"We didn't invent all-inclusive vacations, but we perfected them," said
Gordon "Butch" Stewart, the CEO behind the incredible success of Sandals
resorts. Less than two decades ago Mr. Stewart was servicing air conditioners; today
his holding company owns Air Jamaica and six all-inclusive Sandals resorts in Jamaica,
one in Barbados and one in St. Lucia.
The concept of having all-inclusive resorts in Jamaica is a brilliant one because
many tourists hesitated to visit the island due to the perceived crime problem. Some
still resist all-inclusive resorts, feeling that there won't be enough variety. Sandals
has, however, gotten around that, too. Guests can stay at two or more Sandals resorts
during the same week (if they don't mind the packing and unpacking). Or as their
marketing motto goes they can, "Stay at one, play at six," by using the
free shuttles and they can dine in any of the 22 restaurants.
Unfortunately, there is only one golf course for all of the properties so golfers
are best off choosing a Sandals nearest to it, the ones at Ocho Rios or Dunn's River.
The sport here is way above par. The upgraded 19-hole, par-71 course is on 21 acres
and has fine views of the countryside. Shuttles and green fees are complimentary.
Dunn's River is so attractive that it was chosen as a setting for one of the weddings
on Lifetime Television's "Wedding of a Lifetime" series. The 25-acre, 265-room
location offers a well-equipped outdoor gym, a pleasant spot from which to look out
on the verdant grounds while trudging on a treadmill. There are three swimming pools,
including one that is the largest in Jamaica, with swim-up bars and adjoining whirlpools.
Breakfast and lunch are served buffet-style. You can eat dinner in one of three restaurants–international,
Oriental or Italian. Drinks, along with food, are included in the price.
The service is outstanding. The "Playmakers" who organize activities
are very friendly and behave as though it is a pleasure to serve you. Even if you
are not a fan of forced festivities, the "Playmakers" bring people together
to participate in the games in a low-keyed way.
WeddingMoons, a word trademarked by Sandals, a combination wedding-honeymoon
costing $500 over the price of a weekly stay, is a growing part of their business.
Wedding coordinators handle all of the details.
Sans Souci in Ocho Rios, which belongs to the SuperClub chain, is one of
the two most upscale all-inclusive resorts in Jamaica, (the other is the fabulous
Grand Lido in Negril, which is also a Super Club). The hotel's per diem rate is among
the highest on the island. Wedding-honeymoon packages are available at no extra charge
as are "marriage renewals" held in a gazebo overlooking the sea. They are
popular among older married couples, who like the exciting, romantic concept.
There is no golf course on the premises, but three shuttle buses transport golfers
every day to Jamaica Jamaica, another SuperClub where green fees are waived.
Sans Souci offers something else that keeps visitors very contented, excellent
spa facilities. Although probably as many people come for the spa as came to Casablanca
for the waters, a level of pampering not matched by other Jamaican hotels is offered
here. For example, all guests receive one free manicure, pedicure, massage, reflexology,
facial and body scrub. You can use the gym, a spring-fed pool and a shaded
natural water pool set under almond trees. The bar in the pool area is for exercise
rather than drinking.
There's more to recommend Sans Souci than just the spa. Magnificent cuisine is
presented in luxurious indoor and outdoor settings. You never tire of it because
the quality is so high. Who would mind dining at Lutece every night?
The grounds look like one big beautiful movie set with many different pretty
views and quiet places to discover. Portions of "Dr. No" were filmed
here. An aviary is home to dozens of birds. Of the 3000 species of plants in
Jamaica, half of which can only be found in these environs, at least 20 percent
seem to grow at the resort. Over by the pool is the spring, cleverly camouflaged
as a fountain. Take a few steps and you are next to a natural waterfall. Nearby
inside a natural boulder is a secluded area for massage tables. Here's a white
sand beach and another beach for those who don't like to go into the water.
Vacation at San Souci and see it all for yourself.
Sandals Dunn's River, P. O. Box 51, Ocho Rios. Tel.800-487-7324. Rates start
at $775 per person for a three-night stay. www.sandals.com/main/dunns/dr-home.cfm
Sans Souci, P.O. Box 103, Ocho Rios. Tel. 800-417-5288. Rates start at $825
for a three-night stay. www.sanssoucijamaica.com