The Southern Girl Travel Guide to Sandals Royal Caribbean!

src-062-634A view of the private island at Sandals Royal Caribbean

Warning: there’s a ton of information in this extra-long post so don’t be afraid to scroll around or bookmark it and come back later! As of the posting of this guide in February 2016, Sandals Royal Caribbean has a at least one construction project underway.

Give us a call or drop us an email if you’re interested in traveling to Royal Caribbean soon and we’ll get you the latest update.

src-001-634We’ll be bringing you some great shots of Sandals Royal Caribbean in this post all courtesy of the folks at Sandals!

This is the third in our series of short guides to Sandals resorts, and while it stands all on its own, if you’re new to Sandals and to the all-inclusive concept, you may want to read our introductory guide to Sandals:

The Southern Girl Travel Guide to Sandals!

Our last post featured the original Sandals all-inclusive resort, Sandals Montego Bay down in Montego Bay, Jamaica.

src-098-634Looking towards the private island at sunset

Sandals actually has three resorts in the Montego Bay area:

Sandals Montego Bay
Royal Caribbean
Carlyle

In this post we are featuring Royal Caribbean, a resort just a few miles east of Sandals Montego Bay.

Royal Caribbean was our first Sandals experience and it remains one of our favorites. So, you might detect a little bias in this post.

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Sandals Royal Caribbean channels a bit of high British culture with an Asian vibe.

Here’s how the folks at Sandals describe it:

A kaleidoscope of cultures from Britain to Bali awaits you at Sandals Royal Caribbean. The resort’s decidedly British heritage begins with the Majestic Georgian-style Great House, surrounded by manicured gardens and roaming peacocks-all complemented with well-heeled traditions like continental breakfast in bed, afternoon tea, and a rousing game of croquet. Minutes away on the resort’s private offshore island, the mysteries of the Orient unfold in a secluded natural setting where casual poolside and beachside pleasures beckon by day, while chic parties, an authentic Thai restaurant, and island-style extravaganzas invite excitement by night. At Jamaica’s most alluring resort, two diverse vacations are woven into one and served with warm island hospitality, making your stay a journey to remember.

Enjoy a recent video on Royal Caribbean from Sandals:

While you’re not in danger of forgetting that you’re really on the island of Jamaica, Sandals actually does a great job tapping into both the island’s British heritage and its Asian roots (a significant percentage of the island’s population traces roots back to China).

src-029-634One of the swim up bars

The peacocks mentioned above are definitely a presence, as you can tell from our previous post, The Peacocks of Sandals Royal Caribbean.

IMG_3623-900-634Our shot of one of the peacocks

You’ll love checking them out, and be warned, if you have a ground floor walk-out room don’t walk away with your porch door open or you might come back to find a peacock having taken up residence.

Where is Royal Caribbean?

It’s an approximately 3-hour or less flight from nearly all of the southeastern U.S. From here in central North Carolina, flying time to Jamaica is often less than driving time to almost all of the Carolinas’ coast, and driving time from the airport in Montego Bay to Royal Caribbean is 10 to 15 minutes.

What does that mean?

It means that you can leave from Raleigh or Charlotte and be relaxing on the beach at Royal Caribbean in just about the same amount time it’ll take to drive to the beach from much of the Piedmont of North Carolina.

A quick note on flying into Jamaica: When headed to Royal Caribbean, you’ll be flying into the Sangster International Airport. Sangster is one of the largest and busiest airports in the Caribbean and getting through customs and immigration can be a bear – we always use and we HIGHLY recommend that all our clients utilize the services of Club Mobay.

Club Mobay is an arrival and departure club/service whose representatives will meet you at your arrival gate, see you safely through customs and immigration, and settle you into their arrival lounge for a drink or two before they connect you with your ground transportation.

They’ll do the same thing in reverse when it’s time for you to (sadly) leave Jamaica.  Club Mobay’s parent company, VIP Attractions, also operates a similar service at Kingston’s airport, known as Club Kingston. 

Sandals’ own private arrival lounge is right beside the Club Mobay arrival lounge at Sangster so you’ll be right where you need to be.

If you are using Club Mobay for your arrival, you can pretty easily enjoy both lounges!

This would be a good time to mention the Sandals’ arrival lounge at Sangster.

It’s a cozy spot to enjoy those first few minutes of your all-inclusive experience. The lounge provides a comfortable wait for your transfer to Royal Caribbean.

You’ll have places to sit, relax, and enjoy a beer and maybe some rum punch (all are included). Make sure to pick up a copy of the Gleaner – the nearly 200 year-old Jamaican newspaper – and see what’s happening around the island.

