We continue our series on Sandals’ resorts with a review of Sandals Royal Bahamian in Nassau, Bahamas. Our last two reviews of Sandals’ resorts were of summer travel. We wondered if would have the same experience in the middle of winter, so we booked our vacation for a week in December.
Traveling to Nassau
Traveling from New York to Nassau from New York Following a flawless JetBlue trip from JFK, we sailed through customs at the modernized Lynden Pindling International Airport Nassau airport. We left the gate at 6:41 at were at Nassau Customs by 9:40.
Travel Tip: Take the earliest flight you can to avoid airport delays. There is less chance you will be waiting for an incoming flight to board for your outgoing flight. You will avoid traffic jams to the airport and from the airport to the hotel, especially if cruise ships are docked. Use the hotel facilities until your room is ready so you don't waste that part of the day waiting. Take the latest flight back home and use the hotel facilities until you have to leave.
We were greeted by a Sandals’ representative and escorted to the Sandals’ airport lounge. Within minutes, our bags were collected and in fifteen minutes we were driving up the stylishly long tree-lined roadway leading to the entrance of the resort.
Upon our arrival, we were greeted by the Hotel Manager, Charles Blacher and several hotel staff, all of whom were warm and gracious. Even though this was our first trip to Sandals Royal Bahamian, we were welcomed with smiles and hugs. The Bahamians are a very open and approachable people. We were given moist towels and champagne as part of the welcome.
We were brought to the Club Sandals Lounge, where we were introduced to Dionte, who expertly checked us in to the category room we requested. Dionte gave us an orientation and booked our restaurant reservations.
Travel Tip: Doing your due diligence ahead of time by reviewing the restaurants and menus available on the Sandals’ website, and already have in mind, where you want to dine and when. If you are planning to have a romantic, private dinner (Amare), this can and should be booked ahead of time.
Since we arrived early and an availability existed, we were given a temporary room in which to relax, freshen up, change into island attire and/or bathing suits and to immediately get into the full swing of our vacation. Even if you don’t have a room, you can always use the hotel’s facilities to change.
Travel Tip: To avoid frustration, plan on having to wait for your room, and bring an appropriate change of clothing in your carry-on bag, so while your checked luggage is stored, you can use the resort facilities that you are paying for.
The grounds, which are immaculate, have a Greco/Roman feeling, with columns, murals, fountains, sculptures and statues tastefully scattered throughout the resort.
.Our chief complaint was that the pool was not sufficiently heated for swimming this time of year, and as a result, there were very few swimmers. The pools are surrounded by several whirlpools and fire pits, which were well-frequented.
Travel Tip: Not all the whirlpools are heated equally, which is good, because you can find the one whose temperature "is just right."
Travel Tip: There is a well-kept “secret” alternative to these pools, if like us, you enjoy warmer water. This warm pool is tucked away in the courtyard between the Hibiscus and Cassia Villas. When we discovered it, it was like having a private pool. It also has a very hot whirlpool adjacent to it.
Tennis and basketball courts are available, as well as other activities including croquet, shuffleboard, bocce, table tennis,
and even an over-sized chess board
The Game Room is stylish with its billiard tables and board games.
Not only will the up-to-date equipment at the fitness center literally take your breath away, but so will the view from the top floor.
The property was beautifully decorated for the Christmas season with lights . . .
Christmas Trees of all kinds . . .
as well as an authentic gingerbread house!
Even the staff "decked the halls" for Christmas as represented by Dawn Murphy from the Club Sandals Front Desk
Here's another fine example of a beach that owner, Gordon "Butch" Stewart scouted out for its powdery white sand and crystal clear water. Those who opt for the beachfront accommodations, which we highly recommend, will appreciate falling asleep to the “lullaby” created by the combination of surf sound and “cuddly” sea breeze. Below is a live recording of the actual waves at the shore of Sandals Royal Bahamian Beach.
Travel Tip: Do be aware that the water is considerably cooler in the winter months than it is in the summer, so if you plan on swimming, unless you are from the “Polar Bear Club,” you are going to have to acclimate your body to the temperature difference. Once you do, it's divine!
Water sports are available right on the beach.
Excursion for snorkeling and scuba diving are also included. We did not avail ourselves of these, but we can tell you that the people coming off these excursion boats were very happy.
Offshore Island – Sandals Cay
A unique and "key" attraction of Sandals Royal Bahamian is the offshore island, aka Sandals Cay (pronounced "key.") We guess you could say it is a "son of a beach!"
Here, you can scuba or snorkel in the sea . . .
or sun and snooze under a secluded canopy.
