Sandals Emerald Bay Review



    This past week, I was lucky enough to be invited down to Sandals Emerald Bay for a meeting.  The CEO, Adam Stewart, and Chairman of Sandals, Gordon “Butch” Stewart invited their top producing agents and members of the Chairman’s Royal Club down to Great Exuma for a productivity meeting to help tweak some of the Sandals programs as well as give feedback and suggestions about their advertising and brochures.

    I got the call Thursday night, from my Sandals business development representative, Julie.  She said “Kira, the Chairman has called a super last minute meeting for top Sandals agents at Sandals Emerald Bay.  It’s from Tuesday-Thursday.  Can you make it?”

    Luckily, living in Florida means I’m a hop, skip, and a jump away from the Bahamas, so I accepted the invitation and booked my flights for Tuesday to Saturday.  I decided to extend my stay for a few nights and bring my husband down with me so we could experience the resort as a couple, after all the work was done.   Besides, I have a bunch of clients who will be traveling to Emerald Bay-- one who will be getting married-- and figured this would be the perfect opportunity to tour the resort and bring home photos for them.





Day One


     I booked my last-minute flights on Friday and spent the weekend packing and arranging a sitter for our dogs.  By the time Tuesday came I was excited and ready to go.  We work up around 3AM to get ready and make it to the garage to park our car by the airport by 4:30AM.  Then took the 5AM shuttle to the airport from the parking garage.   Our flight from Tampa to Miami was at 7AM.


My Sandals and My Paradise Planner luggage tags.

Saying goodbye to Tampa for a few days.


    After a quick 35 minute flight on American Airlines from Tampa to Miami, and a two hour layover, we were boarding our American Eagle flight to Great Exuma and set to arrive on the island before noon.


Waiting for our flight in Miami.

      The flight was almost as short as the flight between Tampa and Miami, with only maybe 10 minutes more of air time.  After about 20 minutes in the air we began to notice a difference in the water color below us.  The closer we got, the more turquoise it became.  At some points all you could see were miles of sand bars with no islands in sight.  It was breathtaking.


View of the water from the plane

The beautiful water greeted us as we landed.

    When we finally landed in Great Exuma, my excitement was at it’s peak.  We picked up our carry on luggage from the valet who put them under the plane, and then we made our way to what I called the customs and immigration shack.  It was basically the size of a small one story house.  We walked in, went to one of the two desks, cleared immigration, went around the corner and cleared customs and then walked out the door.

    The first thing I noticed was Jeremy Mutton, the general manager, checking guests in at the Sandals desk outside the immigration office.  He was welcoming everyone and making sure they got into the correct taxis to the resort.  Since it was Tuesday, and about 30 agents were arriving for the meeting tomorrow, he was filling in to help make everything go more smoothly.  One of the things I love about Sandals and Beaches resorts is that even their general managers will step in and help out when needed.

    We were put in a taxi and sent off to the resort.  The taxi driver told us about the island and asked us where we were from.  After a bit of small talk and a quick 15 minute ride, we were turning into the resort driveway.  The first thing I noticed was how grand it all was.  The long driveway came to a circle at the front of the lobby building where there was a beautiful water fountain and two large palm trees welcoming guests.  

Pulling up to the resort




What a grand welcome
    We pulled around under the overhang of the lobby and were greeted by (Mohamed) Satar, the butler manager.  He had a big smile on his face and immediately said “Welcome, Mr and Mrs. Solomon”.   How he knew our names was beyond me, but we were definitely impressed.  We were ushered away to a private lobby adjacent to the main lobby where all the other travel specialists were checking in.  We met with Julie, my business development representative and a few other familiar faces.  Then our butler, Valentino, came to collect us.  Our bags had already been delivered to our room and he was going to take us to the room to check us in.  

    Once in the room, Valentino showed us around.   We were in room 5304, the Great Exuma 1 Bedroom Honeymoon Suite
[Click here to view the video walk-through].  There was a full 3 piece bathroom to our right as soon as we walked in.  


