't, but I would have expected to have been told that the first time we called. The umbrella finally showed up at the time of our reservation.
At one point the butlers commented that there were many different nights that we had reservations. We asked if they could write down where they were at and what time so we would know for planning other things into our day (excursions and so forth). We were told not to worry that he would keep us updated. Sunday we found out that the one restaurant we really wanted to eat at was scheduled for Tuesday night. This didn't work for us because my sister-in-laws's wedding was that day and we all were to eat dinner together. We were able to get them changed to Wednesday, but Wednesday afternoon we still did not know if they were successful or not. When we got there our reservations were under my sister-in-laws room number, not ours. That day we were told that a different butler would be bringing our reservation card to us. As we were walking to the shuttle he told us that when we wanted to come back to give him a call. When we were done eating we tried to call him, but his name was not in our phone. We called the hotel and asked them to put us through to him, but they couldn't. Apparently he was not carrying his phone with him.
Other things they did not do Sunday afternoon I asked the one butler how I knew which one to call. He commented that every morning around 10am we would be told which one was on for the day. There was not one day that we were told which one to call. Because of this there one morning that I woke the one up at his house because I assumed he was the one I was to call. Obviously he wasn't. A special thing that the butlers were supposed to do was to bring you snacks in the afternoon. Ours only showed up of the time. There was one day when the butler for the couple below us had shown up at their door with a snack. They weren't there and we happened to know where they were so we told her. She took it to them. Ours couldn't manage to even get it to our room every day let alone bring it to us somewhere else. In reviews and comments made by others we were told that typically there would be one night where you would come back to your room and find it decorated with rose petals and Champaign. This did not happen for us at all, although it did happen for every other party we were with that had butlers. We were given a free catamaran cruise as part of our room. At one point we had decided not to go and requested that the butler cancel it. The day of the cruise the butler called 10 minutes after the bus left for the boat to make sure that we weren't going. I don't even think I need to say any more about that.
The thing that infuriated us the most revolved around my sister-in-law's wedding. Upon arriving out the resort my sister-in-law and her fianc were to be given a book for them to review prior to their meeting with the wedding coordinator. They only received the book a hour before their meeting (five days after arrival) and only after asking for it twice. The package that the travel agent described to them was not the package that they paid for. They ended up paying for a smaller package, so many of the items that she thought was included were at an extra cost to her. While meeting with the wedding coordinator she contacted the travel agent to try to straighten it out. She asked the travel agent if she would talk to my sister-in-law. She said that she couldn't because she was with a client. She wouldn't take the time to talk to an existing client; in a foreign country who was looking for help.
Believe it or not there were other small things that occurred. It is just too much to write. The service we were given before and during our vacation was horrible. I went away expecting to be pampered for once in my life. I certainly wasn't. I was so disappointed. To say that my expectations weren't met is an understatement. Would I ever attend a sandals resort again, probably, they all can't be that bad can they? Would I use this travel agent again? Absolutely not. Oh and if I were a travel agent and someone approached me about going to Jamaica in November, I would have the courtesy to let them know that November is their rainiest month of the year. I would also contact my client's after their trip to see how things went.