A well-groomed beach and swimming area is yours to enjoy from 10:00 am to 4:30 pm. The Stew Fish restaurant is complemented by a whirlpool, pool with swim up bar, and chaise lounges of all shapes and sizes.
An annex to The Red Lane Spa is available for treatments on the island.
Travel Tip: If you like to shower after your spa treatment, be aware that the offshore island has the advantage of location but the disadvantage of being without hot water. Alternatively, you can be treated on the main island.
We selected the "Bahmoral Beachfront Club Level Room with Beachfront/Oceanfront view and Concierge service." We used Butler Service at the other two Sandals' resorts -- Royal Plantation (which is Butler Service only), and Emerald Bay. We highly recommend its unmatched personal service. So if you can afford it, go for it -- it's worth the extra price in our opinion. But on this trip, we wanted to see the kind of service we would receive at the next level down, which is Club Level/Concierge. Some reviews on TripAdvisor intimated that those guests who were not using Butler service were somehow treated as "second-class" citizens. We did not experience that at all. Our concierge, Dionte, was fabulous, and we had no problem with reservations or any other services. The picture below points to "OUR ROOM."
We requested a top floor, corner room, which has spectacular views of the beach, ocean, off-shore island and pool area.
From right to left looking out from our balcony
The balcony has room for two chaises lounges and a table and chairs to enjoy room service meals. The higher floors provide more intimacy and privacy than the first floor and aerial views, but if you like being literally “on the beach,” ask for the first floor “walkout.”
Check out a video view from our balcony.
Nature provides an amazing array of ever-changing colors from sunrise to sunset.
Sometimes, it's hard to know what to look at first.
We found the king-sized bed to be ultra comfortable, along with some turn-down surprises.
Housekeeping kept our room immaculate and well-supplied with towels and toiletries. The room comes with all the amenities you might expect from a luxury resort, including hair dryer, magnifying mirror, and bathrobe. Of course the mini-bar comes stocked and the bar area is lined with premium label liquors.
The sliding door to the balcony has a screen, so you can keep it open at night to allow the ocean waves to lull you asleep, and the surf and distant cooing of the doves to waken you.
There are ten dining choices at Sandals Royal Bahamian. Baccarat, the French Restaurant, serves anal à carte breakfast and white-glove al à carte dinner. At our various breakfasts, we had yogurt with refreshing fresh fruit; fresh eggs to our liking; french toast, and what we now call "our signature breakfast dish" -- coconut pancakes. It wasn't on the menu, but Troit, our server, had the chef make them up. Of course, nothing says "good morning" like the always amazing Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee.
For dinner, we recommend the Bisque de Coquillages et Crustacés, the very light and crisp Salad Panache “Fromage de Chevre,” Carre D’Agneau Provencale - Lamb and the Chef's Pasta of the day with in a Lobster Cognac Sauce. The signature dish is the Grilled Beef Tournedos laced with a Green Brand Peppercorn Sauce, but if you are in the mood for "surf and turf, or "surf and surf," ask for it. If it's available they will gladly oblige you. The Dark French Chocolate Mousse or the La Passion du Crème Brulée pour les deux (for two) are excellent choice. But you must also try the Brandy Truffle. We first discovered these at Sandals Emerald Bay and were delighted to be able to experience them, again. Click here for Baccart sample menu.
The Crystal Room, named after its magnificent crystal chandelier, serves a white-glove international cuisine dinner in an elegant setting, with a player-piano offering all classical music.
Our menu favorites were the Salad “Mazzedonia,” the Roasted Garlic Soup, the signature dish Catalan Seafood “Casserole,” and Chocolate Molten Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream for dessert. Click here for The Crystal Room Sample Menu
Gordon’s on the Pier is upscale dining on the Caribbean Sea. It is reserved for Butler-only clientele.
For the purposes of this review, we were allowed to sample the menu, even though we were not at Butler Service level. We would recommend the Grilled “Digbey” Scallops, Bahamian Fish Chowder, and the signature Grilled Reef Crustacean Platter. For dessert, go with the Chocolate Mousse Espresso. Click here for the Gordon's On The Pier Sample Menu
Travel Tip: If you don't have Butler Service, ask if there is an availability at Gordon's. Depending upon availability, the management may allow it, but may also charge you a fee. Never hurts to ask!
Having a parent who was a master of Italian cuisine and having dined at the best Italian restaurants in New York and Italy, we almost decided to pass up Casanova for dinner, the Northern Italian restaurant, which serves a buffet antipasto and al à carte entrees. That would have been a huge mistake! The cuisine was first-rate. Even thought the signature dish is Osso Buco alla Milanese, we preferred the Costolette d’Agnello all’Erbe as it was the best we had ever tasted. Don't leave without having an authentic Italian pasta dish. We had Penne alla Bolognese and it was perfetto! Dessert offerings were Tiramisù, Cannoli, and Gelato in various flavors. It doesn't get better than that! Click here for the Casanova Sample Menu.
