Grenada 2019 - Sandals
Review of our two-week stay at Sandals resort in Grenada, in May/June 2019.
Our eleven-hour Airbus 330-200 Virgin Atlantic flight from Gatwick was excellent. We’d stumped up some extra cash for Premium Economy, and were pleased by the extra space, the seat comfort, the large, high-res screen, and the quality of the food. Much better than World Traveller Plus, BA’s Boeing equivalent. We’ll definitely bear this in mind for future trips.
There’s an hour and a bit stopover in St Lucia on the way – good views of the Pitons out of the port-side windows as we land. People get off and on, and the tanks are topped up.
Passport Control at Grenada takes ages, but once through, it’s a speedy collection and just a five-minute transfer to Sandals.
The same process in reverse on the way home, but an overnight flight leaving Grenada at 5pm. A small group of Sandals staff sing a lovely "Come back soon" song for you before you board the minibus for the airport.
Our fourth visit to Sandals, Grenada – see also our reports for 2017, 2015 and 2014. Our favourite Sandals location, along with the Grand St Lucian. The food is brilliant, the staff chatty, unfailingly keen and polite, the beach well-kept, with a great view across the bay to St George’s (the capital), and the gardens are stunning. We were told that Sandals’ location on the island means it gets much less rain than the capital does, just four miles away. Indeed, we could frequently see St George’s fading away, wreathed in rain showers, while we basked on the beach in the sun. There were only two occasions during our two-week stay when we had to scuttle off the beach to avoid a tropical downpour.
We’d mentioned that we were to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary during our stay, and Peter Fraser (the resort manager) and Shardee from Loyalty made the day special by arranging for an expensive bottle of wine to be sent to our room and for our room to be decorated with flower petals and balloons and leaving a card and a cake, together with a bottle of prosecco in an ice-bucket.
Several members of staff recognised us and came over to say hello while we were there - dive instructors Kimshon and Garry, butler Leanna, and others. The Watersports manager, Boota, recognised me from previous visits and always made a point of coming over to shake my hand and have a chat when we bumped into each other - they all really made us feel special.
Watch out - there's a branch of "Colombian Emeralds" on site, so your credit card might take a hit.
The gardens at Sandals are sensational - a riot of bright, multi-coloured bougainvillea, hibiscus, and a dozen other tropical flowering plants that I don't know the names of. The brilliant orange Flamboyant tree flowers are really exotic. The gardening staff are to be congratulated. Check out our page of garden photos from our stay two years previously.
We signed up to do the “Lovers Rock Sunset Cruise” on Shadowfax, a 60-foot catamaran. We’ve done this each visit, and love it. It’s a relaxing sail from St George’s along the island, past the beautiful Grande Anse beach, to Sandals and back again, taking in the Carenage, St George’s picturesque old harbour. The Nutmeg bar is still there, although it’s had a make-over on the outside since we last popped in for a refreshing drink a few years ago. Lots of photos of the cruise in the "Photos" section below.
We also contacted 'Sunsation', an independent trip arranger, and booked to go on a wildly-expensive trip in a tiny, eight-passenger airplane to Union Island in the nearby country of St Vincent and the Grenadines. There we were transferred to 'Scaramouche', a 60-year old, 80-foot wooden sailing vessel which appeared in “Pirates of the Caribbean”, for a fantastic tour around the Grenadines, with stops for snorkelling in Mayreau, the Tobago Cays (with lots of green turtles and stingrays), and finally the up-market island resort of Palm Island, where some of the scenes for the movie were filmed. This was a great trip, with food and drink included, but is definitely only for those who are good sailors and enjoy snorkelling. Again, lots of photos of the cruise in the "Photos" section below.
We’d asked for room 1219 in the Pink Gin block, following comments on Facebook, and were pleased to be allocated to it. It has a large patio, with a climbing flowering plant on a wooden lattice above, providing shade from the sun. It had a great view across the bay to St George’s on the right, and a view of the sunset to the left. We were entranced by tiny hummingbirds coming to sip nectar from the hanging flowers just a few feet away. There were some sunbeds, a table and chairs, and a bathtub, which was useful for rinsing my wetsuit at the end of the holiday.
Inside is a comfortable, standard, Pink Gin suite with a sofa, an easy chair and small coffee tables in the sitting area with a view of the beach from the windows, a minibar (refilled daily), a dining table and chairs and the huge double bed and bedside tables/lamps. There’s a/c and a ceiling fan and lots of UK-style 13A sockets for recharging stuff. The large LCD TV has easily-accessible HDMI sockets at the rear. There’s a clothes cupboard with some shelf space, some hanging space, the large room safe, and an ironing board/iron.
The bathroom has a big shower, a huge mirror above the wide, shallow washbasin, a hair dryer, and a separate WC.
While it’s a great room, our main criticism is that there wasn't enough shelf/drawer space. It definitely needs a big chest of drawers to provide more clothes storage – and there’s room for it next to the minibar. That would make it perfect.
