Montreal Gazette

How do you elevate luxury? Sandals Royal Curaçao knows


Sandals, the influentia­l resort group known for extravagan­t couples' holidays, has outdone itself with its new Caribbean property, Sandals Royal Curaçao, on a blissful island of the Dutch Antilles.

It's a heavenly tropical estate where stone pathways wind through vivid gardens and skyhigh palm trees, linking lodging, lively restaurant­s and bars, a beach on a tranquil bay and many swimming pools.

What I like best is the freedom to craft your own vacation. If you are after romance and solitude, you can dine à deux on the beach or cocoon in an intimate waterfront villa. If you are sociable, you can mingle at martini parties or team up for hilarious pool games. Active guests can tackle Hobie cat sailing, scuba diving, tennis, and for a fee, golf. Or they can achieve peak relaxation at Red Lane Spa, which offers nearly 40 beauty and body treatments.

Sandals has 351 deluxe rooms and suites with different price points, amenities and settings. The decor is an ocean-inspired design of aqua and sand. The furniture and fittings are all top-drawer. Whatever the accommodat­ions, the mini-bar is restocked daily.

New in Curaçao: The property is marking its first anniversar­y in June and inaugurati­ng new features. The estate is built around the brand's first two-level infinity pool, a glass wonder that also is an exuberant social hub poolside seating, arrange celebratio­ns or even deliver breakfast in bed.

“Our concept is `luxury-included,' which is different than a mass `all-inclusive' vacation,” general manager Kevin Clarke said. “We are proud of our elevated cuisine, exceptiona­l accommodat­ions and top-drawer facilities.”

Luxury comes in big and small measures. The water sports equipment, such as the impressive 40-foot Newton scuba dive boat, is the among finest on the market. There are niceties in the guest rooms such as satin hangers and the famous Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee.

Sandals is rife with incentives, too. While you are lazing at the pool, a host might present a popup boutique gift voucher. When you book your vacation, you might score an extra night if it's your anniversar­y.

The resort offers unlimited premium-brand drinks, so there are swim-up bars, breezy beach huts, sun-dappled loggias and plush lounges, all serving flashy cocktails like the Mango Margarita or Electric Lemonade. Sandals even will orchestrat­e a wedding from ceremony to honeymoon, including flowers, food, drinks, officiant and a photo, at no extra charge.

“It is our employees who make the experience outstandin­g,” said Clarke, who started as a busboy and has worked at 11 of Sandals' 17 Caribbean resorts.

“We have 700 to 900 staff members of 120 nationalit­ies taking care of up to 700 guests.”

Everyone I met — maintenanc­e people, housekeepe­rs, entertaine­rs — was good-natured, resourcefu­l and helpful.

Dining: The three new seaside food trucks are already a hit, dishing up Asian bowls, Curaçao treats and Spanish tapas.

The restaurant lineup starts with the flagship, Butch's Island Chop House, named for Sandals' Jamaican founder Butch Stewart, plus newbies Gatsu Gatsu for sushi; Strand for seafood; Zuka for Latin; Kanaal for Dutch crepes and divine pastries; and Pietra for buffets and pizza.

Vincent — the winner for gastronomy — goes European with mushroom bisque, foie gras, duck à l'orange and beef Bordelaise. Aolos, the prettiest venue, is an open-air bistro overlookin­g the sparkling bay and pastel sunsets Choice dishes include Mediterran­ean sea bass, lamb and octopus.

 ?? SANDALS ROYAL CURAÇAO ?? The new Sandals Royal Curaçao takes the brand's luxury up a notch, with elevated dining, multiple swimming pools, a Caribbean beachfront and elegant suites and villas.
SANDALS ROYAL CURAÇAO The new Sandals Royal Curaçao takes the brand's luxury up a notch, with elevated dining, multiple swimming pools, a Caribbean beachfront and elegant suites and villas.
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