You’ll be alerted when your ride is ready and in 10 minutes or so you’ll be pulling up at Royal Caribbean.

src-009-634The front entrance to Royal Caribbean

One of the appeals of Royal Caribbean is its proximity to the airport. Once you land, you’re only a ten minute drive (or less) to the resort.

Just so you know: some consider proximity to the airport an issue as you do get a bit of noise at the resort and you will see and hear jets flying over a number of times during the day. But, many of Jamaica’s other resorts are an hour drive or more from the airport.

In just a few minutes after clearing customs and immigrations, you can be relaxing at Royal Caribbean.

While we do notice the occasional jet flying over, it is absolutely no bother and is often times kinda cool – if you’re checking out a jet it means that other folks are leaving Jamaica and you’re still hanging out at Sandals!

src-058-634Hanging out on the beach at Royal Caribbean

You should know that some people feel the noise is a problem. It’s never been for us – the only problem we’ve had is knowing that we’ll have to get back on one of those metal birds and fly back home soon.

OK, let’s dive deep into Royal Caribbean!

Royal Caribbean was one of Sandals’ earliest resort properties, opening back in the 1980s when the all-inclusive concept was new. Sandals was one of the originators of all-inclusive and we believe they do it extremely well.

Few Thoughts on All-Inclusive: If you haven’t already, read our Southern Girl Travel Guide to Sandals.

You’ll learn more about what all-inclusive means at Sandals. You’ll be pleased. At Sandals (unlike some other all-inclusive resorts) all-inclusive means that nearly every thing really is included in the price of your stay.

All your food and drink will be included. We don’t mean just well-brand liquors either. Everything at the bar is included. The only exception we know of is that some Sandals restaurants will offer more exclusive wines at an extra charge, but we have experienced no pressure to purchase.

We have checked out from a week’s stay at Sandals with absolutely no additional charges and you can too.

Tips are not allowed unless you are in a butler suite – and even then they are not necessary, but you will likely want to reward the amazing service you will receive. Off-resort you’ll want to be prepared to tip as you would anywhere (we’ve noticed some serious pressure to tip in the airport).

Off-resort excursions do cost extra as do a few other things. Let us know what you’re interested in and we’ll give you all the details.

Accommodations!

What are the rooms like at Royal Caribbean?

The resort has three major room categories, while Sandals occasionally changes the names, the categories include a standard range, club-level, and rooms that are served by Sandals’ famous butler service.

Right now, they’re simply known as:

Luxury Level
Club Level
Butler Level

Each category includes a variety of specific room types that vary in exact amenities and in location around the resort.

As of February 2016, the Caribbean Deluxe is the most affordable room at Royal Caribbean, and the Swim up Crystal Lagoon Honeymoon One Bedroom Butler Suite is the most extravagant.

Just drop us a line and we’ll detail everything in between.

Here are a few shots from Sandals featuring various Royal Caribbean room furnishings:

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We have found the rooms at Sandals to be extremely comfortable and well appointed.

Depending on the class of room, you may find a fully stocked bar, whirlpool tubs, mini-fridges full of beer, wine, and soft drinks and beds as comfortable as any we know.

Sandals is also known for being generous with room upgrades – especially in the off-season. We’ve experienced it ourselves and while nothing is guaranteed (and please don’t expect it), don’t be surprised if it happens! Of course, if you are upgraded to club or butler level, it will just be for the room and it won’t come with gratis butler service!

Everyone wants to know about the butler service. All we can say it that it’s amazing, and if you haven’t already, check out the video below from Sandals’ own butler, Rory down in Antigua.

If you have seen it scroll on down.

Before we move on to Food & Drink and Activities, we should mention:

Stay at one…

One of the great things about visiting any of the three Montego Bay area resorts is that you can enjoy all the amenities that each resort has to offer.

You’ll hear Sandals use the terms “Stay at one play at three” and “Stay at one dine at three.”

They simply mean that if you are staying at any of the three Montego Bay area resorts you can utilize all the dining, amenities, sports, and facilities of all three – and Sandals will provide the transportation between each resort.

When in the Montego Bay area with Sandals, we have found ourselves bouncing back and forth – especially between Royal Caribbean and the Montego Bay resort – almost daily, primarily for supper and drinks.

src-050-634Royal Caribbean’s private island

The Private Island

Before we continue, we also need to mention the private island. Royal Caribbean is one of two Sandals resorts (the other is the Royal Bahamian) that have islands adjacent to the resort owned by Sandals and kept for the exclusive use of resort guests.

src-046-634On the beach at the private island

The one at Royal Caribbean is a small cay a few hundred yards off the resort’s main beach. There’s a yellow boat with an Asian dragon motif to ferry quests back and forth, and the island has a pool, restaurant, bar, and plenty of spots to relax.

