Valentines in Exuma Was a Treat
We had left the Toronto deep freeze behind with an escape to Nassau, Bahamas for February and decided to splurge for a romantic Valentines in Exuma at Sandals Emerald Bay. Our last all inclusive vacation to Cuba had been a major bust so we were giving an all inclusive trip one last try. It had been a few years since we had last been at a Sandals group resort but we knew this resort on Exuma should be a cut above average and we had wanted to try a Bahamian island other than New Providence!
We booked at the very last minute and with very few rooms left for a week over Valentine’s Day, we booked a much more expensive room than we would have normally taken (an oversized beachside villa suite with butler). It would be a splurge for us!
We took cheap and cheerful flights with SkyBahamas from Nassau to Exuma International Airport – arriving early and departing late to maximize our time on the resort. If we want to return to just this resort some time, Air Canada Vacations travels direct from Toronto. What could be easier? And since David gets a military discount on Air Canada, we wouldn’t be paying extra to haul our scuba gear with us!
The Sandals Emerald Bay resort is designed largely for couples which allowed us to spend a romantic week in paradise for Valentines in Exuma. While we may still be leery about all inclusive resorts in general, this Sandals resort renewed our faith that there were great options when we really needed to be pampered in a warm escape destination.
The Reasons Why People Come Back To Sandals Emerald Bay
Beautiful well kept grounds: The Emerald Bay property is huge and the entire grounds are well landscaped and scenic. There are picture opportunities at every bend of the long meandering paths. The grounds keepers are always out trimming, watering and pruning – showing huge pride in their work.
|Sandals Emerald Bay Grounds|
|Sandals Emerald Bay Grounds|
Cappuccino and fresh baked goods at Cafe Du Paris: We almost never passed the cafe without stopping in! David could find chocolate at any time of the day including chocolate ice cream after noon! The cafe opened at 6:30 ensuring I got a cappuccino brought to me in the room every morning!
|Sandals Emerald Bay – Cafe de Paris|
Artistic and creative room art: We were delighted several times with interesting displays on our bed or the front door mat. Neither our anniversary or Valentines Day were missed! While most had a romantic theme, we even got some comic relief.
|Sandals Emerald Bay – Quiet Pool By The Spa|
|Sandals Emerald Bay – The Quiet Pool and Cabanas|
The Ocean Safari tour to see swimming pigs, an iguana island and some great snorkelling was much better than expected: Justin gave us a great mix of high speed boat ride with unrushed stops at many stops along the Exuma islands. We got some running commentary on sights enroute and even circled back when he saw the tiger shark.
|Swimming With The Pigs on the Ocean Safari Tour|
Overall good food and drink: Food was available most of the day, often there were more healthy choices, lots of seafood (I had lobster 3 times) and special nights (Junkanoo). We are not big drinkers but when we drink, we are particular. I was able to hunt down real Baileys and David got his dark rum. The room was well stocked with all the booze you wanted if a walk to the bar was too far.
Chocolate buffet night: My chocoholic hubby was in heaven when we got two chocolate buffet nights because of the extra night for Valentines in Exuma. The selection was great especially when mixed with chocolate martinis. David kept trying to find Stephen the bartender to get a repeat of the special mix used that night.
Scuba diving was all included: You can do 2 dives per day IF the weather is ok. This resort did a lot of scuba training so we found many of the dives sites were less challenging to support beginners and some open water skills certification. I wouldn’t head here as a diving vacation but diving daily would be your exercise for the day.
|Scuba Diving with Sandals Emerald Bay|
The beach and Emerald waters: We came to Exuma for the beautiful water and beaches – and were not disappointed for Valentines in Exuma. The sand was white and soft underfoot – but wear your reef shoes or watch carefully for sharp things in the sand. Water temperatures in February were about 75 degrees F – so certainly swim able. There was a wide variety of water sports offered – although the week we were there it was quite windy and the red flag went up a few days.
|Emerald Bay at Sandals Emerald Bayn|
The waterfront villa rooms on the second floor with the great view: Our last minute booking got us a waterfront suite on the second floor. We had a great view of the ocean – much better than at ground level with a sand berm between you and the beach. The balcony was perfect for us – especially when we came back with a dive bag of wet stuff. The patio door had shutters to block out light, screens to keep bugs out, chairs for lounging and provided us with the constant sound of the surf (even if you didn’t want it since the windows weren’t very soundproofed).
