Carrie Cecil Dispels the Sandals Resorts’ Myth and Offers Insider Tips for Turks & Caicos

 

Getting excited to land and hit the beach

Getting excited to land and hit the beach

Having been blessed enough to travel the globe working on movie sets or on speaking or book tours for my latest novel, One Sunday, I have gotten a tad spoiled with some exotic locations and magnificent accommodations, {not that I haven’t spent my time double-bunked at a Holiday Inn outside Martinsville, VA. while at a NASCAR race}. But after experiencing resorts like the Amanipuri in Phuket, Thailand, my bar has been unreasonably raised for a certain level of service and ambience.

Being a working mom with an NFL coaching hubby our family down together time is precious, so I always try to scout out fantastic locales that are luxurious while affordable and kid-friendly while offering romantic interludes. Good luck with that!

Having a lunch break!

Having a lunch break!

I confess my hoity-toity get-away prerequisite because when I saw pictures of my good friend and sister-NFL wife, Tracy Olsen’s latest vacation, I was intrigued by the white sand, clear blue water and plethora of activities that she and her husband Benji’s children Wyatt {9} and Olivia {7} were experiencing. When she told me it was a Beaches by Sandals Resort in Turks & Caicos, I fell out of my chair as I had envisioned Beaches all-inclusive resorts, as a sort of land-locked bad cruise ship with hoards of bland buffet food, polyester bed covers and cruddy entertainment. I am a fun foodie who needs a certain thread count and peace and quiet. But Tracy has lavish, delightful travel taste, so if she liked it, it couldn’t be bad.

Located on the stunning Grace Bay in Provincials, Turks & Caicos Islands the accommodations at the resort are sold-out almost a year in advance; it was nothing short of a trip miracle that we landed a room this Spring Break. Once relaxed and settled in, I was on a mission to discover all of the secret ins-and-outs of the resort and believe me there are plenty.

Getting braids on the beach!

Getting braids on the beach!

The People: For me one of the treats of the property was getting a sneak peek behind the scenes at the employees. Although you can hear the personnel speaking anything from English, French, Spanish, Italian, German, Swiss, Creole to even Dutch, most of the people I met were local, “Islanders,” who have either grown up in Turks and have no desire to leave paradise, or they have left to attend a university in the United States, and returned.

They are kind and warm and are dedicated to not only the resort but to making sure that the guests on the island are at peace and happy. They have a mentality that if you don’t have something you want, they will help find it for you. Now, they greatly discourage tipping {which made me incredibly uncomfortable when someone went out of their way to bring me Band Aids or a cookie for my daughter}, but there are some people that are “okay,” to tip at the Red Lane Spa or the…

Mr. Belvedere: If you’re in the mood to have the VIP treatment there are suites that offer personal butlers. Yes, a butler where your every wish, {within legal and moral standards} is their command. From unpacking, shopping, decorating pool cabanas or setting up a romantic meal at sunset on the beach, these white glove, suit and tie professionally trained English Butlers will pamper you 24/7 with an uncompromising attention to detail.

It’s insane to watch them work! Besides the resort fee, bring cash to tip them. The going rate is around $50.00 US to $150.00 US per day in tips. I spoke to a family that had been coming to the resort for over six years and requested the same butler each year. The mother told me their butler was like family to their children and they looked forward to spending time with him each year.

Make sure and ask for a king bed!

Make sure and ask for a king bed!

Your Space: Stretching over 65 acres and more than 614 rooms, the resort is made up of three distinct areas: the Caribbean VillageFrench Village and Italian Village. In May, they will open the lavish Key West Village, which is an ideal facelift and renovation of a newly acquired property next door formerly known as The Veranda. I got a quick tour of the property and they have done terrific additions but there is still much to do. I am enthused by the setting and look forward to seeing the finished product.

Here’s what I can tell you: You get what you pay for when it comes to room style, size and luxury. There are more affordable, basic rooms in the older villages {Caribbean and French}, which do need a little updating {from renovated bathrooms and furniture touch ups to new bedding.} Now, that being said there are wonderful updated suites that I visited on the waterfront and garden areas of the Caribbean Village. Additionally the French Village offers lovely suites if you’re looking for a more quiet area away from the comings-and-goings of the resort. Clearly the Italian Village is the more prestigious of the existing villages, as it is fresher and its mahogany built-in bunk beds for the kids are amazing. So depending on your taste and budget you can find what you need on-site. What is terrific about the resort is that no matter what village you stay in you can go to any pool or restaurant in any village so there is no village-class-warfare. Honestly, you’re not in your room that much.

Daddy getting his workout!

Daddy getting his workout!

Your kids will never say, “I’m bored!”: From the pools, water park, kids camp(s), lazy river, Xbox & game rooms to the limitless pool games and activities on the beach, we did it all!

At your fingertips there are paddle boards, water bikes, snorkel equipment and ocean kayaks to choose from at anytime free of charge. You can get a local Sandals beach employee to give you anything from Hobie Cat sailboat to windsurfing lessons. We fell in love with a wonderful beach crew member named “Jean,” who we nicknamed, Jean-the-Machine because he never stopped showing us interesting nuances to do the water. You can always purchase excellent sailing tours.

We went aboard a catamaran dubbed, Kitty-Katt and sailed around the turquoise island and stopped on a remote private beach to hunt for conch shells and iguanas. On our way back to Grace Bay my husband jumped off the catamaran to snorkel and came face-to-face with a dolphin! I am not sure who was more shocked! There are also parasailing teams and water tubing guys always afoot if you want to keep your heart racing!