To our left was a closet with an umbrella and a cooler for us to use when we went to the beach or the pool.  Next to that was our in-room bar and the fully stocked mini fridge below that.   


Then we walked into the main living room area.  There was a couch and a chair, a table and two chairs with it, and an armoire with a TV inside it.  Beyond that were sliding glass doors that opened to the small balcony where there was another table and two chairs overlooking the resort grounds and the beautiful ocean beyond the lush green palm trees.   


Then to the right were a set of double doors that opened up into a separate bedroom with a king sized bed, two night tables and an armoir with a TV inside.  There were two windows with plantation shutters that opened up to let light inside.  
 



Around the corner, to the right, was a small hallway with a his and her’s closet and a safe inside it and then a smaller set of double doors that opened to the 5 piece en-suite bathroom.   


It was gorgeous and quiet a place to call home for a few days!

After exploring the room a little, I noticed the ice bucket with a bottle of champagne in it.  Valentino opened it for us, and poured us two glasses and we sipped them while he checked us in.   

 
It was then that I also noticed a lovely box made entirely of chocolate with a fondant rose a note thanking us for coming. 

Inside the box were delicious handmade deserts that I can't even begin to describe what they were or how they were made.  It took us all five days to eat all of the chocolate, but we managed!

 


Valentino then asked if we wanted him to unpack for us, but since we had such an early flight we preferred to take a nap, and thanked him anyway.  He left us a cell phone so that we could contact him, and then he left us to relax in our beautiful suite.
Robert, my husband, enjoying the gorgeous view from our balcony


Before we decided to take a nap, we walked around the resort.  We were hungry after our early morning ordeal and decided to grab a bite at Barefoot By The Sea, our favorite restaurant at other Sandals properties.  The food was excellent! Make sure to take a moment and try the coconut bread too. Yum!


My husband showing off his bare feet at the table :)


  
When we finished our lunch we decided to walk down to the beach.  Honestly, I knew the water at Sandals Emerald Bay was a selling feature, but never had I seen water this breathtaking.  Truly, it took my breath away.  



We spent a little while on the beach, catching some sun, and then decided to head back to the room for a much needed nap.

    Later that afternoon, I woke up and got ready for dinner with my group.  Our group dinner was at the French Restaurat, La Parisian.  We arrived and had cocktails and chatted with each other while we waited for our tables to be ready (they had closed the restaurant for us).  Dinner was delicious! 



Rack of lamb for dinner
    It was a lovely way for the CEO, Chairman, VP of Sales, VP of industry relations, and the other top Sandals team members to welcome us and thank us for coming down to the Bahamas on such short notice.


Day Two

    On Wednesday, I spent the entire day, from 10AM to 5:30PM, in the conference room with all the other agents who flew down, and the Sandals team members.  We discussed possible changes to the Soon Come Back program and gave our thoughts and suggestions on what to do about the program and how to make it work best for the agents, our clients, and Sandals/Beaches too.  Each agent had a chance to say what they thought and share their ideas.


Photo Sandals took of us all at the meeting (I am by the cameraman's left shoulder)

    Once everyone had a chance to speak their peace, we broke for an hour to have a delicious buffet lunch that was set up right outside the main ballroom.  The private meal was delicious and gave me an opportunity to chat with Debbie-Ann White (the PR manager for Sandals and Beaches), Adam Stewart (the CEO) and Julie Stephan (my local business development manager). 


Photo Adam Stewart took of our agents at lunch.
Meanwhile, outside of our meeting, my husband was enjoying Mexican Day at the Bahama Bay buffet.
So much so that he ate lunch twice!


     When all was said and done, we sat back down in the ballroom and finished our second half of the meeting.   Butch, the Chairman, asked us what we thought about the new Sandals and Beaches commercials and we gave him our honest feedback on them as well.  We also discussed changes that may need to be made to the new brochures.  In the end, all of the Sandals team was very pleased with our feedback and very eager to hold a similar meeting in the future to go over the things we didn’t have time to cover in this meeting.



