All-inclusive. Until we stayed at Sandals Resorts, we heard “all-inclusive” and cringed. We couldn’t really understand why anyone would want to spend their vacation holed up in one resort for days on end. Wouldn’t you want to get out to see things and eat the local food? But with an invitation to experience both Sandals Royal Bahamian in Nassau and Sandals Emerald Bay on Great Exuma, off we went to see what all the hype was about.
Back from nearly two weeks island hopping around The Bahamas, we can say that we fully enjoyed our stays at both Sandals Resorts in The Bahamas. There were a couple of things that could be improved, but overall the experience wasn’t at all what we expected – in a good way. We’d definitely consider going all-inclusive again and our Sandals Resorts review shows you why you should too:
Book Without Risk! Sandals Vacation Assurance Policy
In an industry first and to help reassure guests in a time when there are many travel uncertainties, mainly due to COVID-19, Sandals has introduced their Sandals Vacation Assurance policy. The travel insurance policy not only covers the resort itself, but also airfare up to $500 for each guest.
Guests whose vacations are impacted by COVID-19 receive a free replacement vacation, including airfare credit up to $500 per person. If guests need to undergo quarantine at a resort location, the policy also covers up to a 14-night stay. And any COVID-19 testing requirements can be done for free right at the resort.
Additionally, the Sandals Vacation Assurance policy includes a cancel for any reason clause, as long as guests cancel with at least 31 days advance notice. Guests receive a 100% refund.
If you must cancel with 30 days or less notice, Sandals will allow guests to rebook for a future travel date.
The Sandals Vacation Assurance policy automatically applies to all reservations made now through December 31, 2021 and is valid for travel through December 31, 2022.
No Hidden Fees
Sometimes all-inclusive doesn’t really mean all-inclusive. We’ve seen everything from all-inclusive only meaning the buffet to loads of hidden fees you don’t find out about until you’re actually at the resort, like that ridiculous “all-inclusive” we stayed at in Sicily where we had to pay for meals and received a card that we still don’t understand the purpose of.
With Sandals Resorts, it’s clear up-front that there are no restrictions on dining, which activities are included and that you have your pick of premium alcohol. There are additional fees, which is very clear on the Sandals website, for a few things such as spa services, off-resort excursions and renting a cabana. And that’s it.
Sandals even has a strict no tipping policy, so it’s completely unnecessary to have cash on hand.
After our first visit to Sandals Emerald Bay‘s Cafe de Paris where we ordered a lattes and presented our room key to the barista only to be told it wasn’t necessary, I locked my purse in the safe. We literally needed our key cards solely to access our room. After days of just showing up for our dinner reservation and simply leaving when we were done, I nearly forgot my purse in the safe when it was time to leave. It was nice.
So about that premium alcohol we already mentioned. Sandals boasts up to 12 bars at every resort and there was definitely no shortage of premium top shelf liquor on hand. All rooms are also stocked with an included mini bar and it is restocked daily. You can also call to have the mini bar restocked if you need it between the daily restocking.
If we were in the pool, with the exception of the quiet pool, we didn’t even have to get out of the pool to get a drink with the convenience of the swim-up bar.
I wanted to take my drink on to the beach for a photo op. No problem! The glasses are a durable plastic so you don’t have to worry about breaking them.
Each day at lunch and dinner, a different specialty cocktail was offered. We tried a lot, you know in the name of research and all, and everything was delicious. There was definitely no skimping on the the alcohol in any drink to make up for the alcohol being all-inclusive.
So what kinds of top shelf liquor are included? You can expect Bombay Sapphire, Jim Beam, Crowne Royal, Appleton Estate Jamaican Rum and more. For the wine drinkers, a special selection of Robert Mondavi wines including Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, and Shiraz are available and also all-inclusive.
Sandals Emerald Bay has 7 included restaurants and Sandals Royal Bahamian has 10. We were definitely not strapped for variety and the food was good at all of the restaurants we tried. We were also impressed that some local favorites, like conch fritters, featured on the menu of at least one of the restaurants.
Both Sandals Resorts have an a la carte option for breakfast, a buffet style breakfast and room service. Always a sleep-until-the-last-possible-second kind of gal, the buffet was great for when we had an excursion and wanted to grab something quickly. Otherwise, I find I eat less when I’m not faced with endless options at a buffet and prefer a la carte. Plus, eggs benedict are always my breakfast indulgence and they were on the menu at the a la carte restaurant at both properties.
