Jamaica: Sandals Royal Caribbean
Our time in Jamaica was the much anticipated grand finale of our February getaway. It's safe to say: It exceeded every one of our ridiculously high expectations - the kind of expectations that come with the territory of paying an extravagantly hefty price tag.
When we were first discussing where the destination(s) for our trip would be, Jamaica wasn't even on our radar. That is until Nazari had a video shoot in Equador last spring where he met one of the head pastry chefs at Sandals and that all changed. The chef shared how amazing the food and experience was at the Sandals resorts and Nazari was sold. After returning home, he immediately began researching every Sandals, talking on the phone with customer service, and honing in on where we would go. In the midst of his research, he stumbled upon the Bungalows located in Jamaica, and he knew without a doubt that was where we HAD to stay. The catch?! Those bungalows aren't just not cheap, they are outrageously expensive. Like laugh-out-loud-that-is-never-happening-ever kind of expensive.
Right away, I declared that there was absolutely NO way, no how, that we could swing a stay in one of these bungalows. But Nazari did not give up. He researched other over the water bungalows, and even if pricing was comparable, they tended to be across the world. The fact that these were in Jamaica seemed too good to be true. However, the price tag still seemed confirm it was out of the question. That is - until we had the light bulb idea to look into a split stay. While there was no way we could, or would, spend the money to stay in a bungalow for a week, mayyyyyyybe, just maybe, we could swing it for just a couple of days.
After a few phone calls, it was confirmed - they were totally okay with split stays. We scoured the internet for the absolute cheapest room available at Sandals for the majority of our stay, and placed the couple nights in the over water bungalow at the very end of our trip. Our grand finale was the first thing booked. We could stay four nights on the resort property, and then Sandals staff would transfer our bags for our remaining nights in the bungalow.
Now we have to be honest - the price tag for even just a couple nights was audacious. Would we do it again? Definitely not. Was it worth every penny to experience it once? Abso-freaking-lutely.
(Note: It still took an intense amount of saving, and we also used travel rewards for free airfare, which certainly helped).
After having a lovely time in Jamaica at Sandals Royal Caribbean, the day finally came to upgrade our room. We were so giddy with excitement, we could hardly contain ourselves. The resort we were at the first few days had a view looking directly into the crystal clear water that was the home to Royal Caribbean's heart shaped luxury bungalows. We had been fantasizing about this moment for MONTHS and became certain that we were bound to be disappointed - because high expectations often tend to be a recipe for disaster.
We had to wait a few hours in limbo for our room to be ready - but in the interim we were greeted by our own personal butler. She took us across the water to the island that the bungalows connect to, to wait in a private cabana she had set up just for us. She brought us drinks and a cooler and it was absolutely ridiculous in the best way. We sat in the cozy cabana looking out at the wooded huts wondering which would be ours. (Naz had called like every single day to request a sunset/ocean view).
At last, the moment arrived. We were escorted to the most exotic place we have every been and just kept giggling because we felt like super frauds and couldn't get over what was happening. The door to our hut opened and I think our jaws hit the floor. There was a small kitchenette you walked through before entering the open suite. At first it just felt like a very nice hotel room. That is, a nice hotel room that had a glass cut out in the floor that showcased the water. Whhhhat?! And then, the butler opened all the doors at the front of the room and suddenly we could walk straight out to our balcony and straight into the ocean. We actually did that one day: Snorkeled straight from our balcony to the bar for a drink :)
There was a giant smart tv in the room, which was very cool - but we had both agreed early on that we didn't want to watch any tv or waste a second of our time there. (Okay okay, the first night we DID watch The Bachelor ;)
Noteworthy: In our average day to day life, Nazari and are both extremely extroverted and LOVE spending time with people every chance we get - but on vacation we both turn into total antisocial hermits that like to keep to ourselves and not meet anyone. So this private oasis was literally a dream come true. We savor time together to get lost in conversation, reading the same book, napping, eating, enjoying the most epic outdoor tub we've ever seen, and doing so on repeat. We did consider that for those that tend to gear toward activity and recreation - you might get a liiiiiitle antsy - even in paradise. The good news: the bungalows are interconnected with the three in one resort set up - so you can still go to any shows or restaurants that you want. There is a private boat that takes you to and fro the mainland, and a restaurant on the island that the bungalow boardwalk connects to. However - with having the split stay, we made sure to max out on restaurant, entertainment, and activities because once we got to the bungalow, we did not ever want to leave. Bless our butler's heart - we pretty much dined in for every single meal.
If not staying at the bungalows, I don't know that we would highly recommend Sandals Royal Caribbean. The weather and views are absolutely incredible. The food is delicious! And the all inclusive keeps it stress free. It is SO nice to never need to have your wallet.
That said - this particular resort felt a little crowded, likely because it was pretty small, and it definitely felt a little more "party vibe" then quiet and romantic at many points - at least the resort we were at. It was also a little dated, and had an older crowd. However- the landscaping was GORGEOUS - and there was so much to do. Including brand new tennis courts, paddle boards, kayaking, snorkeling, and so much more. Plus it has the view of the bungalows - and even if not staying there, they sure do look fancy!
Royal Caribbean is part of a three in one special though. They offer a free shuttle (10 minutes!) to take you between resorts. We did spend a day at Sandals Montego Bay and from what we saw there - may have liked it a little more. It's a LOT bigger, with outdoor basketball courts on the beach (where we had a ton of fun placing HORSE :) and additional restaurants.
Both resorts are VERY close to the airport - so just a heads up that the planes taking off are pretty dang loud and noticeable. It doesn't ruin anything, but you will definitely notice them - especially at Montego Bay. (We have never been to any other Sandals resorts, but we had a mother of a bride tell us that she and her husband have been to Sandals 12 times (!!!) and their favorite resort is Emerald Bay.)
Our final takeaway is that there are rooms on the Sandals property that you can splurge for with outdoor tubs, and pool access. While that is neat in theory, they are not private. Any guest or employee can walk right by at any time. So in our opinion? It isn't necessarily worth splurging for a a major room upgrade on the main property - particularly if you want a more romantic and secluded getaway. We'd highly recommend getting the most affordable room available - as regardless of your room - you still get all of the all inclusive benefits (and still a pretty decent room!). Then - splurge on a night or two in your own private bungalow! It's a little crazy, but it was such a fun investment into our marriage, the time away alone together did wonders for our soul and relationship, and it's an experience together that we will never forget.