The Big Day: Say I Do at Sandals Royal Barbados
By Melanie Reffes
You know you’ve hit the all-inclusive bullseye when the resort you’ve checked into is next to another one and there are exchange privileges between the two. On Maxwell Beach on the south coast of the island, Sandals Royal Barbados is the petite sibling to the adjacent Sandals Barbados. With both resorts a top-shelf favorite for weddings and honeymoons, the smaller newer resort is rolling out the royal welcome to twosomes looking to make their special day extra special. The leaders in destination weddings, there currently are 16 Sandals Resorts in the Caribbean including in Barbados, Jamaica, The Bahamas, Antigua, Saint Lucia, Grenada and The Turks & Caicos Islands with additional resorts slated to open in Tobago, Saint Lucia and Barbados. www.sandals.com
Ideal for couples and families who plan ahead, American Airlines will launch non-stop daily service from Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT) to Grantley Adams International Airport (BGI) and a third daily flight from Miami International Airport (MIA) on December 19.
Eat, Play, Relax and Repeat
With epic eats at a combined 17 restaurants and a ‘Stay at One, Play at Two’ option, the all-suite adults-only Sandals Royal is the smaller of the pair with 222 suites including 17 Rondoval cottages popular with honeymooners (the larger has 280 suites) and upscale signatures like 24-hour room service and dining at 6 restaurants including American Tavern for a scrumptious international buffet, Neptune’s for a beachfront Mediterranean menu, La Parisienne for superb French signatures (we recommend the buttery escargot) and Butch’s Steak and Seafood for prime cuts and succulent lobsters.
For a light spicy bite, The Jerk Shack is open for lunch and dinner with hefty plates of jerk pork and chicken, sweet potato and festivals; those lightly fried bread twists perfect for mopping up the extra sauce. A quartet of bars goes the distance from the sky-high Sky Bar, South Seas Pool Bar, Neptune’s Bar and the Lovers Lane Bar at the bowling alley. There are plenty of water sports keep couples keep busy like glass bottom boat rides, boogie boarding and snorkeling.
Plunge Pools, Soaking Tubs and Room Service
Worth the splurge for guaranteed sweet dreams; Skypool Suites, Swim-up Suites and the knock-your-socks off Millionaire Crystal Lagoon Swim-up with a butler and tranquility soaking tub on the patio. On the ground level of the Stingray building, the coveted love nest comes with a dining room, fully-stocked bar, 24-hour room service, VIP check-in and an uber-comfy four-poster bed. For couples who covet privacy, South Seas Royal Rondoval Butler Suite with a zero-entry plunge pool is a great bet. With soaring 20-foot cone-shaped ceilings, big mahogany bed and a private pool accessed through the bedroom, the cottage which is more like a villa, is a home-away-from-home with a an elegant living room, soaking tub and pretty floors with coral accents.
Thirty-one pools include the ones in the suites, ocean view rooftop which is the largest glass-fronted infinity pool in the Eastern Caribbean and the only one at a Sandals Resort. The deck is relaxing with a whirlpool, poolside bar and lounge adjacent to La Parisienne restaurant. What may be the prettiest pool, check out the one flanked by candy-striped cabanas. With the wafting aromas of hibiscus and bougainvillea, the resort is relaxation-central with mattresses in the giant pods, swinging love seats, waterfalls and poolside fire pits for nighttime cuddling.
More firsts for the Sandals chain include Lovers Lane; bowling alley with a gigantic vintage photo of Marilyn Monroe and a wraparound beer bar built in a strip of ice. Also unique to the resort, Clip Yard is a barbershop convenient for grooms needing a new do before their wedding and a Chinese-Japanese fusion at Chi Asian. High-end perks in the high-end suites include Rolls Royce transfers from Grantley Adams International Airport; 15 minutes from the resort and butlers trained by the Guild of Professional Butlers that also provides butlers to nobility and celebrities. “We are an upscale all-suite resort,” says Patrick Drake, resort manager showing honeymooners around the poolside rooftop deck, “our two side-by-side resorts offer unlimited opportunities for our guests to eat, drink, play and enjoy pampering by our stellar staff.”
Beach Parties and Chocolate Buffets
Gratis island-themed extras include a Caribbean Carnival on the beach every Monday and a White Night & Chocolate Buffet on Thursday. For active couples, there are reggae dance classes on the pool deck, soccer games on the beach and nature walks led by Markson, the affable gardener who took care of the grounds prior to it becoming a Sandals Resort. “I’ve been tending to the grounds before the resort was a Sandals resort,” smiles Markson showing newlyweds around the gardens, “I’m delighted to show off this beautiful spot to couples from all over the world and to suggest the most beautiful flowers that will make their wedding the best day of their lives.”
Shop till you drop at the impressive Beach House Resort Shop with a selection of made-in-the Caribbean crafts and souvenirs. Après sunset, the stage at The Pavilion heats up with live music and cultural shows.
Happy Ever After
From an intimate ceremony to a lavish wedding, there is a package to suit every couple and every budget. Stylish and elegant, White Wedding is storybook-perfect with a ring of white blooms and the Pillars of Love artfully adorning a garden-domed gazebo or an airy beachside pergola. For nature lovers, Island Chic Inspiration Wedding comes with flowers lining the aisle and blooms in leaf-wrapped vases. And for twosomes preferring a ceremony with a more modern twist, Modern Love Inspiration is au courant with a pretty picture frame set on a wooden platform for exchanging vows and the Doorway to Wedded Bliss as the entrance to the big day. “We are delighted to host 5 weddings a day,” says Ferry Zievinger, general manager, “some with parties of up to 200 while others are a more intimate celebration with just the bride and groom.”
Leaders in wedding planning, Sandals and weddings go hand-in-hand. “The intent to recommend is tremendous at both Sandals Resorts in Barbados as we encourage couples to invite friends and family who return later in the year for their own vacation,” adds Ferry Zievinger, general manager.
One of three on-site wedding planners, Symone Ledis takes weddings to heart, “to offer couples the ultimate privacy, our butlers deliver room service on bicycles and as weddings are so important to us, we never perform two at the same hour in order to give the special couple their own moment in the sun.”
Out and About
For a day on the island, pick one of many tours offered by Island Routes that has a tour desk in the lobby and a helpful staff to suggest excursions. Cruising on a catamaran is popular with couples who enjoy an open bar and a welcome glass of Prosecco. Cruisers swim with the turtles and snorkel over a shallow shipwreck teeming with tropical marine life. A sumptuous lunch is served onboard by the catamarans private chef.
For couples going for the green, ‘All for Golf’ is 7 days of unlimited play at the 72-par Barbados Golf Club. With 18 holes that span rolling hills, wide-open fairways and a series of coral waste bunkers, golfers can play one round every day for a week for $536.00 including a golf cart and chill-out time in the Club House Marrying underwater exploring and shopping, ‘Ultimate Snorkel and Bridgetown’ is the real deal with a sail to Carlisle Bay on the west coast where a trio of shipwrecks await and then to Broad Street for strolling and shopping.
For couples who prefer to stay on terra firm, ‘Bridgetown Shopping and Historic Walking’ fits the bill. Guides take history buffs to the Parliament Buildings which are the oldest in the Commonwealth, Queens Park, Heroes Square, Lord Nelson’s Statue, James Fort Building, St. Mary’s Church and the stately Chamberlain Bridge. Following a dose of island history, tour-goers peruse Broad Street with its many shops and bistros and Swan Street where the locals shop for everything from clothing and cameras to fresh fruit at the market. Upon showing a US passport, shoppers pay duty-free prices at most of the stores. www.islandroutes.com