Vacation Travel Tips & Advisories

Sandals & Beaches Resorts – Thumbs Down

I have to start this article off by saying, we are a Travel Agency, we are Certified Sandals Specialists, and prior to this year, we were very proud to be – however, this has all changed!  Normally, we would first strongly suggest Sandals to young couples, honeymooners, and Beaches to families before we would recommend or suggest anywhere else.  This is because we believed in them as being the best value for consumers, and up until the last 6 months or so, they were.  However, something has changed within this last year and we started hearing complaints from other sources.   Our clients, on the other hand, were pleased with their visit – or at least until around July of 2010.  Something had changed and Sandals/Beaches no longer seems to provide that so called “impeccable service” and quality that was “standard” throughout their resorts – worse yet, they don’t even seem to care.

Below are recent complaints from my customers who received less than the “impeccable and quality service”.  I made it known to my Sandals representative, who did nothing; moved up the later to the district Sandals representative, who also did nothing; and then wrote directly to Sandals and made the complaints hoping for some kind of resolution.  We got a basic apology and that was all, despite the fact that they did not keep their word or the arrangements on the booking.  Needless to say, I cannot reveal our clients names, but we can relate the problem, so let’s start with the first problem:

Sandals in Jamaica makes the claim that you can stay at one, and play at them all, and that they provide free shuttle service to the other resorts.  Our first honeymoon couple was promised a fruit basket in the room, rose petals on the bed and a bottle of wine upon check in.  They were to have an ocean view room, a $100 Red Lane Spa Credit, and breakfast in bed on whatever morning they wanted while there.    Upon arrival, there was no honeymoon special room set up; their room was a view of the ocean, but from a long way away, they were placed in the way back section of the resort instead of what we were led to believe; they were told that the $100 Red Lane Spa Credit did not apply to them, and after a little bit of arguing, they were able to finally get their breakfast in bed.  Problem was that while it was listed in the booking that they were a honeymoon couple, somehow the resort did not get the information.   To make matters worse, they were told that the Dunnes River excursion was no longer available and that there were no “free” shuttle buses to go to other Sandals resorts; if they wanted to go to one, they would have to pay.   Isolated incident you might say?  That’s what we thought, you know, sometimes things happen, right?

Problem #2 –  Two months later, another honeymoon couple at the Sandals in Antigua.  Familiar problem – we were told the honeymoon package and the honeymoon suite were to be guaranteed with a great view of either the mountains or the gardens.  Below are the same basic problems again, and below that are my customers’ email to me describing the problem.

1.   Arrived and did NOT receive bottle of wine and rose petals on the bed per the honeymoon package, but did get breakfast in bed served to you.
2.   Room was to be an mountain view or garden view and instead had a view of the back parking lot, offered to upgrade the room for only $1,000 more for a better view.
3.   Was to receive a $100 Red Lane Spa Credit and manager stated you had no such credit coming to you.
1.  Correct, there were no rose petals or wine, and I even asked for them, telling the lady at the desk that I thought they were part of the honeymoon package.  She informed me that it was only the breakfast in bed.  We did receive the breakfast in bed on day 3 as requested.
2.  Room was to be overlooking a pool.  However we were directly facing the turnaround driveway in front of the Caribbean check-in desk.  If you looked around the side you could barely catch a glimpse of the pool.  The room number was 516.  It was in very poor shape, nothing like it looks in the Internet pictures, and I was a little embarrassed that this was the room I booked for my honeymoon.  I would classify it as worse than a standard hotel room.  Also the mattress was hard as a rock and had no comforter.

3.  We should have received a $100 spa credit with the room.  When I asked about this I was told this was not true and asked if I had anything printed out to prove it.  Stanley, on the Caribbean side checked into it for me and was not rude but assured me there was no spa credit. Two days later I called the front desk and asked them about it again, feeling certain that I was promised the credit when I booked the room, and I can’t remember her name but the lady was very rude and said exactly this, “come down to the desk and I can prove to you that you are wrong.”  Frustrated, I just gave up.

4. Jamilla was the girl who assisted us in the room upgrade.  She said the only room available was the Monte Carlo Suite which would cost an extra $900 for six nights ($150 per night).  We agreed to look at the room.  When we got there, she said that the room was actually not ready but she could put us in the next step down (the Venetian) for the same price.  We asked her if the price could be dropped since it was a cheaper room that what she first told us and she said no.  We asked if she could go any lower on the price since this was a lot of money, it was a step down from the Monte Carlo, and the “ocean view” was blocked by trees, and she laughed and said I don’t think so.  I asked if there were any other rooms available and she said no.  I then asked her to ask her manager if we could do $600 more for the six days, (an extra $100 per night), after much convincing she finally called and the manager said that was fine.  So the room upgrade cost us $600.  I asked them about where the $500 they told you came from and they did not know.
After about 45 minutes to an hour they finally got our luggage transferred to the new room.  I wish I would have just done that myself.

The whole ordeal lasted about 2 hours, and was enough for a frustrating first day.  No was was outwardly rude the first day through it all, but also no one was very helpful and made us kind of feel like we were an annoyance.

Does this sound like “impeccable service and quality that is standard” at all Sandals Resorts?  It sounds like it is standard lately, but certainly not quality and impeccable.   I want to share one more with you, this family arranged a Christmas Vacation so that they could all re-bond and have a great holiday season together.  Beaches in Sandy Bay, Jamaica to the tune of $8,500 for one week.