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For the more adventurous, the back side of the island facing the ocean is clothing optional.

It’s a secluded section of the island, separated from the more heavily used areas by a grove of trees that affords some privacy for folks interested in the option.

src-030-634The private island’s pool

Enjoy a little video from Sandals featuring the private islands:

Food & Drink

Now for our favorite part of Sandals travel – the food and the drink!

src-088-634A quick meal at the Cricketer’s Pub

Montego Bay includes eight restaurants and bars where all the food is included for guests. They span a variety of styles, and each has a particular atmosphere.

Food and drink is one of the areas that really sets Sandals apart from other all-inclusive resorts. Others will have a single restaurant that is included and only cheaper brands of drink. It’s all included at Sandals (with the wine exception we mentioned above), and every resort has multiple restaurants. Royal Caribbean is special even among Sandals resorts though, because of the Stay at one dine at three aspect we mentioned above. 

Before we jump in though, let’s talk dress codes and reservations.

Dress Codes 

The dress codes are not at all strict, but they do matter.

Resort casual can include shorts or jeans, tee-shirts or polos. Any swimwear must be covered and no bare feet.

Resort evening can include dress pants or jeans for men, long or short sleeve dress shirts (with or without a collar); dress shoes or sandals; no tee-shirts, sleeveless shirts, tennis shoes, flip flops or slippers; and, no hats nor caps.  Again, the dress codes are enforced, especially resort evening. Watch that shoe requirement and make sure to bring a pair of decent shoes in addition to those flip flops and tennis shoes – especially for the kids!

Reservations

Many of the popular restaurants can get rather busy at Sandals and we recommend planning what restaurants that you would like to try before your travels. Make a list and meet with the concierge immediately upon your arrival to make reservations.

Don’t wait, especially when traveling during peak times.

We’ve listed Royal Caribbean’s restaurants below with a description from the official Sandals Royal Caribbean website:

Royal Thai

Whether you’re a lover of awe-inspiring architecture, lured by the mystery of the Orient, or a true foodie searching for the most unique exotic flavors, you’ll be amazed by the character of the offshore island restaurant, Royal Thai, where getting there is half the fun. A ride on an authentic Wayang Doll takes you to this distinctive island getaway-a destination in its own right. Love the water? The sparkling, clear-blue sea surrounds this extraordinary eating palace. Want to relish in the perfect romantic setting? Romance abounds with dim lighting and the sound of gentle waves softly caressing the shore.

Royal Thai’s dress code is Resort Casual and reservations are required (get those reservations early as Royal Thai is one of the most popular of all the Sandals Mobay area restaurants).

src-017-634On the island waiting for that Royal Thai reservation!

Currently listed hours (subject to change) are:

Supper: 6:00pm – 8:30pm

Check out a sample menu!

The Regency

Discover Old-Fashioned Elegance. In keeping with the “royal” theme, the aptly-named Regency restaurant has reigned over Sandals Royal Caribbean’s culinary offerings from the very beginning. Decorated in the same style as early 19th century buildings in Britain (during the period when George IV was Prince Regent), The Regency’s interior is embellished with elegant furniture, dark wood floors, exquisite art, royal purple ceilings and wall-mounted candles. The outdoor setting is just as alluring. With the silhouette of a quaint, private island in the distance, the Regency offers an outdoor dining terrace, distinctive of the regency residences of the 1800s. Bow doors leading to the terrace enhance the beauty, personality, and authenticity of this spectacular venue. While it’s easy to get caught up in the graceful décor that transports guests to another time, the delectable cuisine is just as impressive with dishes such as Jerk Snapper Filet with Tropical Fruit Relish and Steamed Callaloo.

Regency’s dress code is Resort Casual and reservations are not required.

src-007-634Supper at the Regency

The Regency is one of the main spots for breakfast, so you’ll likely be visiting it often. It’s a pleasant place to start the day.

Currently listed hours (subject to change) are:

Breakfast: 7:30am – 10:30am
Lunch: 12:30pm – 2:30pm
Supper: 6:00pm – 9:30pm

Check out a sample menu!

