Just Back: Sandals Royal Barbados

Luxury Travel Advisor has just returned from the recently opened Sandals Royal Barbados, a new-build expansion to the existing Sandals Barbados. Put simply, it did not disappoint. For easygoing couples — those who take pleasure in knowing that everything is taken care of and paid for — this might be the ideal resort.

Sandals Royal Barbados, located at the end of the lively St. Lawrence Gap, is touted as a hotel of its own, but it’s located immediately adjacent to Sandals Barbados, essentially creating one large resort. Note: The all-inclusive properties are connected by several pathways, as well as from the beach. Guests of the hotels have access to all of the restaurants, pools, spas and additional amenities of both properties. Accommodations at Sandals Royal Barbados are all high-end. While there are over 15 individual room types, they are available in two, broader categories: Butler Level and Club Level.

For guests with butlers, they will greet you at the main entrance with a welcome cocktail and snacks. You will receive private, in-room check-in, a personal cellphone number to contact your butler, luggage unpacking and more. Throughout your stay, your butler can make dining or excursion reservations, serve drinks to you at the beach or pool, arrange transportation and most other requests you may have. A concierge is available for similar requests for guests in the Club Level rooms; the main difference is each guest doesn’t receive their own personal assistant. Butler service is available from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.; the concierge is available beginning at 8 a.m.

Note: The resort is overseen by General Manager Fernand Zievinger ([email protected]).

A Beachfront One Bedroom Skypool Butler Suite with Balcony Tranquility Soaking Tub.

We sampled the Royal Seaside Crystal Lagoon One Bedroom Oceanview Butler Suite with Balcony Tranquility Soaking Tub. These “Love Nest Suites” are set on the second through fifth floors of the Wahoo and Sand Dollar buildings, which have views ranging from a central lawn to the Crystal Lagoon pool and the ocean. The room has wooden sliding doors that can create a two-room space, each with its own HDTV. The room also has a king bed, an iPod docking station, a seating area and a private balcony with a soaking tub for two, an adjustable daybed and a small table with two chairs — perfect for enjoying breakfast or coffee. The bathroom is outfitted with a dual-control walk-in shower and double basin vanity. Guests in the Butler Level rooms receive a personal butler, 24-hour room service and a VIP check-in.

Tip: On the first floor of these buildings, guests can opt for the Royal Seaside Crystal Lagoon Swim-up One Bedroom Butler Suite with Patio Tranquility Soaking Tub. The room itself is exactly the same but offers access to a swim-up pool that connects all of the first-floor rooms. 

For couples who want a little extra privacy, we suggest booking one of the South Seas Royal Rondoval Butler Suites with Private Pool Sanctuary. These bungalow-like accommodations have 20-foot conical ceilings, a mahogany king-size bed, a deep soaking tub and — the best part — its own “private pool sanctuary” with direct access from the bedroom. Should guests want, they can open double doors right from their living space and hang their feet in the pool. There’s also an outdoor Tranquility Soaking Tub, a daybed and a table with chairs. Guests are offered privacy by a blue and white wall and wooden fencing. Tip: Just nearby is one of the resort’s three pools; although this is the only one at Sandals Royal Barbados with a swim-up bar, it was quieter than the main Crystal Lagoon pool.

Our favorite accommodations, however, were the Beachfront One Bedroom Skypool Butler Suite with Balcony Tranquility Soaking Tub and the Beachfront Prime Minister One Bedroom Butler Suite with Private Pool and Patio Tranquility Soaking Tub; each of these suites has its own private pools, ocean views, a separate living area, a bathroom with a freestanding tub and a terrace with another tub, a daybed and a table. 

At Sandals Royal Barbados, there are three pools: The Crystal Lagoon (the main pool), a rooftop pool (Sandals’ first!) and the third with a swim-up bar. Whichever spot is your scene, don’t worry about rushing to grab the best seats — simply give your butler a call, and they can head down first thing in the morning to set up your preferred spot with towels, a “Reserved” sign (with your name) and a cooler with beers, waters or juices. Our personal favorite was the main pool, with an infinity edge, looking out onto the ocean. At the pool bar, a DJ plays popular global hits with a few local jams mixed in. The rooftop pool, which overlooks the Crystal Lagoon pool and the ocean, is a fun spot to be to end the night.

There are six new dining options available: Butch’s Steak & Seafood, Chi Asian Fusion, American Tavern, La Parisienne French Cuisine, Neptune’s Mediterranean Seafood and The Jerk Shack. Of these, only Butch’s and Chi require reservations. We sampled meals from each and were more than pleased with everything we tried. Our favorite meal might be the Smoked Salmon Benedict at La Parisienne, which is located on the sixth floor, next to the rooftop pool; it has its own balcony with pool and ocean views, which made for a great breakfast setting. The Sichuan Pepper Steak (a wok-fired, black pepper-marinated flank steak with garlic Sichuan sauce, onion and bell peppers) at Chi was also a standout dish. For a quick bite, The Jerk Shack is your best bet, serving up Caribbean flavors from a simple menu. 