Group of CRC top selling agents with Chairman, Butch Stewart (center)
and CEO, Adam Stewart (3rd from the right of Butch).
 (I am on the right side of Butch)


    After the meeting let out, I had an hour to rush back to the room, shower, and change for our group dinner at Il iClio, the Italian Restaurant.  The group had private function space set up in the backroom, and we were broken up into two tables.  
Special menu for our group dinner 
Dessert!


The Chairman and CEO ate with us and then had to leave before the main course because they have a late night flight to Jamaica for the birthday celebration of their newspaper the next day.

    As soon as dinner was over, a small group of us made our way over to the Drunken Duck pub for a few drinks before calling it a night.   My husband and I said goodnight to some of our dear friends who would be leaving early the next morning, and then snuck off to the beach where he surprised me by showing me the stars. 

    Never in my life had I seen so many stars!  Even on a clear night there are plenty of stars visable from around the resort, but if you go off to the left side of the resort, past the Drunken Duck and out to where the boardwalk takes you to the beach, that is the best place for you will see them all.   We saw several shooting stars and constelations.  It was absolutely amazing!   (*Tip: If you stay in the Coco Plum walkout suites or the Colossal Beachfront suites you'll have your own private hammock in the sand outside your patio.  This is perfect for stargazers who want to lay back and look at the sky).




Day Three


     Breakfast the next morning was just what I needed to start my first official day of vacation.  We ate at the Italian restaurant and while I had the eggs benedict (my favorite breakfast at Sandals), my husband went with his traditional favorite, the berry french toast.  As usual, Sandals did not disappoint.  


My husband's French Toast and berries


    After breakfast we decided to lounge on the beach all day.  Our butler kept busy by making dinner reservations and taking care of a few other requests we had made.  It was nice to know that while we relaxed, someone else was handling all the things I'd normally have to do on vacation.


    We went up to the room, filled our cooler with some water bottles and juice, and then headed down for the beach.  We hadn't requested our butler to reserve us seats, but it wasn't a problem because the resort was not at full capacity so we found seats anyway and dragged them down to the waters edge.  (*Note: our butler had told us to let him know when we wanted seats and where, but we were still getting used to having someone at our beck and call so we found ourselves not wanting to bother him.  But if you truly want something, all you have to do is ask).

    The weather was beautiful, in the upper 70's, and breezy.  But the ocean water was pretty cold while we were there, so I didn't have a chance to go out and try the water sports.  I noticed other people did though.  In fact, the day I was in my meeting, Robert, went out on the paddle boards and said it was beautiful to be able to paddle over the crystal clear water even far from the shoreline.  

    Robert did talk me into going in the water at one point, but I immediately regretted it when we got out and the breeze made me feel like I had been swimming in an ice bucket.  From then on we stayed out of the water and used frozen drinks to cool down if we got too hot.  Next time we go, it will be in the summer when we can enjoy the ocean.









    We had pizza for lunch from Dino's.   While we waited for them to make the pizza we grabbed a bag of popcorn from the bar at the quiet pool and relaxed in the gardens on the little gazebo beds while listening to the fountain.


      The pizza itself was great but my husband ordered it with peperoni, steak, and sausage on it and I was not a fan of that.  I just wanted plain cheese but figured I'd try the meat-lover's pizza if he wanted it.  I ended up picking the meat off it and giving it to him, and then gave up altogether and got shrimp skewers from the pool side BBQ instead, while he ate the rest of the pizza himself.  That's the beautiful of Sandals.  If you don't like something, just get something else.  No extra charge.  No "worries".

     This was about the time that I began coming down with a cold, most likely from the flight.  So I decided to go inside and lay down for a bit, but later that evening our butler brought us some snacks of cheese, crackers, and fruit.  It was nice of him because we hadn't asked for it but we had been getting a little hungry and didn't want to eat too much and spoil our dinner.

