World-renowned for being some of the most indulgent adult-only all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean, Sandals has built a strong reputation for offering the ultimate luxury couples experience. Whether you’re getting married, celebrating your Honeymoon, Birthday or Anniversary, Sandals claim to make your vacation unforgettable. But unlike many other all-inclusive Caribbean resorts, Sandals offers the ultimate luxury – your very own Butler Service. But is it worth all the hype and the extra money?
We are not all-inclusive resort virgins, in fact, we’ve experienced some of the very best and probably some of the very worst all-inclusive resorts across the globe. But like many, when we came to book our honeymoon, we were very excited yet very skeptical about whether the Butler Service at Sandals was worth the extra money. The sound of not having to lift a finger did sound appealing, the big jump in cost did not, but since it was our honeymoon we decided to go all out!
For the reference of this guide, we stayed at Sandals Ochi Beach in Ocho Rios and Sandals Royal Caribbean in Montego Bay. Having experienced Butler Service at both resorts, we wanted to lay out all our experiences, feelings and thoughts about whether the Butler Service at Sandals is worth it.
Things you should know before booking Butler Service at Sandals Resorts
1. Firstly, it may not be clear on the website but generally speaking, the best rooms at all Sandals Resorts are Butler Service rooms. Therefore the higher the category of room, the better the room location, size, and amenities. The fact that Butler Service is then included in the higher category rooms should be considered as a bonus. If you’re looking for the top room, you can be guaranteed that a Butler will come with it!
2. Do not be sucked into the honeymoon room scam like we were! In some resorts, you’ll find numerous room categories named Royal Beachfront Honeymoon One Bedroom Butler Suite HRS (as an example). You should also know that there is below it a Royal Beachfront One Bedroom Suite – RS. These are exactly the same rooms yet we found when we booked our second trip in the resort that pricing can sometimes be quite different just because of the “honeymoon” room label.
3. All Butlers at Sandals are fully trained by the Guild of Professional English Butlers, an organization that set the industry standards for butler training, delivering the best service in the world to royalty and celebrities around the world. From our research, initial training is roughly 3-4 weeks for Sandals Butlers, and they are required to attend continuing training every day at the Sandals Resorts to improve their skills.
4. While it may appear that you are given a single Butler to tend to your every beck and call, you are actually given two Butlers during your stay and they rotate their shifts, often working one full day then half a day and so on.
5. Your Butler is not devoted entirely to you – despite the impression the Sandals website gives you. Instead, you’ll probably be sharing your Butler with one or two couples! So don’t be surprised if you have to wait for your Butler’s attention during peak hours.
6. Sandals have a strict no tipping rule in all their resorts, but this does not apply to their Butler Service. Therefore when booking Butler Service rooms at Sandals Resorts, you should budget anything from $50-$100 a day in addition to your holiday budget. And remember that on any given day you may have both Butler’s working for you so you can either split your daily tipping budget or account for tipping two Butlers on some days.
7. If you’re flexible on which Sandals Resort to visit, know that for the same price as an entry level Butler suite at one resort, you can stay in the top Butler suite at another, so its worth doing extensive research during your vacation planning stage.
8. Butler Service is not 24 hours a day. In fact, we found at both resorts our Butlers beginning their day at 7:30-8:00 am and finishing around 8:00 pm
9. Butler Service differs greatly between resort. While the level of service is somewhat consistent, what the Butlers do for you changes depending on the resort (and how much you tip – read further below!)
10. Butlers are not mind readers! We read numerous reviews before we left for Sandals about people complaining about their Butlers lack of service, but we found in the end that you needed to give some hints about the level of control you wanted to give them, and if you don’t tell them your favourite drink – how can they possibly bring it to you?
What is the difference between Luxury, Concierge Club Service & Butler Service at Sandals?
All Sandals Resort offer 3 different levels of service, Luxury, Club and Butler Elite. When you jump up a level of service your benefits and inclusions change as well. Luxury level rooms are the entry category rooms at Sandals. While all the rooms are still wonderful, they tend to be on the smaller side, and for the most part, tend to be located in the larger buildings near the pools or gardens.
Club Rooms are the next step up. When you book Club, you gain a ton of extra benefits including private check-in, access to the Club Sandals Lounge where you can find refreshments, newspapers, kindles, iPads, books, games and snacks throughout the entire day. Complimentary room service is also included as well as bathrobes, and in-room bar with fully stocked fridge. However, you are still 100% responsible for booking your own dinner reservations, spa treatments, tours and activities via the dedicated concierge desk.