Le Jardinier

Discover Haute Cuisine. Le Jardinier means “the gardener” in French, and given this restaurant serving French cuisine that feels like a romantic garden paradise shaped and cared for by a skillful gardener, the name is perfect. Le Jardinier embodies the allure of the beautiful French countryside. Its exquisite setting is accented by classic country furniture, a twig ceiling, exotic plants, fresh flowers, open kitchen, and the soothing trickle of a nearby fountain. With the accompaniment of fine wines and delectable pastries, simple dishes and haute cuisine draw in guests to this French gem.

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Le Jardinier’s dress code is Resort Evening and reservations are required.

Currently listed hours (subject to change) are:

Supper: 6:00pm – 10:00pm

Check out a sample menu!

The Cricketer’s Pub

For more than 300 years, pubs have provided a carefree, warm ambiance that afforded comfort to people who wanted to relax with good ale and a good joke after a hard day’s work. Pubs are most certainly fundamental to British culture. Samuel Pepys, famous for his detailed 17th century writings, even described pubs as the ‘heart of England’ With the same vibrant spirit of original British pubs, Cricketer’s Pint serves the same purpose as the time-honored public houses of yesteryear where people gathered together to enjoy life and a cold one. A delightful encounter full of good times and customary pub fare awaits pub-goers who seek the welcoming experience of a traditional, British pub. Cricketer’s Pub-home to rustic, saloon-like décor and lively bartenders-is a great place to completely relax and enjoy customary pub fare. Offering Shepherd’s Pie, Fish and Chips, Bangers and Mash, and more, scrumptious pub food can be paired with a wide range of beers, wines, spirits, and soft drinks. Inviting, with cozy seating for two or for your whole group, it’s hard to leave this place.

The dress code at the Cricketer’s Pub is Resort Casual, and reservations are not required. And while it might seem a little out of place at a Caribbean resort, Sandals’ pubs are actually a good place to enjoy a few drinks in the evening.  The Pub is open in the evenings:

Supper: 6:00pm – 10:00pm

Check out a sample menu!

Eleanor’s

Jamaican cuisine served beneath the stars. Discover Authentic Pan-Caribbean Cuisine. Tucked in an idyllic spot bordered by verdant, tropical plants, Eleanors is the ideal restaurant to enjoy authentic pan-Caribbean cuisine. Named after Lady Eleanor MacDougal – an 18th century Scottish noblewoman and cook who traveled from island to island in the Caribbean in search of a new life after a dramatic fall from grace – Eleanors incorporates local spices, herbs and fresh garden vegetables purchased from local farmers into mouthwatering guest favorites. Lovers of great wine, fresh food, and authentic pan-Caribbean cuisine feel as if they’ve found a little slice of heaven when they discover the decadence of Eleanor’s and its open, elegant ambiance.

The dress Code at Eleanor’s is Resort Evening and reservations are not required.

Currently listed hours (subject to change) are:

Supper: 6:00pm – 9:00pm

Check out a sample menu!

Bella Napoli

Discover Brick Oven Goodness. Whether a made up recipe or a selection from the menu, a whole lot of thinking goes into deciding which delectable pizza combination will be the best choice. Nothing says comfort food better than a warm slice of brick-oven pizza made fresh with mozzarella cheese, homemade tomato sauce, and tasty herbs and toppings. Bella Napoli hits the spot anytime of day or night with oven-baked bread and choice toppings including, jerk chicken, black forest ham, seafood, and even ripe banana and dark chocolate toppings for the savory dessert pizza

A spot to grab a pizza for lunch or during the late afternoon, Bella Napoli has no dress code and reservations are not required.

Currently listed hours (subject to change) are:

Lunch: 11:00am – 6:00pm

Check out a sample menu!

The Mariner Seaside Bar & Grill

From the very beginning, The Mariner Seaside Bar & Grill has proven to be something special. A place where guests come for delicious, grilled food and a cold one, this beachside bar and grill doesn’t disappoint. With traditional grilled delights such as grilled fish and beef burgers, a commonality among guests is to first enjoy the mouthwatering, flavorful food, and then take pleasure in a peaceful walk along the beach. Guests can also enjoy wraps, French fries, salad, and local favorites including Jerk Chicken and Jerk Pork where peppery jerk and fiery scotch bonnet spices are used to season these local treasures.

With a laidback vibe characteristic of the Caribbean, this come-and-go grill is goodtime fun for everyone.

The Mariner is close to the center of the resort and is a default spot to grab lunch or a quick drink.

src-006-634Lunch near the beach at the Mariner

There’s no dress code and reservations are not required.