There were a variety of casual options where you could wander in with a beach cover-up and enjoy lunch. Everything from pub style food to pizza is available. Of course, all day room service or club sandwiches in the Club Level lounge are also available.
Even at dinner there were a variety of restaurants from more casual pub style dining to upscale restaurants with a dress code. We had everything from French cuisine to teppanyaki during our stay.
With Sandals Emerald Bay‘s location on Great Exuma, where you absolutely need a car to explore beyond your resort, we really didn’t mind eating most of our meals at the resort. There is an excursion to Santana’s, which I’d already determined was an hour each way by taxi on Google maps, and it’s worth at least getting off resort for Santana’s lobster plate.
Sandals Royal Bahamian is located a short drive or bus ride from downtown Nassau, where you have a pick of restaurants. With the hoards of cruise shippers downtown, we again didn’t mind eating most of our meals at the resort.
Accommodations and In-room Amenities
At both Sandals Resorts, we stayed in Club Sandals level rooms that were decorated similarly in British Colonial style. I like the bathroom at Sandals Emerald Bay more since it had a separate tub and walk-in shower, and double sinks in the vanity. I did find the bathroom lighting a bit dim at Sandals Emerald Bay, but the make-up mirror was lit so that helped.
Our rooms at both resorts were spacious with a generous closet, a desk (always important since we’re working), a sitting area and a large balcony. Both included amenity kits from the Red Lane Spa, a safe and outlets for both 110 volt (North American) and 220 volt (European) plugs. I always appreciate that since as an expat, our electronics are both voltages.
In-room amenities include the all-inclusive mini bar stocked with top shelf liquor, a bottle of Champagne, juices, water and sodas. There is also an in-room coffee maker and a kettle with tea, coffee, sugar and creamer stocked. All day housekeeping and all day room service are inclusive.
The Club Sandals level means additional guest amenities such being met on arrival by a Sandals concierge, refreshing towels on arrival to the resort, private check-in which included a signature cocktail or glass of Champagne in the Club Sandals lounge, a tour of the property (which is actually very useful if you’ve not been to that Sandals before) and a dedicated concierge to help with dinner reservations and off-resort activities.
The Club Sandals lounge also offers a variety of board games and books you can borrow and Kindles that can be used in the lounge. Free wifi is available throughout the entire property.
There are no shortage of resort activities to keep you busy for a week, and then some, if you don’t want to leave the resort. For the land lubbers there is a lengthy list of sports like table tennis, beach volleyball, shuffleboard, a fitness center, and at Sandals Emerald Bay even the golf course is included.
But we came for fun in the sun and there is plenty of that too. There’s an activity center where kayaks, aquatrikes, stand-up paddle boards, windsurfing and sailboats are all included. For the scuba divers, scuba equipment is also included so you don’t have to bring all of that gear from home with you (unless you want to) and trips to the Sandals selected dive sites are included.
For new divers, a 1-day introductory PADI® Discover Scuba Diver class is taught and it costs $90, though all the equipment is included just as it is for certified divers.
Both resorts have at least two pools, one of which was a quiet pool if you wanted to escape the jammin’ party scene at the main pool. Of course, there are hot tubs and the main pools have a swim-up bar. Activities like pool volleyball tournaments take place throughout each day.
The beach is far nicer at Sandals Emerald Bay with its 1-mile long white sand beach secluded in a half-moon bay. You can take part in all the water activities like sailing or stand-up paddle boarding, go snorkeling in the crystal clear waters or just find your own semi-private slice of paradise somewhere on the beach. The beach is so big that it’s never crowded.
What Sandals Royal Bahamian lacks with its location on Delaport Bay, it makes up for with its included off-shore island. A boat shuttle takes guests the five minutes out to the off-shore island once per hour. The island has a very nice beach on both the front and back side of the island and the back side has a reef perfect for snorkeling on. We always travel with our own snorkel and mask, so this wasn’t a problem for us but you should be aware that the activity center will not allow guests to bring the snorkel equipment out to the off-shore island.
