Wow! Talk about making things happen! Sandals has been an innovator in brand imaging and marketing for years–and not only that, they also have been improving their product ever since my first stay with them eight years ago. Today I am proud to say that I have personally visited all but one of their resorts. Many on several occasions. The commitment this company has shown to improving their resorts, bringing their properties up to speed, making older Caribbean style resorts look updated and chic as well as making sure travel consultants get to know their product, is amazing. But let me start with our 3 day – 3 island whirlwind tour through the Caribbean.
Throughout 2014 Sandals & Beaches Resorts have been conducting 14 of the so called “MegaFams,” each departing from different US gateways. Every time they chartered a plane and hosted all agents for a minimal fee. The idea was to get them to experience three different islands, resorts, as well as update them on the latest and greatest going on in the company.
My MegaFam departed from Chicago and it was the first– and only one–to charter a #767 to take approximately 200 agents to the Caribbean. All agents were hand-picked and chosen because of their commitment and dedication to their clients, as well as understanding what Sandals and Beaches is all about. Our first stop was the island of Exuma in the Bahamas. Get this, we were the first ever #767 plane to land there. The airport is so small, we could hardly turn around on the runway! It was truly amazing. And not only that, in order for liability insurance coverage, the airport had to be upgraded before we could even land.
We started off by visiting Sandals Emerald Bay, a gorgeous and spacious resort with one of the most spectacular golf courses ever. As a former Four Seasons property, this resort is absolutely stunning. Beautifully landscaped, spacious suites, gorgeous oceanfront and one heck of a pool! This place is a heaven for beach lovers looking to just getaway or for any avid golfer. The spa is beautiful as well.
On we went that evening to Providenciales where we would spend the night at Beaches Turks & Caicos. This resort blows my mind, simply due to the fact that literally nothing grows on this island and everything you find at the resort has to be flown and shipped in. Ever wonder why Turks & Caicos is such an expensive destination? Well, this is the reason.
The next day we spent in a classroom learning about what is new with the company and what we can expect in the next couple of years. Did you know that they will be breaking ground to start building over-water bungalows within the next couple of weeks? Want to know where? Comment below and I will share the scoop.
The best part of the training was meeting Adam as well as Butch Stewart. They flew in just to speak to us and it was incredible to hear their vision. Butch is definitely “old school” whereas Adam is young, charismatic and with a very modern vision for the company. It is amazing to see how the two work together and are able to combine their vision for the future.
The next morning we departed very early for Grenada. Wow, wow, wow! This island is so gorgeous. Hands down one of the prettiest in the Caribbean. Not only that, the people are some of the friendliest ever. The drive from the airport to Emerald Bay takes about five minutes. The resort is truly stunning, the rooms are spectacular and currently some of the best out there. Expect to find sky pools, infinity pools, and see lush, green gardens nestled in the hilly seaside.
The small volcanic beach has a beautiful color. The light mocha sand is mixed with the black volcanic sand and creates different patterns. I felt the color was a bit like my favorite Ben & Jerry’s ice cream “Coffee Coffee Buzz Buzz”. Grenada is a divers’ paradise and with Padi naming the Sandals diving operation one of the top five in the world, any diver is lucky to stay at this resort. So far, the main challenge for Grenada has been the airlift. However, Alexandra Otway, Grenada’s Tourism & Aviation Minister, welcomed us in person and assured us that the government is working on making the island more accessible.
The non-stop flight back on our #767 from Grenada to Chicago took 5 hours and 30 minutes. The past 72 hours have been incredible. I am truly grateful to Sandals and Beaches for giving me this opportunity and can’t wait to share it with the world. But first, I had to sleep because only getting 15 hours of sleep out of 72 simply wasn’t enough. And, change my flip flops for more wintery gear.
Written by STEFANIE PICHONNAT
Stefanie Pichonnat is the Certified Sandals & Beaches Specialist at AAV Travel, a boutique travel firm specialized in creating and customizing personalized travel itineraries. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org