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Review - Sandals Grenada

Discussion in 'Lesser Antilles' started by BalekFekete, Jan 20, 2020.

  1. BalekFekete

    BalekFekete Nassau Grouper

    # of Dives: 25 - 49
    Location: Philadelphia, PA
    147
    101
    43
    Now decompressing from a week and change at the Sandals resort in Grenada, I thought it might prove useful to someone to give a quick review of the resort and, for purposes here, the dive operations and experience.

    A few words as a foreward. This review is coming from an inexperienced diver perspective (newly minted AOW with 30 dives). Other locations I am comparing and contrasting against in my head are West Palm Beach, FL, Bermuda, and St. Marteen.

    On the resort, it was spectacular. My wife and I were celebrating our 25th anniversary and everything about the resort did that event justice. The accomodations were truly 5-star, the staff were almost without exception remarkably friendly and inviting, and the food was outstanding. Despite being at near full occupancy, we never felt the slightest bit crowded. There were two pools, one quiet one near the ocean (as in 100m from it) and another further inland that was more of a party with music playing and a swim-up bar. The resort is literally 3 minutes from the airport, however, given there are only 5 gates and maybe 5 or 6 flights in or out every day, we rarely even noticed the sound of planes overhead let alone have it something that was distracting. All in all, far exceeded my expectations to the point where we've now booked our upcoming family vacation at the Negril site this coming May rather than our original plans for a self-planned Aruba holiday.

    Now, onto the more important info...the diving. :D

    The staff were the best I've encountered in all my (limited) time diving. Their operations are professional, extremely driven by safety, but still friendly and courteous. We did our AOW training on-site, and our instructor Adrian Steele was exceptional. All equipment is included in the price of the vacation, however, I can't comment directly as we brought all of our own. It did look to be in good condition and there were no complaints by anyone we dove with across the week. Their filling operation did seem a bit antiquated perhaps, with several lines going from a split with a single pressure gauge rather than a true filling bank as I've seen before. However, normal process was to check both tank pressures before the boat left so there was never a problem with under/overfills that couldn't be rectified in minutes.

    The one downside that many here may see is how they handle each dive. Dives are done in small groups with a DM guide leading the group. The dive is based on the first to reach 800-1000 PSI in the group (regardless of how the rest are faring on their air) or based on target time of 40-45 minutes. Given that I'm a new diver and an air hog, it didn't impact us that much as I was always the one to turn the dive. Of course I felt bad, but everyone was happy to be up to the boat first and get the dibs on the snacks (cookies, pastries, fruit, ect. from resort...MUCH better than the normal chips and rice crispy treats I've seen elsewhere). Also, they limit people to two dives per day. It does seem like the DMs/Instructors can adjust that to add a PM or night dive as well, but we were more than content with just the two in the morning, then beach/pool in the afternoon.

    As for the sites, the reefs were vibrant and the wrecks sweet as well. The two capstone dives for us was a rippin' dive at Shark Reef on the Atlantic side of the island in a 3kt current, and a dive of the MV Shakem which bottomed out at ~105'. There was the normal variety of reef fish everywhere, along with two ray sightings, several nurse sharks, stonefishes, lizardfishes, and a turtle that buzzed us on the first mentioned dive above.

    Pictures can be seen here. This was our first use of the new camera/strobe, so you'll see a wide variety of quality - sorry for that. :oops: Getting the strobe power dialed in was harder than I expected, especially when I turn the dial the exact opposite way for a whole dive before figuring out why everything was washed out. Also early on we didn't understand the strobe wasn't firing in Auto mode. But hey...we're learning the whole UW photography thing, so I'm quite pleased with most of the latter photos. Any exceptional pics were taken by me, the rest by the Mrs. :rofl3:

    Feel free to reply with any questions/etc. or PM with them and I'll be happy answer.

    Now to start the countdown for Negril....114 days... :clearmask:
     
  2. drrich2

    drrich2 Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Southwestern Kentucky
    8,146
    5,523
    113
    Glad to see your review; divers come to the table with a range of interests, so while a pampered romantic getaway with included diving isn't the most common agenda, it exists. Glad you guys had a good time.