Problem #3

The family returned home January 2nd, and like I always do, I contacted them to welcome them home and ask how their vacation was.  The response I received was the following:

Hi Frank,

Overall it was  great for us as a family to have time together in the sun. However, things did not go as well as we had hoped. Attached is a copy of a letter that I forwarded to Beaches. I want to be clear that these are not concerns with you or your work but with Beaches in particular.

As you can imagine, I slapped myself on the forehead and said, “Oh geez, not another one!”  This would be the third complaint within a 5 month period.  To be fair, we did have another couple who enjoyed themselves immensely at one Sandals in Jamaica with only minor problems to which I was able to call and get corrected within a couple hours.  Here is my the above customer’s letter, and I say lastly this: I am done recommending Sandals or Beaches to anyone – their price is really high and you should be treated with respect and get a good value for your money.  I don’t see that happening at Sandals anymore and I wanted to warn everyone to beware – something has changed at Sandals and Beaches and it’s not for the better!

My family and I have just returned from our Christmas vacation to Beaches Sandy Bay. After much preparation, research and planning deciding on the right resort we finally narrowed our choice down to Beaches Sandy Bay. This was the first Christmas vacation for us in many years and we wanted to make sure that our vacation was as special as we could hope for, taking advantage of all of the opportunities that a holiday in Jamaica could offer. Unfortunately, our experience was considerably less than satisfactory and I feel compelled to inform your company of our concerns.

Initially, we wanted to take advantage of the scuba diving opportunities that Beaches offers its guests. We are not divers but after we reviewed the impressive videos on the Beaches website we felt that we would give it a try. The links on the Beaches website led to the PADI site for us to begin our scuba training. My son and daughter and myself were eager to learn all that we could before we got to Jamiaca. Wanting to ensure that there were no more additional costs associated with diving I contacted Beaches Sandy Bay directiy to ensure that we were following the proper procedures for training. I emailed a representative from Sandy Bay to ensure that we fully understood the process and costs before we began the online PADI course. I was ensured that the only costs were the online course and then a pool test needed to be done to familiarize ourselves with the equipment. Once that information was confirmed we paid the $360 for the three of us to take the Open Water Diver course and invested the 8-10 hours per person to complete the course.

Upon completion we printed out our certificates and our medical forms to bring with us to Sandy Bay. My son has a case of Ulcerative Colitis so we needed to travel to Vancouver from our home a great distance and a ferry trip away to speak with his gastroenterologist and discuss the scuba opportunity and have him sign the medical form.

We arrived at Sandy Bay on the evening of December 20th and promptly headed to the Water Sports building the next morning to get ready for scuba diving.  The Water Sports manager informed us that our certification was only the first step and that for an additional $450.00 per person we needed to complete our certification through the course that they offered. As you can imagine it was extremely disappointing for myself and my teenage children. After our initial investment of both time and money, the additional $1350.00 for family was quite prohibitive to participating.

Our feelings of disappointment were further magnified due to the fact that we had a rather sleepless night during our first night at Sandy Bay. Unfortunately, the couple in the room next to us had engaged in a loud, vulgar and physical exchange beginning at 3:00 in the moring. It was quite upsetting to our kids and we tried to reassure them that these things sometimes happen when people drink too much. In addition, our room was an adjoining room to this dysfunctional couple and their continual smoking habit filled our room with smoke and triggered our daughter’s asthma.

Hoping that this was an isolated incident we had our first full day at the resort and at the end of the day settled into bed hopeful for a good night’s rest.  Unfortunately, the previous night’s drama was only a warm-up for that night. The father of the fighting c0ouple became involved in the screaming at 3:00 in the morning and the arguing resulted in a physical fight with their bodies crashing against the wall of our room. We tried our best to comfort our kids through the night and get some rest. The next morning, I contacted the front desk and told them of our concerns. After some investigation they were able to move us to a different room in another bulding later that day. However, we had to suspend our plans for the day as we needed to be ready to completely pack up our room and make the move.

Having moved to our new room we were hopeful that our vacation could resume and begin to meet our expectations despite our numerous disappointments. However, our new room did not fare much better. Half of the time we had either cold water only or no water at all. There were frequent power outages also throughout the day. At this point there was not another room to move to and we had no choice but to bear it out for the rest of our vacation.

We thought that we would take advantage of the excursions that were offered at the resort so we signed up for the river tubing trip through Island Routes. We picked a date and time and paid for the excursion. The day arrived and we waited in the lobby for our bus to arrive. The Island Routes representative came up to us immediately to let us know that our excursion had to be rescheduled for a different day as we had missed the bus. I showed him our reservation sheet which indicated that we did have the correct time. He stated that they had changed the pick-up time and had left messages for us in our room to indicate that we had to be ready at 8:30 am and not our agreed upon 1:00 pm pick-up time. Apparently, the confusion stemmed from our moving rooms and the front desk staff not being fully aware as to how to contact us about this.

As you can clearly imagine the trip that we had looked forward to for such a long time in no way met our expectations. Each day we seemed to deal with some type of disappointment or frustration. I felt that it was important to inform you of our disappointing trip and look forward to your prompt response to our concerns.

As of this posting time and date, Beaches has NOT responded to their letter, or my email to top officials asking for some kind of restitution for the inconveniences.

Impeccable Service & Quality to be expected as standard at all Sandals and Beaches Resorts?  ?  ?


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