Spices serves a buffet breakfast featuring made-to-order omelets. Each lunch showcases a different “theme” cuisine from around the world in a casual atmosphere.
Travel Tip: Pass on the prepared scrabbled eggs at the breakfast buffet. It was the only thing we didn't find edible. Instead, take a few steps to the left and have your eggs made to order by the chef.
We lingered a bit too long at the nice warm pool mentioned above, and we just missed lunch at Spices. Click here for the Spice Sample Menu.
The Royal Café and Grill offers salads, sandwiches and grilled items for lunch. Click here for the RoyalCafé Sample Menu
We were at the beach, worked up a bit of an appetite swimming in the ocean, and just had a hankering for some pizza. Thankfully, just a minute walk away was Bella Napoli, where a whole array of combination pizzas are made to order. You place your order, come back in fifteen minutes, and voilà, or ecco in Italian, you have a hot mozzarella-melting, mouthwatering, box of pizza to take back to the beach and enjoy. The signature pizza is Frutti di Mare and it is outstanding. Currently, the Bella Napoli menu is unavailable online, but, luckily, I snapped a shot of it before ordering.
Travel Tip: You can order different types of pizza in one pie. We split our order, half Margherita and half Frutti Di Mare. Just like other pizzerias, they have pre-made slices ready to go. Our advice is to experience this pizza the right way -- fresh out of the oven.
The offshore island restaurant, Stew Fish offers a Bahamian-style lunch and dinner. We had fabulousSandals Island Conch Fritters -- tenderized conch morsels battered and lightly fried with tartar sauce and lime wedges. The Mahi Mahi sandwich was also good, especially with its side of delectable french fries. Click here for the Stew Fish Sample Menu.
We didn’t dine at The Cricketer’s Pub, serving English fare in a British-style pub, but we did stop in to see the beautiful Christmas tree and decorations.
Everyone seemed to be having a great time as did the people around the piano bar and lounge at the Balmoral Tower. Click her for The Cricketer's Pup Sample Menu.
Kimonos is a group, Teppanyaki-style restaurant. Again, this is more like "Just the Crew of you," than "Just the Two of you," so we decided to pass on this restaurant. Click here for Kimonos Sample Menu.
Now if you want something that is really for "Just the Two of You," partake of the Amare Private Candlelight Dinner on the beach, which is optional, but not for us. We loved it! Accompanying our Symphony of Land and Sea dinner was food for the heart and soul as well as the palate. Our server was Chris, who was as elegant as he was gracious.
To the one negative comment on Trip Advisor that the private tables were so close that each party could hear the conversation of the table next to them -- it's just not the case. From our room, we could watch the private beach dinners being set up and there was never a time where tables were placed too near to one another.
As if all these food alternatives were not enough, Club Sandals always has coffee, tea, alcoholic drinks, apples and snacks on hand in case of an attack of the "munchies," The Royal Theater, which has excellent nightly entertainment, also has a coffee machine, as well as a popcorn and frozen yogurt machine.
Every week, Sandals hosts a Manager's cocktail party as well as a Sandals Select Dinner for returning guests. Good food and conversation are complemented by talented entertainment and information about the Sandals Foundation, a philanthropic arm of Sandals Resorts International, whose mission it is to play a meaningful role in the lives of the communities where it operates across the Caribbean.
Dinner was followed by dancing at the White Chic Party and dessert from the abundant Decadent Chocolate Buffet.
Trying to dance off some calories with staff member, Phadailio
Ynise , the master Chocolate Crepe maker
Don't let that smile fool you -- Vonasha mixes a "mean" Chocolate Martini.
After an evening of great food and fun, it's nice to wind down at one of the numerous fire pits around the property.
The magic of Sandals cannot truly happen with out the magic of a dedicated management and staff who not only have a marvelous attitude, but truly delight in sharing your happiness. This is why you will find them not only eager to take your picture when you ask, but always taking several different shots, just to make sure you get a great one.
We were on our first boat ride to the off-shore island, when in the middle of our crossing, a sea breeze caught the hat of one of the female passengers and tossed it into the sea. The captain immediately began to turn the boat around in pursuit of the hat, but the male partner of the hat owner, in consideration of the other passengers, yelled out, “That’s okay, it’s just a hat!” However, the boat crew continued its “rescue mission,” while all of us waited with baited breath for the outcome. As the captain continually tried to maneuver the boat close to hat, we all sadly watched the hat slowly sink into the depths. One of the crew quickly grabbed a snorkel, ran to the boat’s edge and plunged the long hook-end into the water and “presto,” he had nabbed her hat! In unison, we all burst out in applause and whistles of approval! Of course for the rest of her stay, she was dubbed by all those who experienced it, as “the hat girl.”