    I've never been to Grenada. IIRC, it's said to be scenic topside, too. Did you get 'off the reservation' any, look around the island?

    Richard.
     
  3. BalekFekete

    BalekFekete Nassau Grouper

    # of Dives: 25 - 49
    Location: Philadelphia, PA
    147
    101
    43
    This was a test for us on two fronts. First, we have been predominately cruisers but wanted to try the all inclusive as a way of comparing the vacation experiences. It exceeded my expectations on every front. Then, it was also a test for my wife on how she would 'tolerate' a dive vacation i.e. one where the primary (if not sole) purpose was diving. We dove five straight days - first two days on site had the diving closed down due to weather - but it was perfect. Two tank dives in the morning, then lunch and some beach/pool/etc. in the afternoon and dinner and entertainment in the evening.

    As for checking out the island, the only time we saw that were on the days we were bussed over to the marina when the local mooring was too rough for the boat to tie up on at the beach. Quaint little island between the airport and the St. George's city proper with the slow island vibe resonating strongly. We'd likely explore the island a little more next time, but for this trip we were just soaking up the resort life.
     
    chillyinCanada and drrich2 like this.
  4. drrich2

    drrich2 Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Southwestern Kentucky
    8,146
    5,523
    113
    My little crew, too, like to cruise. Jan. 2019 we joined the Scuba Board Surge event at Sunscapes Resort Curacao, an A.I. resort, for similar reasons to what you describe; a family trip where I could dive and the rest enjoy the resort, plus I could spend time with them after diving. And I was curious how it could compare to a cruise.

    I would throw out one thing, with the caveat that we're mainstream family cruisers - Royal Caribbean ships (not Cunard, Azamara, Silversea, etc...). Cruising seems cheaper to me. Whenever I price Beaches (Sandal's affiliated line that caters to families; Sandals excludes rug rats), despite the opening page invariably acting like there's this big, big sale on (if one is on all the time, is it really a sale?), when I crunch the numbers, it comes out pricy.

    One thing that may be a factor is booze. I don't drink alcohol. My wife might have a very occasional margarita. IIRC, some A.I. places assume you're going to drink alcohol (which is pricey), and build that into their cost structure. With Royal Caribbean cruises, you can pay per alcohol drink or buy one of their drink packages to cover it.

    One word for families with kids; the idea of a sandy beach practically at your door may sound great in theory, but if your kids are young enough to require supervision around water bodies and love it so much they want to be there hours on end...well, the practical reality may be a bit different.

    Either can be enjoyed, and I'm glad you got to try both. Out of curiosity, when you factor in cost, which do you anticipate doing more of...cruising or Sandals?
     
    Redfoot likes this.
  5. BalekFekete

    BalekFekete Nassau Grouper

    # of Dives: 25 - 49
    Location: Philadelphia, PA
    147
    101
    43
    Before we booked our next vacation, we were weighing several different options - from cruising (we’re also RCI folk) to an AirBnB and self-made itineraries, to the all-inclusive again. We ruled out the AirBnB idea as ... to be honest ... I just didn’t want to have to plan anything. Now, normally the cruise would come out ahead financially as well...

    But......

    Few notes of where our situations differ. First, my whole family is of age and inclination to enjoy the libations while on vacation, so that jacks the cruise price up considerably when at $70/pp/day. Group of six means almost $3k alone there.

    Then, there’s a total of four divers in my family. So figuring about $150/pp/day of diving. Do the math for five days of diving and it’s another value of another $3k.

    All the sudden, from a financial apples-to-apples consideration it becomes awfully close for us.

    What tipped the scale then came to better food, less crowded feelings, and the ability to have a beach/ocean at your front door. Entertainment is better on the cruises, but when you’re diving everyday we’re too beat to enjoy it anyways. :D I think we’ll be hitting up the Sandals for a few cycles before our next cruise. Jamaica is next with the family, and then likely Turks & Caicos for my wife and I in 2021 (unless of course ScubaBoards posts something great for next year :wink:).
     
    drrich2 likes this.
  6. chillyinCanada

    chillyinCanada Solo Diver Staff Member

    19,484
    12,986
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    You might as well enjoy it now because as you become more addicted to diving, you may find yourselves becoming more fussy about what's under the water than accommodations and table service.

