Sunday, November 13, 2011

Flying high above Jamaica in 007 Sandals style

One of the items on my bucket list has been to tour Jamaica "off the beaten track." I envision renting a car and driving around the island seeing all the out of the way places that the average tourist never gets to see. The idea is always nixed because Jamaicans drive on the other side of he road. I tried that once in Australia..........

In my wildest dreams I never expected to tour Jamaica up in the air, but that's what happened when I visited Sandals Grande Riviera last month in Ocho Rios. Sandals Chairman Butch Stewart generously provided his private helicopter for a spectacular tour of the island and a stop at Sandals Whitehouse for lunch. To see Jamaica from the ground is gorgeous, but from the sky.....words can't describe.

After taking off from Ian Fleming International Airport (yes, the James Bond Ian Fleming) we flew over the beautiful North Jamaica coastline, Sandals Grande Riviera, Sandals Royal Plantation, the Appleton Rum sugarcane fields and the YS Falls. Francis, our expert pilot, got us all helicopterized in no time.  It may not be in the dictionary, but he did a great job in prepping us for the flight! I loved the fact that we could all talk to each other with our headsets on and the background noise was drowned out with a push of a button. In fact I loved everything about the experience. What an incredible ride!

"Dear Santa: Can I have a helicopter for Christmas?" Ok, that letter will probably get lost someplace between here and the North Pole.

Whenever I visit Sandals I never know what exciting things will happen. This was over the top!
A 007 kind of day. Stay tuned for our touchdown at Sandals Whitehouse on Jamaica's South Coast.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Dinner with Sandals Chairman Butch Stewart

When I decided to start my own travel business, I thought about my favorite resorts. I decided that I would only send my clients to those resorts that I have visited and those resorts that I want to visit again and again.

Sandals and Beaches resorts top the list......gorgeous beachfront locations, great food, beautiful rooms, lots of inclusions. What sets these resorts apart is that they are family owned.

Sandals and Beaches Chairman Butch Stewart opened his first resort, Sandals Montego Bay, in 1981. When I began sending clients to Sandals they would come home raving about their stay and book another Sandals vacation. Everyone in the travel industry kept talking about this place. I had to see for myself.

After my first visit I was hooked. During my stay, I met Butch Stewart at Sandals Negril. He was very interested in what I thought about Sandals and what my clients needs were. Wow. This was different. Can you imagine if there was a Mr. Hyatt, and he would interrupt his lunch to find out what you had to say?

The second time that I met him was at Sandals Antigua when Hurricane Luis decided to pay a visit in 1995. The devastation was flipped over, a boat in the lobby, the uncertainty of what was next. Once the airport reopened, Butch flew in and sent us on his private jet to St. Lucia to finish our vacation at Sandals. This man truly cares about his guests. From that day on I realized that sending clients to Sandals was more than sending them to a hotel. I have been in the travel industry for thirty years and have never met anyone like him.

On my recent trip to see the spectacular renovations at Sandals Grande Riviera in Ocho Rios, Jamaica I sat next to Butch at dinner. It was great to catch up with him. I feel so fortunate to have had a long relationship with Sandals.

I got an email tonight from a couple who just returned from their honeymoon at Sandals Grande St. Lucian: "We had such a great time - already trying to figure out when and what Sandals we can go to next!!"

Thank you, Butch. You have made so many honeymoon, destination wedding and vacation dreams come true for my clients. I am honored to call you my friend.