   We had reservations that evening at the French restaurant.  Valentino came to our room and personally escorted us to dinner.   That was a lovely added touch.  My husband and I both ordered the filet minion, but he wanted shellfish too, so he added a lobster tail to it.  They happily told him "no problem, sir".   He was in heaven.





   
    After dinner we came back to our room to find a few gifts from Valentino.   The first thing we noticed was our bed was decorated with a big heart and a bunch of flowers.   It looked so beautiful I briefly considered sleeping on the couch so we didn't have to ruin it.




    Then we walked into the bathroom and noticed he had drawn a bubble bath for us, complete with flowers! 

 
      It was the perfect end to our third day in Paradise.





Day Four


     Since it was our last official day at the resort we decided to hang out on the beach again.  I was feeling very sick as my cold was getting worse, so I didn't want to do much more than lay around and drink orange juice.   But Robert convinced me to get some sun with him and we went down to the beach where Valentino had set up chairs for us under a palapa.  

     We had our cooler full of water bottles and orange and pineapple juice (for me) and while I was laying there enjoying the warm sun, Valentino surprised me again, this time with a fresh coconut!


    I had always wanted to drink straight from a fresh coconut and had asked him if the ones I had seen in the palm trees were for drinking and if guests could have them.  He told me yes, and I asked him for one but the people who cut them down weren't there at the time.  I thought he may have forgotten about it and I wasn't going to bother asking him twice, but sure enough, he remembered and got me a coconut bigger than my head!   Once I drank all the coconut juice,  Robert poured the rest of my pina colada inside the coconut.  That coconut completely made my day. :)

   

     Valentino also brought us lunch on the beach and our drinks when we wanted them.  All we had to do was call him on the cell phone and he came immediately.   We felt very lucky to have such a wonderfully attentive butler.

        We enjoyed the rest of the day at the beach and then went to meet with Shamon Rolle, the sales manager at the resort.   I had two clients visiting this property-- one in May and one in June-- and Shamon was going to take me to see their rooms so I could take photos for them.  Unfortunately, one of the rooms was completely sold out so I couldn't view it, but the other room, the Palm Bay Oceanview Luxury room, was available, so we toured that one.  

Palm Bay Oceanview Luxury Bed 
Palm Bay Oceanview Living Area (across from the bed)
View from the room 
Palm Bay Oceanview Bathroom 
Palm Bay Oceanview Bathroom

The concierge suite looked exactly like ours, minus the second bathroom and separate living room.

We thanked Shamon for his time and then made an appointment to meet with the wedding planner on the resort property.   My clients coming down in May are having a wedding and I wanted to introduce myself and thank the wedding planner in advance for all of her help with my future, as well as my past clients.

Since the wedding planner was in a meeting we decided to hang around (literally).   I worked on answering some client emails while Robert finished up getting some footage for a resort video he planned to make for me.



We had reservations that evening at the Italian restaurant, but after napping for an hour, I told Rob I just didn't feel up to dinner.  So we ordered room service and stayed in for the night.

One of the best things about this resort is Cafe de Paris.  It's a pastry and coffee shop that is open late at night.  Since I was sick and my throat felt like it was on fire, Rob ran down and decided to get me a milkshake.  It probably wasn't the best thing for me, but I'm not going to turn down a chocolate chip cookie dough milkshake.  So we enjoyed our room service and our goodies from Cafe de Paris while watching TV in bed.
   

Day Five

The last day was the saddest day.  Because I had felt so sick the night before I decided to forego packing that night and waited to do it that morning.  So I was up at 6AM packing my suitcase and doing double and triple checks of the room.

 After we packed and put our bags outside the door, we called our butler to come get our things.  Then we headed over to Bahama Bay for breakfast.  It was sad sitting there and knowing we were leaving the resort today.  But after breakfast we went over to the wedding lounge to meet Anna, the wedding coordinator on site.   She was such a lovely person and a pleasure to meet.  I knew my brides would continue to be in good hands with her.

