Category Archives: All Inclusive

All-Inclusive resorts and food explained

The star rating on resorts can be a bit confusing, at best.  Some decidedly 4 star resorts tout themselves as 5 stars.  Some 2 stars call themselves “luxury” (but how they can do it with a straight face baffles me).

All-inclusive resorts, as you may know, provide meals, snacks, drinks, and some activities in their stay.  Some resorts are fully all-inclusive, while others have the all-inclusive plan as an option.  There can be great variation in the inclusive components of a package.  For example, Sandals Resorts and Couples Resorts provide some snorkeling, scuba, and even golf as a “given” for all guests.  But that’s not a standard, and at the all-inclusive resorts in Mexico, this is usually an additional fee.

But I promised to explain the food program, so here it goes.  All-inclusive resorts can save money by providing food en masse, skipping any sort of “made to order” approach.  This is the secret to the CHEAP (3 star or less) all-inclusive resorts.  Food service is limited to buffets. At the less desirable resorts, the guests’ goal at the lunch buffet is to skim through the shriveled hot dogs, stale nachos, and mystery meat to find enough to fill your tummy.  Not appetizing?  I agree, and for that reason, I just don’t sell these resorts.

The BETTER resorts ( 3 1/2 star to 4 star) have a combination of buffets and a la carte restaurants.  They put more pride in the buffets, and you can actually have great meals dining on buffets alone.  While they offer a la carte restaurants, they are cleverly and annoyingly capacity controlled, so you have to line up at a predetermined time to get a reservation at one of these small a la carte venues.  It’s reminiscent of a Soviet Union bread line, and definitely a short-coming of these resorts.

The BEST resorts (4 1/2 star to 5 star) understand that cuisine can set them apart, and pride in their dining shows.  At these resorts, the focus is more on the specialty/a la carte restaurants, with some buffet restaurants more as a convenience and less as a way to serve the masses.  While you may need to wait for a table at prime dining hour, it’s not that long a wait (or there’s another a la carte dining option available).  You don’t get a sense that you have to jump through a hoop today for tomorrow’s dinner reservation.

Happy Travels!

~Cindy Grant, ReconnectTravel.com 972-625-6200

Why you should use a travel agent to book Sandals Resorts

I was recently marveling — to myself — at how much variation there is among the Sandals and Beaches Resorts, located in the Caribbean.  I can count 8 of the Sandals/Beaches Resorts I’ve personally stayed at or inspected, and I can certainly remember each one distinctly.

Each one also has its own uniqueness…the energy level, the menus (though I never had a bad meal at any of them), the charm of the resort overall.  The only thing they really had in common was with the logo located in the pool!

I’d never send a luxury, mid-forties couple to Sandals Montego Bay.  And I’d never send an energetic, nightlife-loving young couple to Sandals Grande Emerald Bay.  Beaches Boscobel is disappointing at best, while Beaches Turks and Caicos will blow your socks off (provided of course you are in the right section of the resort).

And yet, I hear people from time to time treating Sandals/Beaches like they are interchangeable.  ”Oh I don’t want to go to any Sandals in St. Lucia.  My sister went to one in Jamaica and she said it was too loud.”  Or, “We loved how much there was to do at Beaches Turks/Caicos last year, so this year Jim and I want to stay at Sandals Carlyle Inn.”

This is where the experience and knowledge of your travel agent really pays off.  See, these resorts are NOT interchangeable.  To make things more confusing, Sandals/Resorts do not allow their wholesalers to RANK the resorts, so you don’t know if you’re talking 3 stars, 4 stars, or 5 stars (which is truly the range that they cover).  Travel review sites aren’t really that helpful, because the reviews are generally written by folks with LIMITED experience of the Sandals brand as a whole.  Sandals/Beaches has more room categories than Subway has sandwich combinations. And they are forever changing the room names too, I think just for fun.

So, what’s my point?  Use a travel agent!  So, off my soap box…