For special evenings, opt for a private, four-course candlelit dinner, served by a white-gloved waiter on a table specially decorated with tropical floral arrangements and candles. It includes a bottle of Ruffino Prosecco and unlimited pours of Robert Mondavi Twin Oaks wines. Note: Only a very limited number of seatings are available each evening. 

One of our favorite spots on the property is Lovers Lanes, a four-lane bowling alley with cheeky artwork (think Marilyn Monroe posing over a bowling ball and cartoon pin-up art). Lovers Lane is also popular for its large selection of international beers (compared to the local beers, Banks and Deputy, which are available at all dining outlets). We loved the frosted strip on the bar counter where you can put your beer down to help keep it cold (and yes, it does work).

La Parisienne French Cuisine has its own balcony with pool and ocean views.

If you’re looking for another place to grab a drink, head over to The Merry Monkey English Pub, located “next door” at Sandals Barbados. Despite the cozy-looking interior, it gets very lively at night. Ronaldo, one of the bartenders, was the life of the party; a flair bartender, he flipped and tossed bottles of liquor as he made drinks. 

Both properties also have a Red Lane Spa. At Sandals Royal Barbados, there are six treatment rooms — all for couples. Four are standard couple’s rooms, while two are Sanctuary Rooms; these have their own tub and shower. Outdoors, there are three additional couple’s cabanas. The spa also has a room dedicated to manicures and pedicures, as well as a professional makeup studio. A full-length mirror offers three differing lighting options (indoor, outdoor and evening) to ensure your makeup will look good no matter what. A barber shop, salon, men’s and women’s steam rooms and saunas, as well as outdoor hot and cold plunge pools are also available.

One of the newest treatments is the Tropical Paradise. This massage takes place in one of the outdoor cabanas; while the treatment is customized for each guest, all couples receives a glass of bubbly cranberry champagne. Make bookings at least one day in advance. The spa director is Andrea Green ([email protected]).

From either the front desk or an Aqua Center, located on the beach, guests can book a myriad of excursions on the island (or on the water). Water sports included with the price of the stay are scuba diving, kayaking, paddleboarding, snorkeling, Hobie Cat rentals, glass-bottom boat tours and more. Both new and experienced scuba divers can go on dives (new divers must take a short course, however, which comes at an addition cost); new divers can dive only once a day, while experienced divers are allowed up to two dives daily. 

Sandals Royal Barbados has a partnership with Island Routes Caribbean Adventures, which has a desk in the main lobby. These activities aren’t included with the price of the stay at the resort but offer a great way to experience the island. Options include the “Barbados Discovery Jeep Safari,” “Caves & Critters,” “Ultimate Snorkel Tour and Bridgetown Shopping,” “Sun, Sand and Snorkeling” and more. We opted for the last excursion. We were taken out on a catamaran up the west coast of the island to two different snorkel sites where we saw various fish, sea turtles and stingrays. Tip: Be sure to bring a waterproof camera of phone case for underwater photos. On the boat, we were treated to a Caribbean lunch before stopping near shore, where we could swim up to the beach or just relax onboard. On the “Caves & Critters” tour, guests can enjoy Harrison’s Cave’s signature tram tour, where — from the seat of their tram car — they will see cave streams, waterfalls, pools and columns of stalagmites and stalactites. The more intense Eco-Adventure Tour lets travelers put on a helmet and knee pads to crawl and climb through the caves (you will get wet and dirty; dress appropriately).

Those who prefer a more leisurely pace can opt for numerous garden tours on the island. One of the top options is Hunte’s Gardens, where guests can enjoy a variety of flora and fauna. 

History buffs will also enjoy the many museums and historic sites on the island. A top option is the George Washington House. (Barbados is notable as the only place outside of the United States that Washington traveled to.) He visited as a 19-year-old with his brother, who was sick at the time. Today, the house remains decorated in the same manner and includes a museum dedicated to Washington and life in Barbados in 1751. 

The Rooftop Pool overlooks the ocean. This zero-entry, glass infinity pool is a Sandals first.

For a different view of the island, opt for the Atlantis Submarines tour, which guests can enjoy at day or night. Guests dive up to 130 feet below the surface from the comfort of an air-conditioned sub. Tip: Request an upgrade, which includes priority boarding, personalized service and refreshments after the tour. Private tours and “Five Star Champagne” charters are also available. The entire vessel fits 48 passengers and three crew. 

Note: Barbados, like most of the Caribbean, Mexico and parts of Florida, is experiencing an increased amount of Sargassum, a brown seaweed originating in the Sargassum Sea in the Atlantic Ocean. It comes from the East and renders most of the beaches on the east and south of the island unusable. It didn’t prohibit us from enjoying a lounger in the sand, or beach volleyball, but guests were unable to go in the water itself. On our catamaran tour (on the west side of the island), the water was crystal-clear and we saw almost no seaweed. We were told the Sargassum issue isn’t year-round but it’s crucial to check with the resort as to the effect of the seaweed on the properties’ beaches. 

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