This kind of accommodating manner is authentic. It comes not out of obligation, but from the essence of the people, and we would like to recognize those who we were privileged to have touched our lives, briefly but memorably.
Kudos to General Manager Patrick Drake, whom they call "a man with a plan" and it is evident that his plan is to lead by example and make Sandals Royal Bahamian live up to it's title of "the most elegant resort in Nassau." While a great attitude is a vital foundation, training also comes into play, and as Mr. Drake explains, "it's all about details."
We went out on our balcony one day to shoot some video and we just happened to spy the General Manager going out on the rocks by the ocean to pick up a piece of scattered litter. Exactly what we mean when we say "leading by example.
Thank you, Patrick Drake. Your attention to detail made our trip a memorable one.
Along with Patrick Drake, Hotel Manager Charles Blacher can be seen walking the premises, making sure everything is in order, not “beneath” picking up some of the stray cups or papers left by some neglectful guests, in an effort to keep the property up to its pristine standards. Their excellent example is evident by the demeanor and hospitality of the staff we met. Charles is as accommodating as he is affable, always willing to help make your stay an exceptional one.
Club Sandals Manager, Sandra Rolle is to be commended for the superlative service provided by the Club Sandals staff.
Our check-in and initiation at Club Sandals was masterfully handled by Dionte Burnside and he took excellent, watchful care of us during our entire stay. He was our “go to” man – always a young mannerly gentleman and a thorough concierge. We have dubbed him Dionte “The Gallante.”
The qualities of the dinners at Baccarat were only enhanced by the expert service and wonderful personalities of Nate “The Great” Mackey and Moral Adderley. Nate, like a leprechaun, managed to appear at most of our dinners, whether it was at Baccarat, The Crystal Room, or Casanova. Moral, with his dignified manner, had a profound knowledge in the art of service. Valerie, the The Crystal Room Manager, was exemplary in her hospitality and complemented our dining experience with fascinating historical information.
White glove service at the Baccarat with Nate "The Great"
The Sandals Club Lounge with Nate "The Great" (left) and our concierge, Dionte "The Gallante" (right).
Janika Mackey started our days with very hot coffee, breakfast, a warm smile and a big hug. Troit Lynes always took care of our special requests, especially what should now be the “signature” breakfast entrée—coconut pancakes. Janika and Troit could also be seen spreading their charm and expertise at the Royal Café.
Janika Mackey kept our breakfasts and our hearts toasty warm.
We had the opportunity to meet Sebastiano Sironi, the chef at Casanova, who prepared a Penne Bolognese which was as authentic as our mom’s (who was a master of Italian cuisine), or any of the pasta dishes we have tasted in the finest restaurants in Italy. Sebastian also prepared just about the best lamb chops we have ever tasted. Cooked to perfection, they were so tender and juicy, they just melted in your mouth.
Our Amare Dinner on the Beach was so elegant, yet comfortable because we were in the capable hands of Chris Davis, our butler-for-the-night, photographer and entertainer.
Speaking of entertaining, we can’t forget the performances of Rhondi Smith and Damian Hall at the Sandals Select Dinner for Returning Guests.
Thanks to Ynise for making chocolate crepes and Vonasha for the chocolate martinis at the The White Chic Party and Decadent Chocolate Buffet. Such sweet stuff and staff!
We also wish to thank the “behind the scenes” housekeeping staff, especially Phylicie Ferguson, who kept our room immaculate and well-supplied, and for Gayle Edward, who was on immediate hand to help with technical issues.
The security staff always kept a watchful . . .
and respectful eye over the property.
Thanks to Karen Paragon-Singh, Operations Manager, Front of House for arranging our transportation back to the airport with Tamar Bowe.
Together with Hotel Manager Charles Blacher, they gave us a warm Sandals send off.
Tamar Bowe interjected historical perspective about Nassau, and engaged us in educational and philosophical conversation. As sad as we were to leave Sandals, Tamar provided us with not only a buffer with his jokes and warmth, but smooth access for our luggage and check-in to go back home.
The take-away from this review is that you will be treated "royally" at Sandals Royal Bahamian.
WISHING ALL OUR READERS A MERRY CHRISTMAS, HAPPY HANUKKAH AND
A JOYOUS AND HEALTHY NEW YEAR!
KITA & GARY
Gary de Sesa & Kita de Sesa are travel agents and owners of Gary D Travel. Contact us at 516-300-9924
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