Room service when and where you wanted it: With butler service we could have theoretically had food or drinks delivered anywhere we wanted it. It was nice to be treated with breakfast in the room for Valentines in Exuma and have drinks brought to us when we were far from the nearest bar. The resort offers room service so you don’t need a butler to be able to be a bit lazy some times.
|The Night Light in the Bathroom – Sandals Emerald Bay|
Remembering staff: Most of the staff we interacted with had great customer service skills and attitudes. They were pleasant, happy to be doing their jobs, often remembered you after a few visits and genuinely wanted your Sandals experience to be awesome. Every time we went to the spa pool for a quiet break, we smiled at the warm welcome from Donovan.
|Donovan Welcoming Guests To The Spa With Open Arms at Sandals Emerald Bay|
Free wifi service that was reliable and fast: While we considered an upgraded wifi package to support my social media needs, thanks to regular repeater stations around the entire site, we found the wifi service great almost every place we tried it (including writing in the cabana on this post).
Sandals’ Military Discount: We booked our trip before David found the note about the 10% discount for military – Canadian or US, retired or active. With a quick call directly to Sandals, the discount was quickly applied. All they asked is that David bring his military ID with him. This is great support for military personnel. And we met a lot of those in our week on the resort!
Things We Didn’t Experience
- The golf course looked great, even if it was renowned for being a black hole for golf balls. We are not golfers but if we wanted to take it up, there could be no more idealic place than here to start.
- The tennis courts were the only amenity down at the far end of the resort where we stayed but even proximity did not help us to get to the court before the heat was too high.
- We set our alarm on far too many mornings to go out early for scuba or excursions, which meant we missed a lot of the night entertainment. The sax player at the Sandals return guest dinner was really good, although I had to strain over the table chatter to hear him. The entertainment at the chocolate nights was lively and had the crowd up dancing. We had looked forward to Junkanoo night but it was kinda a letdown when it got moved indoors from the front driveway due to weather.
- We chose to stay away from the main pool and most daytime entertainment. It just isn’t our scene.
- I kept waiting for a rainy day to try to spa! Luckily or not – we got no rained out days and I missed out on some pampering. We often went over to the spa to enjoy the quiet hot tubs, welcomed with open arms by Donovan – but we never did get one of the very tempting spa treatments.
- The resort caters to special events like weddings. Over the course four stay we probably saw about 10 weddings of various sizes. It appeared to be an idealic spot for a romantic wedding and we may consider a return visit when we thin about renewing our vows.
|The Wedding Chariot at Sandals Emerald Bay|
|A Wedding On The Beach at Sandals Emerald Bay|
Would We Go Back To Sandals Emerald Bay
This Sandals Emerald Bay property is still a pretty expensive week vacation for us from Toronto but we might consider this as a special treat or another for Valentines in Exuma. Paying for a better class of resort should ensure that we don’t get the poor 4 star all inclusive resort quality we got in Cuba. Being able to go direct from Toronto on a short flight is an absolute plus. If we again get lucky enough to be in Nassau for an extended period, a short 4 day hop to Exuma would be an easy choice.
|Sunrise at Sandals Emerald Bay|
But we just booked a 24 day Carribean cruise on a luxury line in April at deep discount prices. So it will be next year before we are looking for our next southern trip to escape Toronto winters and the cruise will probably add a bunch of new “must return” spots to “the list” – so it may be a while before we are back in Exuma at this resort. But I am sure there are other Sandals properties in destinations on “the list”.
Have you been to Sandals Emerald Bay? Did you ever for Valentines in Exuma? Was your experience that much different? What other Sandals property would you recommend?