    When you can get it all, you've hit the jackpot.
     
    ScubaWithTurk and Redfoot like this.
  7. Redfoot

    Redfoot Regular of the Pub

    # of Dives: 25 - 49
    Location: Detroit, Michigan
    155
    142
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    Thanks for the review- Friends of ours honeymooned at that property and loved it. They are non-divers, but they enjoyed the snorkeling.

    The Turks & Caicos resort is a Beaches operation (more kids!), and while I have not stayed there, we did walk by it daily on the beach both times I have been down. It appeared to be a very well run and attractive operation, with the dive boats going out in the morning and afternoon if I remember correctly. They also offered SNUBA, Hobie Catamaran boat rides, kayaks and some other beach activities that would be great for families. I believe they also have a huge water-park. The diving in T & C will be a little deeper, but you will have a good chance of seeing sharks, turtles and stingrays on several dives. They always do huge black friday sales, so if you are looking for 2021 that may be a good time to book!
     
  8. mcohen1021

    mcohen1021 Manta Ray

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Texas
    978
    499
    63
    Did they require you to take AoW to take you on dives deeper than 60’? Just wondering if that is a standard requirement across all Sandals. Either way, you did good taking the class - Negril Sandals WILL require an AoW for dives deeper than 60. The fact that my wife had dozens of recent dives between 60 and 140 did not matter.
     
  9. BalekFekete

    BalekFekete Nassau Grouper

    # of Dives: 25 - 49
    Location: Philadelphia, PA
    147
    101
    43
    This was our first Sandals resort, let alone our first all-inclusive, and one thing struck us pretty quickly - everyone we talked to were returning visitors, with most having visited multiple sites. It bode well that the chain as a whole is run in a simliar fashion, and we have high hopes for Negril. The kids at the Beaches in T&C won't bother us all that much, but we will definately do some research to make sure there are at least some areas that are adult only where we can retreat if needed. :D

    Booking onsite before we left got us a really great deal, and I'll imagine the same will be true in May for next year. First they go straight to the 'real' prices, not the inflated list price that they then take 55 or 65% off in an advertisement. Then they take the going discount (in the case of the Negril trip, 7%) and lop that off. Then we were granted another 5% off for paying it off in full. Upgraded room for the Mrs. and I ran just a tad over $3k for the week. Taking into account 5 dive days x 2 people x $150ish when going at a traditional dive op...half of that is paid back just in the value of the diving. Can't really knock it! :D

    Yes, if you didn't have AOW they wouldn't take you on a deep dive. On the last dive day we were there, the boat actually did two separate drops for the first dive - one for the AOWs that wanted to do a wreck at 100', and the rest to a neighboring reef under 60'. Class was WELL worth the money as the wreck we saw was fabulous!
     
    Redfoot likes this.
  10. mcohen1021

    mcohen1021 Manta Ray

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Texas
    978
    499
    63
    For T&C, I will make the following recommendations:

    1. Club Med Turquise was awesome – and significantly cheaper than Beaches and kid free!! Drinks were great and made to order. I admit, I had to re-educate the bartenders on how to make a GREAT margarita, but I also saw every guest ordering it my way after that.
    2. Flamingo Divers for your scuba. They will even pick you up @ the hotel and drop you off. Mickey and Jayne are AWESOME. I had to dive with another operator the final day and it was not good (I’ll leave it at that).
    3. All inclusive will be cheaper than not. If anyone thinks Grand Cayman is expensive, wait till you go to an offsite restaurant in Provo and 4 drinks and 2 appetizers runs you $95 – not joking. It was the best $8 Corona of my life - Haha


    Sandals has great food, and I detest buffets… Negril’s Samdals is amazing. Great food, great scuba operation, and they even include waterskiing, although free skiing on the ocean with inferior equipment is not for me - I did it to say I did it.

    Sandals class cost was also reasonable. Yes it was more expensive by about ($50 at home) BUT….

    1. You’re on vacation with no distractions
    2. No murky cold Texas lake diving
    3. No lugging of gear for a shore dive
     
    ReadyTo Dive likes this.

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