Currently listed hours (subject to change) are:

Lunch: 11:00 am – 4:00 pm and 10:00pm– 2:00am

Check out a sample menu!

The Bamboo Shack

Discover The Good Kind of Jerk. Smack dab in the middle of the private offshore island of Sandals Cay, the Bamboo Shack offers up the very best in jerk-a cooking style native to Jamaica where meats are rubbed or marinated with a spicy mixture that contains allspice (pimento) and fiery Scotch Bonnet peppers.

Served alongside seasoned market veggies and rice-and peas infused with coconut-jerk chicken, jerk pork, and grilled fish are the stars of this laidback bamboo shack. The food variety offered here incorporates some of Jamaica’s most distinctive flavors including cloves, cinnamon, scallion, thyme, garlic and also, bammy (deep-fried cassava), and callaloo.
Guests can catch some shade beneath a cool almond tree or bathe in the warm rays of the sun while enjoying their delicious jerk fare and a cup of Jamaica’s best rum. This little thatch-roofed hut showcases authentic Jamaican eats and embodies the appeal of a street-side Jamaican jerk stand. The jerk experience, at least the good kind, doesn’t get any better than this.

The Bamboo Shack serves lunch daily on the private island. The dress code is Resort Casual, reservations are not required, and currently listed hours (subject to change) are:

Lunch: 12:30pm – 2:30pm

Like we said above, the Stay at one dine at three option is the way to go when staying at the Royal Caribbean. For a list of all the Mobay area Sandals restaurants in a handy spreadsheet perfect for planning meals before your trip sign up with Southern Girl Travel.

Let’s talk activities (other than lounging on the beach, eating, and drinking)

Depending on how long you stay, you might not get past the laying on the beach stage! Here are several of Royal Caribbean’s pools:

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When you’re ready to get up, though, Royal Caribbean has a ton of offerings – and nearly all are included.

Here’s a summary:

On the water (and all included) at Royal Caribbean, you’ll find:

  • Kayaks
  • Sailboats
  • Snorkeling
  • Paddle Boarding
  • Hobie Cats
  • 2 Swim-up Pool Bars
  • 6 Pools, 5 Whirlpools

Like all Sandals resorts, Royal Caribbean also includes Scuba Diving…with just a few limitations on what’s included.

If you’re a diver and have questions, let us know.

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Otherwise, we’ll be posting on diving at Sandals soon. Subscribe to find out when.

On land you’ll find:

  • Table Tennis
  • Shuffleboards
  • Day/Night Tennis
  • Fitness Center
  • Board Games
  • Beach Volleyball
  • Pool/Billiards

There’s also a well appointed fitness center to help work off all the great food and drink you’ll be enjoying.

Just like the option to enjoy the food and drink offerings at the Montego Bay resort and Carlyle, you have the same option with all the activities.

Sandals calls it Stay at 1 Play at 3.

This makes staying at any one of the three a great value!

How about what’s not included?

Of course, once you leave the resort and venture into the city of Montego Bay, you’re back to the real world where everything is not included. While that’s always an option, we prefer to spend most of our time hanging out at the resort and relaxing.

There are, however, a few options you really should consider for an extra charge.

src-048-634Cabanas on the private island

Cabanas. Scattered around the beaches of Royal Caribbean are a number of extremely inviting covered spots to relax and enjoy the day. These come with an extra rental charge for a day’s use.

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Sandals Red Lane Spas are available at every resort. At Royal Caribbean, you can enjoy a number of different treatments including private massages along the beach. Let us know if you’re interested and we’ll give you all the details.

Sandals features Island Routes for off-resort excursions. There are a ton of choices that – if you like – will let you spend time exploring even the interior of Jamaica, making it back to Montego Bay for a relaxing evening. Some of your choices include:

  • Visiting Dunn’s River Falls
  • Taking an off-road 4×4 safari
  • Swimming with the dolphins
  • Segwaying around an estate
  • Taking a reggae cruise on one of those cool resort catamarans

Reach out and we’ll give you all the details.

Let’s pull this together with one last video. It’s a recent Sandals promo for Royal Caribbean and it will give you a glimpse of what you can enjoy at the resort:

Thanks so much for sticking with us this long, and please don’t hesitate to let us know what questions you have about Royal Caribbean – we’ll be happy to arrange your trip to Jamaica today!

Click Here and Sign Up For A Free Sandals Tool!

And a special thank you to Sandals for allowing us to use the great photos and videos in this post!

Don’t forget to:

Relax…you CAN get to Sandals Royal Caribbean from here!

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