Anna's workstation where she was making a bouquet for a bride

The lovely wedding lounge area with mock tables set up for the bides to see


      We said goodbye to Anna in the wedding department and made our way back to the lobby to wait for our 10AM ride to the airport.   The first thing we noticed were the bags sitting there waiting to go.  It was a depressing sight to know that vacation was over for our small group.



       Then we headed out to the open area outside the loby overlooking the pool.  We decided to sit there by the water fountain and relax while we waited for our ride.

Robert wanted to bottle up every last minute of that trip.


      While Rob relaxed, I walked around the main pool and took some photos of the various things we didn't have a chance to use or see during our stay.

The fire pits by the main pool.
The private cabanas next to the main pool 
The couches IN the pool

View looking up at the lobby area from the pool.

People checking out in the lobby.


       When it was time to go, we made our way out to the front of the lobby where Mohamad Satar, the butler manager that greeted us on day one, was there organizing our bags.  He flashed us his signature smile and told us how much we'd be missed and how he hoped we'd return soon.  We promised him we would.    A few moments later he was loading our luggage into the taxi and sending us on our way to the airport.

Time to say goodbye :(
Long driveway back to reality...
Goodbye Sandals Emerald Bay! :(


        The ride back to the airport was a quick 15 minutes, and we had a lovely chat with the couple who shared the SUV with us.  Once we got to the airport we quickly checked in, received our tickets, and made our way through security.  The airport is no bigger than the size of a ranch style home.  There wasn't much to do their while we waited two hours for our flight.  So I started working on this blog to kill the time. :)

        When our plane landed from Miami and everyone had debarked, we walked out onto the tarmac and gave the valet our luggage for under the plane and then climbed the stairs and said goodbye to Great Exuma.
Our plane.
The airport "house" and the Bahamian flag waving goodbye to us.

Flying past Sandals Emerald Bay 

The beautiful Bahamian water
          When we arrived in Miami after an hour of flying time, we were herded onto a bus, taken over to the area of the terminal used for customs and immigration.  It was a Saturday afternoon and it took us over an hour to get through customs and immigration and then through security again.  Mainly because the woman putting people into the lines was putting everyone into the wrong lines so it created mass confusion.  Also, because of the government sequester, there were less employees working the lines which made for longer wait times.

            We had a two hour layover and made it to our plane with 10 minutes to spare before boarding time.   But once on the plane we relaxed and enjoyed the quick 30 minutes flight from Miami back home to Tampa Bay.

Back home in Tampa Bay!

Nothing like coming home from Sandals to your Sandals wrapped car. :)




 
TIPS FOR EMERALD BAY

If you are a beach lover:  May - October is the best time to go.  The weather is warmer and the water is warmer.

If you are a golf lover: Go in the winter when it’s not unbearably hot in the sun and the resort is quieter.

If you are a spa lover: Go all year round.  The spa is fabulous at any time!

If you are adventurous:  They say this island isn't for people who are very active, but I have to disagree.  There are some incredible sea tours to take on this island.  It may be quiet in the evening, but during the day there is plenty to do if you pre-book an Island Routes tour.  Consider a tour of the surrounding Cays, or the 007 Thunderball tour.   There is swimming with the pigs, swimming with the nurse sharks, swimming with sting rays, feeding wild iguanas, swimming in grottos, snorkeling, scuba diving, sunning yourself on sand bars in the middle of the ocean... the list goes on.  If you love water then this is your paradise.

If you want rest and relaxation:  Then definitely go here!  You won't have a care in the world when you lock your wallet in your room safe and ignore it for the entire trip.  Just have your butler pull up a chair on the beach, grab a coconut and a pina colada and ENJOY the most beautiful water you've ever seen. 




For more information about this resort, visit the resort website by clicking HERE


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Kira Solomon

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