Food + Drink
The food at Sandals is exceptional. The premier restaurant used to be Butch’s, but Le Jardinier now seems to be the best place to eat. I had more steaks in our two-week stay than in all the previous 12 months - the Chateaubriand at Le Jardinier, and the Filet Mignon at Butch’s are great. We also loved the Mahi-mahi at Neptune’s, with views across Grande Anse bay, and the breakfasts and buffet lunches at Spices. Coffee and ice-creams from the Café de Paris also went down well. We also ate at the Cucina Romana Italian restaurant, but we didn’t go to Soy (the Sushi bar), the Tipsy Turtle (supposed to be an English pub), or Kimono’s (Japanese Teppanyaki).
The bottles behind the bars all have familiar top-quality labels. There’s entertainment every night with live bands at The Living Room.
The reefs in Grande Anse Bay are really healthy - the corals are unaffected by bleaching, and bright and colourful. There are plenty of reef fish, and lots of reef life - shrimps, eels, lobsters etc. There are plenty of interesting wrecks to explore, as well. Diving is included within the All-Inclusive package at Sandals, which is good. The dive centre have an excellent, fast, spacious dive boat, with all mod-cons and safety features. Most of the dives are just a five or ten minute boat ride away in Grande Anse Bay out front, though they are always keen to run paid-for “private dives” in the Marine Protected Area near St George’s, or on wrecks further away on the rougher, Atlantic side. With an ever-changing clientele with a wide variety of experience, the dive centre chooses dives that are mostly safe, easy, short and shallow to minimise risks, typically 40 minutes at 15-20 metres on a flat reef, with little or no current. The dive leaders assess your abilities during your stay, and might schedule a more challenging dive if they can put together a small group of more experienced divers.
They didn’t do Nitrox while I was there, but with such short, shallow dives, it's not needed. Their compressor was out of action, so, irritatingly, we regularly stopped off at Grand Anse beach to drop the empty tanks off at another dive centre, and pick up fresh ones – the male divers were asked to help carry the tanks up and down the beach. This always meant being late back at Sandals for lunch.
You are asked to turn up at 0830 to grab a BCD and reg for your two-tank morning dive, but the boat is moored overnight in a marina across the bay (there’s no jetty at Sandals – you have to wade out knee deep to the stern ladder), and doesn't usually arrive until about 0900. It rarely leaves Sandals for the dive sites before 0930. Since most of the dives are only a short ride away, the dive boat generally returns to Sandals between dives.
You never know which dive sites you’ll be going to until the boat is ready to leave. The boat captain and dive leaders take a long time doing the briefings, but can sometimes be short on information about the dive plan and the site itself.
I did ten dives in all during my stay:
- Anina. A new wreck, deliberately sunk on its side last year. Biggish - 30 metres long. There’s a swim-through in part of the hold. Tiny frogfish.
- Tyrrel Bay. Three wrecks on one dive, plus the nearby reef. Two new wrecks: the Tyrrel Bay coastguard patrol boat and an ancient-looking Cuban boat made out of pre-stressed concrete, plus the mangled remains of an old fishing boat. Scorpionfish.
- Whibbles reef. Pleasant reef – lots of blue Creole wrasse.
- Black Forest. Lovely reef with lots of black fan corals. Slipper lobster.
- MV Shakem. An old cargo boat which sank in heavy weather. The hold is still full of the sacks of cement which moved in the bad weather and caused the boat to take on water and sink.
- Northern Exposure. Pretty, colourful, healthy reef.
- Purple Sand. Pretty, colourful, healthy reef.
- Veronica L. A deliberately-sunk wreck with lots to see, beautifully encrusted with gorgeous corals. Big Green Moray.
- Bianca C. A huge 600-ft passenger liner wrecked in 1961 following an engine-room explosion and fire. Now very broken up. A deep dive, with only 12 to 15 minutes bottom time. You can dive into the ship’s swimming pool on the top deck!
- Southern Comfort. Pretty reef. Tiny octopus, Spotted moray, Cowfish, lots of shrimps.
I didn't see much of the big stuff this year: just one fleeting glimpse of a turtle, and no sharks or stingrays or eagle rays at all. Disappointing. To be fair, the dive centre do run trips to wrecks on the wilder, rougher Atlantic side of the island, where sharks and rays are almost guaranteed - but you have to pay US$100 pp for these early-morning dives.
Lots of photos of fish and wrecks in the "Photos" section below.
Here's seven pages of photos, with about ten to fifteen photos per page, totalling about five to ten Megabytes per page.
Another marvellous stay at Sandals Grenada – great food, good beach, nice room, charming staff, good diving. Virgin Atlantic’s Premium Economy service got the thumbs up from us. The boat trips we booked were well-run and good fun, but only go on the Grenadines trip if you're a good sailor.
Would we come to Sandals Grenada again? Almost certainly, but we’re torn between here and the Grand St Lucian…