The off-shore island also has a pool with swim-up bar, a restaurant, bar and plenty of places to steal away. You can even book your Red Lane spa treatments to be on the off-shore island.
At night, besides dining there are plenty of things to keep guests entertained if you’re not holed up in your room. There are fire pits where you can request the fixings to make s’mores, live music and entertainment. We enjoyed singing along at the Piano Bar at Sandals Royal Bahamian. And all the all-inclusive alcohol means you never know just how out of tune you really are.
Of course you probably didn’t head to The Bahamas to stay at your resort – at least we didn’t. There are no rules that you can’t leave and it isn’t camp where you have to sign out to go off-resort. You can come and go as you please. There is typically a guard booth at the main entrance and you just give your name and room number to re-enter the property.
If you’re not sure what you want to do, Sandals has the Island Routes company (which is a separate entity) who can book a variety of tours with local tour partners. When our swimming pigs tour nearly fell through, we did inquire with Island Routes the night before we wanted to go and nothing was available. If you choose to use Island Routes, we recommend you book in advance either before you arrive or immediately upon arrival.
We personally found the tours available through Islands Routes a tad on the expensive side, so we decided to book a variety of tours through Viator. With Viator, who acts like an Expedia for shopping all sorts of tours in a destination, some tours included round trip transportation from your hotel. Others do not, so just pay attention when shopping for tours as taxis can be quite expensive in The Bahamas.
From the second you claim your bags at the airport, Sandals staff is on hand to greet you and ensure you have absolutely the best trip possible. We immediately noticed repeat guests greeting their favorite staff members with an embrace and like our Viking River Cruise, it seemed once you’ve stayed at one Sandals, you’re a Sandals customer for life.
At Sandals Emerald Bay, we were offered a late check-out since our flight didn’t depart until the late afternoon. At Sandals Royal Bahamian, there was a lobster omelet on the menu but I really wanted lobster eggs benedict. I got lobster eggs benedict. And when there was a mistake with our airport transfer time, Sandals Royal Bahamian ensured we got to the airport stress free and in their Royals Royce.
While the service was friendly at both resorts, one note to make is that they are definitely on island time. We’d recommend that you pack your bathing suit, cover-up and sandals in your carry-on and just enjoy the beach. Luggage delivery left us waiting for over two hours at Sandals Emerald Bay and we took our own advice when checking in at Sandals Royal Bahamian, so it wasn’t a problem.
Red Lane Spa
Though the Red Lane Spa is not included, we did have a 90 minute massage and an aromatherapy treatment called Raindrop Dreams. A series of seven different essential oils are dropped like raindrops down your spine to reconnect you with your physical and energetic balance. My massage therapist would let me sniff each essential oil before she drizzled the droplets on my spine and massaged it in.
It was like 90 minutes of heaven and I was so relaxed I almost skipped our reservation at the French restaurant Le Parisienne. The spa is definitely worth splurging a little extra for.
Was Sandals Resorts Really Worth It?
Holidays at Sandals Resorts don’t come with an inexpensive price tag and many of you inquired whether the price is really worth it. We actually do think so when you consider that the price includes, well, everything.
When you consider that our stay included airport transfers to and from the resorts, all meals, all alcohol, accommodations and a myriad of activities including scuba diving, the price really is comparable to what you would pay for all of that if you paid for it individually. Just for comparison, some of the expenses we had while staying at other resorts while island hopping around the Abacos in The Bahamas included:
- Taxi from Marsh Harbour Airport to Bahama Beach Club (each way) $85
- Taxi from Nassau Lynden Pindling International Airport to Paradise Island (each way) $40
- Dinner for 2 at Angler’s Restaurant $110
- Lunch for 2 at Captain Jack’s Hope Town $40
- Drinks at various beach bars (per drink) $8.25
- Lunch for 2 at Bahama Beach Club $32
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Our stay at Sandals Royal Bahamian was provided by Sandals Resorts in order to bring you this story. We also received a complimentary spa treatment at the Red Lane Spa and a media rate at Sandals Emerald Bay. However, Luxe Adventure Traveler maintains full editorial control of the content published on this site. As always, all thoughts, opinions, and enthusiasm for travel are entirely our own. This article contains affiliate links. When you book a Sandals or Beaches holiday, a Viator tour or shop Amazon through our partner sites, we receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.