After sunset: There are events on property from beach parties, talent shows for kids to native island bands and character parades almost any given night of the week if you’re looking for things to do with your family. I met a gentleman who oversees all the restaurants, Nick, and was shocked to find that they had sixteen specialty dining options with everything from Caribbean to Japanese, Italian to French, Seafood to Sushi. Don’t miss the Japanese spot, Kimonos, and sit with a chef named, Cookie.

He belted out great Bob Marley tunes and let my daughter, Charli, get in the cooking mix! Also try Barefoot by the Sea, as it’s delightful for breakfast or sunset dinners. We had a fabulous meal at the ‘grown ups only’ Le Petit Chateau if you’re looking for a night sans kids. Late night you can hit Bobby Dees, a 1950s-style diner for milk shakes and ice cream! Do not leave without trying the local conch salad or jerk pork.

My mouth is watering from the tasty spices. You can purchase all levels of wine or champagne if you’re looking for something extra for a special occasion.

The 4th floor suites have my name on them!

The 4th floor suites have my name on them!

Inside tips:

  1. Before you go buy a VIP airport pass. When getting to the airport to go home it can take up to two hours standing in lines. I’m used to LAX security, but this was worse than Thanksgiving travel. The VIP pass gets you to the front of both the baggage check-in and security lines and offers a lounge in the waiting area! Money well spent if you’re in a hurry or don’t want to wait three hours standing with your kids in the heat. Tip your guys!
  2. Bring cash! Mostly singles and five-dollar bills for tipping various personnel off property and some on. They have a safe in every room but no ATM machine on the property.
  3. When you check-in, get: 1) a list of restaurants 2) a list of the nightly activities for kids and families. You do not want to miss out because you didn’t know.
  4. Try the Signature West Indian Massage at the Red Lane Spa; with therapist named, Girly, she is amazing. Also, you can use the spa hot and cold dips without paying for the spa services and it makes a nice after beach quiet break away from kiddos.
  5. If at the Italian Village pool, get to your seat early as they fill up fast! I mean early, 7:00 a.m. Also if you can swing it, reserve a cabana for one day. It’s a fun treat to have if you want extra service poolside.
  6. Looking for something to read besides my book, pick up a copy of the book by Founder and Chairman of Sandals Resorts, Gordon “Butch” Stewart. Born in Kingston, Jamaica, he grew up along Jamaica’s north coast and it is an amazing story of how he rose from rags to riches up the ranks with hard work and an island philosophy. Love that local island story made good!
  7. The biggest challenge I had with the resort was their branding. Although I have never been to another Beaches Resort, Turks & Caicos is clearly a gold mine for them. I believe there is a “stigma,” that the brand is not prestigious enough for the high-end traveler, even though it has won many family travel awards. It’s not cheap to go.

At peak season it can range from around $6,500.00 US up to over $45,000.00 US  a week {depending on occupancy} – and I’m low guessing based on travel agent rates. Now, you can find sales online if you’re watching, but they do have blackout dates. For that kind of money as well as the yummy food and categories of services, I am surprised that some of my friends turned up their noses when I told them where we were going.

Being brave in Turks!

Being brave in Turks!

Thus, I am here to dispel the myth! Is it the Aman? No. But I wouldn’t take my eight-year-old to the Aman nor would they have the limitless activities at your fingertips that the resort offered free of charge. It is a family resort located on one of the most beautiful islands I have seen and depending on your budget you can make it what you want!

Ranking: FOR FAMILIES ONLY: Touch Down or Fumble? Touchdown!

Been to one of the Sandals Resorts? What was your experience? Or tell me what your favorite family get-away is? Please share your tips with me at Carrie at Traveling Grace or find me at Carrie Gerlach Cecil.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carrie Cecil

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About the Author

Carrie Cecil
Carrie Gerlach Cecil has been creating literary, television, film, online and live content for over a decade. A sample of her works includes the novels "One Sunday" and "Emily's Reasons Why Not," which was adapted into a single camera comedy for ABC that she co-produced. She and her daughter, Charli, created the book "Charli & Wilbur: A Dancing Dog's Dream" and the web-television adventure, The Glamper Girls. Cecil contributed to New York Times editor Richard Sandomir’s book "The Enlightened Bracketologist: The Final Four of Everything" and penned the highly sought-after memoir "Dancing For The Devil" with Anny Donewald. She's written for the Huffington Post among others. Cecil is married to St. Louis Rams defensive coach Chuck Cecil. For more information, visit carriegerlachcecil.com.

4 Comments on "Carrie Cecil Dispels the Sandals Resorts’ Myth and Offers Insider Tips for Turks & Caicos"

  1. It sounds amazing. I will have to pop in before I leave Europe. Thank you

  2. Your article was a touchdown, Carrie. I enjoyed your evaluation of the resort. It’s the one Beaches Resort i haven’t been to yet. It’s the Beaches Flagship!

  3. Just came back from thre as a TRAVEL AGENCY owner seeing it for the first time
    everything you said …right on I might comment on the redo of many of the rooms and also that the VERNACDA resort was a full condo resort there are kitchens but they are not allowing cooking YET !!! great for familys who snac and need a bigger fridge for keeping soda /juices / water etc loved the entire place .. yes the CARIBBEAN VILLAGE is older ( once called BAY VILLAS RESORTS with littel casitas ( 2 to a bldg ) but the best place to be for budget and close to all the kid things older Tweens and teens do great in the ITALIAN VILLAGE and that pool … WOW !!

  4. how do you get the VIP airport pass??

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