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Packaged Deal

Two all-inclusive resorts sparkle like jewels
in the Bahamas.

Whether you seek fine food, adventure, activity, or relaxation, a vacation in the Bahamas will not disappoint. But with so many all-inclusive resorts from which to choose, how does a first-time visitor decide?

Sandals

Above: One of the pools at Sandals Emerald Bay resort. Sandals Emerald Bay photo

Below: Relax at Red Lane Spa on Sandal’s private island minutes from the resort in Nassau. Sandals Royal Bahamian photo

Murat Theatre

Take heart; there are two resort jewels that sparkle almost as brightly as the sun shining on the Bahamas’ famous turquoise waters. Sandals Resorts not only do the all-inclusive vacation, but they do them on a grand scale.

EMERALD BAY, EXUMA

Amidst those turquoise seas rests Sandals Emerald Bay, Great Exuma, an exclusive getaway for solitude seekers. The sprawling, luxury resort offers seven dining options, 18-hole Greg Norman-designed championship golf course, a spa, a powdery mile-long beach, a full-service marina, and one of the largest zero-entry pools in the Caribbean. All rooms face the ocean and feature butler or concierge service. 

Greeted by lobby staff, hubby and I received warm face towels and a glass of champagne. We were immediately whisked away by our personal butler, Logesh, to our seaside villa. Complete with spa products, robes, slippers, and full bar, the oceanfront abode opened to a patio with private hammock. Tapestry area rugs and wicker ceiling fans complemented tasteful Caribbean decor. A luxurious four-poster bed with plush pillows, embroidered linens, and soft comforter was bedecked with orange-red hibiscus blooms.

Butler service definitely is worth the upgrade.  From the good morning message spelled out in bright chenille and hibiscus blossoms on our doormat to the delicious in-room breakfast complete with white tablecloth and flowers, individual touches are what butlers do best.

Need your clothes unpacked? Done. On the beach and want a book? They’ll fetch it for you.  They can even arrange a spa appointment where you’ll experience the utmost personal care.

Food and beverage offerings are a huge part of the all-inclusive experience. The resort’s Café de Paris is a Parisian-style patisserie featuring decadent French pastries, homemade ice cream, and specialty coffee drinks. My guilty pleasures included dark chocolate mousse tartlets and toasted coconut macaroons. Pastries are changed three times daily by a personable staff.

For elegant Italian dining, try Il Cielo. Restaurant walls painted the color of Lemoncello are set against intricate beadboard walls and geometric lighting. The place beckons romance. Their delicious signature dish, Osso Buco Brasato, is a generous portion of slow-cooked braised veal shank.

Don’t miss the Friday Night Junkanoo Beach Party held at Barefoot by the Sea, a sink-your-toes-in-the-sand restaurant. A buffet of island food awaits: jerk chicken, fall-off-the bone ribs, conch salad, and “peas ‘n’ rice.” The evening’s entertainment, a limbo dancer, defies fire by sliding under four flaming limbo bars barely a foot off the ground.

For white-glove dining with a Moulin Rouge ambience, visit La Parisienne. The presentation and taste of chateaubriand, accompanied by baby asparagus and fingerling potatoes, stimulates the senses.

Guests can choose from a host of activities, from yoga to scuba diving in crystal waters. Public Relations Coordinator Snovakia Watson says, “The most popular activities are golfing and snorkeling.” About 100 yards off the beach, you’ll spot French angelfish and Blue Tangs. 

Snovakia wants guests to remember the resort’s staff long after they leave. 

“A very friendly property, Sandals guests and employees get to know each other on a personal basis.” 

OFF-SITE ADVENTURES

For island exploration at leisure, the resort can arrange a Jeep rental. Or guests can opt for Caribbean adventures arranged through the onsite tour desk, Island Routes. We signed up for the 007 Thunderball Luxury Tour with three other couples, hosted by Exuma Cay Adventures.

During our boat tour, we viewed stingrays in the shallows, drift-snorkeled Little Farmer’s Cay teeming with aquatic life, fed iguanas on a private island, and even swam with pigs. The day’s highlights were swimming through the James Bond Thunderball Grotto and dropping anchor near Galiot Cay Sandbar, which disappears at high tide. At low-tide, you can walk for two miles on this sandy stretch of heaven.

SANDALS ROYAL BAHAMIAN, NASSAU

Almost a city in itself, Sandals Royal Bahamian offers 10 dining options, a theater, a spa, extensive water sports, and immaculately landscaped grounds. Greek and Italian-inspired architecture features fountains and mythological statues. Many activities center around the main pool. 

