Butler service makes St. Lucia stay extra comfy
Sandals Regency La Toc has lots of dining options and friendly cats roaming
“Welcome to Paradise.”
That was the common and accurate greeting from the friendly and efficient staff at Sandals Regency La Toc in St. Lucia.
This tropical Eastern Caribbean island, volcanic in origin, is a former British colony (alternating between French and British rule 14 times) with a population of only 180,000. It’s a long drive — about 90 minutes — from the international airport to the first of three Sandals resorts but the hilly rain forest topography with its bamboo and fern trees, banana plantations and small fishing villages are fascinating.
Our resort had 330 rooms spread out on a lush 220 acre property that includes a nine-hole golf course. Our room was a beautifully designed one bedroom suite with a modern, bright bathroom, fourposter king size bed, two giant LED TVs, a bar with high-end spirits and a fridge stocked daily with bottled water, pop and beer.
Best of all was the terrace with a private plunge pool and two butlers — trained by the Guild of Professional English Butlers — whose main job was to pamper us and look after our needs and welfare. They even drove us to dinner in a golf cart, if we wished. A bonus at the resort (since we’re cat lovers) is the f act that 50 friendly felines roam freely around the property and often drop by the open-air restaurants and guests’ balconies to say hello.
The main buffet restaurant at Sandals La Loc is The Pavilion, a huge, open-air dining area adjacent to the beach and main pool. But the resort has eight other “no extra cost” specialty restaurants. On the first night we enjoyed Neptunes, a seafood specialty house right by the beach and its pounding surf. Unfortunately all the fish is prefrozen (apparently it’s difficult to obtain a reliable stream of fresh fish) but it was tasty and served by a friendly staff.
The most formal restaurant was La Toc, where white-gloved waiters offer an array of French specialties like escargot, Cornish hen and chateaubriand. The food was excellent but the portions were very small and not attractively presented.
Our most unusual meal was at the Italian restaurant, Armando’s. A great setting on a bluff but the food was disappointing. Sandra ordered a New York strip steak, medium rare. When it arrived it was less than a centimetre thick and obviously well done. A replacement was better cooked but only slightly thicker. The osso buco John wanted was not available but they substituted poor quality pork ribs. Armando’s chef, a native of India, arrived and agreed that our food was not ideal. But when he learned that we loved Indian cuisine he urged us to come back and he would prepare a special Indian feast for us. We did return on our last night and it was fabulous.
Another culinary highlight was the weekly Street Party, a joyful evening with great entertainment (including stilt walkers and limbo dancers) and an array of wonderful St. Lucian specialties like roast suckling pig, goat curry, ackee and salt fish and oxtail stew. It was also a great way to mingle with and meet other guests.
The sandy beach at Sandals La Toc was excellent but was redflagged for high surf every day we were there.
A free shuttle takes guests to the two other nearby Sandals resorts. At the Grande St. Lucian the beach is superb with gentle waves. It’s ideal for guests who love ocean swimming. In addition, we spent a few hours at Sandals Halcyon Beach, a smaller, more laid-back resort where no building rises higher than the palm trees. Its layout, including Kelly’s Dockside, a restaurant extending 150 feet over the water, was impressive.
One day we joined Island Routes for an excursion called the Soufriere Adventure. We boarded a catamaran for a pleasant sail along St. Lucia’s west coast, past the majestic Pitons (twin volcanic cones that are the country’s key landmark), ending up in Soufriere, the former French capital of the island.
A bus transferred us to a sugar, coconut and cocoa plantation where we learned about the island’s history and tasted fresh cocoa beans. An authentic Creole lunch was followed by a visit to the world’s only drive-in volcano (still steaming, it last erupted in 1766). On the return catamaran, we visited the tranquil community of Marigot Bay (“Dr. Doolittle” was filmed here).
Sandals guests tend to remain very loyal to the brand and it’s easy to see why. In f act some visitors come for two weeks or more and take the brief plane hop from St. Lucia to stay for a few days at Sandals resorts on nearby Antigua, Grenada and Barbados.
Several tempting freshwater pools are spread along the Sandals La Toc resort in St. Lucia. The resort also has a sandy beach.
Aboard an Island Routes catamaran approaching St. Lucia’s famous Pitons.