We stayed in the Windsor Tower Suites, complete with spacious living area, a well-stocked bar, dining table, and enticing four-poster bed. An oversize bathroom featured spa products, robes, and slippers. The private balcony boasted both pool and ocean views.

Our butlers, Everette, Dillon, and Antonio, continually surprised us. After a day exploring Nassau, we arrived at the suite to discover a trail of rose petals and tea lights, leading to a just-drawn bubble bath. Frangipani, hibiscus, and candles were scattered around the tub. A terry cloth mat in front of the sunken tub sported the message, “jump in,” fashioned from island flowers.

No all accommodations in the tower included butler service. 

Want an open-air dinner with Caribbean style? Try Stewfish on Sandals Cay. The soft swoosh of the ceiling fans along with reggae music set the mood for Jamaican fare. Taste buds exploded as we nibbled on moist coconut bread, followed by baby scallops in tomato pepper sauce.  Roasted carrots garnished the tender curry chicken breast seasoned with the right amount of spiced heat. At lunch, a Caribbean menu offers options like the Nassau Wrap loaded with moist, flaky grouper fingers in a tangy mango chutney sauce. 

Butlered guests can enjoy white-glove dining during sunset at Gordon’s on the Pier. My par excellence meal included grilled Digby scallops on sautéed leeks and citrus hollandaise, and crisp organic salad with fresh toasted walnuts. The Grilled Reef Crustacean Platter, Gordon’s signature dish, was heaped with steamed Alaskan crab legs that were sweet, moist, and tender; broiled lobster enrobed in a light tropical sauce; and sautéed spicy garlic shrimp.

Choose from other dining options, such as the Crystal Room, offering Caribbean and Western Mediterranean food. Its bedazzling chandelier is the restaurant’s focal point. Cricketer’s, an authentic London pub originally built in the United Kingdom, was moved and reassembled at Sandals. Pub fare includes crispy chips smothered in blue cheese.

For couples seeking tranquility, hop a ferry to Sandals Cay that’s just minutes away. The breezy private island boasts a Red Lane Spa, a restaurant, Zen Gardens, swings, and stone walkways nestled among sea pines and palm trees. Siesta at your private cabana, or discover sea biscuits while snorkeling in the shallow reefs. The private island is available to Sandals guests of all levels.

From the resort entrance, hop the island’s number 10 bus, stopping at points of interest. Ardastra Gardens hosts the first flock of trained flamingos. In the Fish Fry district on Arawak Cay, restaurants like Frankie Gone Bananas serve the best cracked conch sandwiches around. Peruse the pastel-colored Bay Street shops for local art, upscale jewelry, and the popular Straw Market. Under the Paradise Island Bridge, browse colorful vendor stands selling fresh fruit and vegetables.

Chester Robards, public relations manager, wants guests to cherish the romantic getaway of a lifetime, absorbed through the luxury-included resort experience.

“We want guests to remember the warm smiles they saw as they moved about the properties, the fun they had with their butlers, and no worries.” 

As islanders say, “It’s Better in the Bahamas.”

Sheree K. Nielsen is a contributor from Wentzville, Mo.

Nov/Dec 2013 Issue

BEFORE YOU GO

Plan your Bahamas getaway through AAA Travel and Pleasant Holidays, which offer accommodations at Sandals Emerald Bay and the Royal Bahamian resorts. Your AAA Travel professional can make your arrangements. Call (888) 366-4222 to find a travel office nearest you, or visit AAA.com/travel.

For more information about things to do while visiting the islands, contact the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism at www.bahamas.com.


 


 

What's included in the package?

While amenities can vary between all-inclusive resorts throughout the Caribbean, according to AAA Vice President of Travel Jan Borje, most will include all meals, drinks, entertainment, day-time activities, and watersport equipment with the accommodations. Usually, there’s a no-tipping policy, too.

At Sandals, amenities for all-inclusive resorts include restaurants, bars, unlimited scuba diving, motorized watersports, fitness center, land sports, entertainment, airport transfers, tips, gratuities, and hotel taxes, free WiFi and calls. Also, all level of accommodations will include two free rounds of golf. For the butler-level guests, unlimited golf is included.

Air transportation to paradise would be extra. Spa services also are optional and start at around $110 for a 50-minute massage.

What might all this luxury and fun cost in the Bahamas? Generally speaking, pricing is based per person/per night. According to the Sandals Web site, prices seemed to start around $330 per person/per night on average, but pricing can fluctuate depending on room or suite categories, dates, availability, and such.

Contact your AAA Travel agent at (888) 366-4222 to book your all-inclusive luxury vacation and get ready to experience paradise, or visit AAA.com/travel.

–Deborah Reinhardt

restaurant
Stewfish Restaurant, Royal Bahamian Resort Sheree K. Nielsen photo

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