When you book Sandals Butler, you essential benefits from everything Sandals has to offer in Club plus the added benefit of two dedicated Butler’s at your service and a more personalized service. For a whole list of the added benefits see below.
Sandals Butler Service Biggest Benefits – Know what to expect!
They say the Sandals Butler Service anticipates your every need and we have to agree that the added benefits of the Butler Service can make a huge difference to your vacation and are “arguably” worth it, however, it really depends on the kind of traveler you are.
If you have never experienced a Butler Service at Sandals before, you should educate yourselves about what to expect and what you can ask for. Some of the biggest benefits of Sandals Butler Service are listed on the Sandals website here.
Since we had never experienced someone waiting on us we felt a little uneasy at first asking for anything, but all our Butlers made it very clear that nothing was too much trouble and if we needed anything at all, we should call them on the mobile. For the first few days we hardly used the phone at all, but when we ran out of coffee one morning, we rang our wonderful Butler and within 5 minutes she was at the door with more coffee. It does take a little getting used to and we had to remind ourselves that it was after all their job! It wasn’t until our second week at the second resort that we really loosened up and allowed our Butler to do more for us and by this point we knew what we could ask for from them.
Things we loved about having a Butler
1. Butlers will make all your reservations – while it may not seem like a big deal to make your own dinner, spa and activity reservations, we found there was often a long queue at the concierge desk with people waiting to make their dinner reservations and often being turned down at reservation only restaurants. For us, this was the biggest benefit of having a Butler as our time wasn’t wasted waiting in line. Of all the Butler services, we found this one the most useful.
2. The small details – We loved returning from the beach every day to find our room always made up with a wonderful new design and a personal note from our Butlers on the bed. On a few occasions, we also came back to a hot drawn bath ready to sink into. It was always beautifully decorated with flowers, had soothing salts and a bottle of champagne ready to enjoy while soaking the day away.
3. Personal contact – We’ have stayed at numerous five-star hotels and we normally deal with concierge desks or reception desks when we needed something for the room, clothes pressing, extra pillows, luggage unpacked etc… but it was especially nice to have a mobile to call our Butler directly to ask for things we needed. Everything was always brought to us promptly.
4. 24 Hour Room Service – Yes 24 hours, even at 3 am! Despite turning our noses up at this small perk when we booked our trip, we surprised ourselves and actually used the room service numerous times during both of our stays. There is a set menu of dishes available throughout the day but if you’re peckish late a night or after returning from an excursion, it can come in very useful. You can call the room service number or call your Butler to place an order. We found the room service useful when we were just too tired from traveling or a day trip out of the resort.
5. In-Room Dining – Not the same as 24-hour room service. We actually figured this out towards the end of our second stay that we could actually eat from the comfort and privacy of our beautiful terrace and order from any of the resort restaurants. We found this exceptionally useful at Royal Caribbean in Jamaica since we exhausted all the resort restaurants before the week was out (although you can travel to Sandals Montego Bay and Carlisle for dinner too). So we decided to take advantage of the Butler In-Room Dining and we ordered specific dishes for different restaurants and enjoyed the best of them all without even having to get dressed! 😉
6. Beach or Pool Chair Reservations – This is a prime example of how the things Butlers can do for you differ from resort to resort. During our stay at Royal Caribbean, our lovely Butlers reserved specific seats either by the pool or on the beach/island for us. Every evening we would tell them the spot we wanted and the next morning we would find our names on the seats, with towels and the cool box of drinks next to it. For us this was a great benefit since we didn’t have to worry about rushing breakfast to get decent poolside beds or beds in the shade on the beach. This was never offered to us at Ochi Beach which was where we could have used this the most as there were times when we didn’t find a single bed free by the pool (people were putting towels on them from very early in the morning).
Things we thought were not worth it
1. Escort to your table and table decoration – We have mixed feelings about this as part of the Butler Service at Sandals. Initially, we were never escorted to our tables at night by our Butlers and when we saw other people being cared for and escorted and pampered to during dinner by their Butler we did feel a little jealous/annoyed/confused why we were not receiving the same service. We later found out this was really a hit or miss and depended greatly on whether your Butler had another couple to also look after at the same time as you. One evening we were escorted to our table by our Butler and 2 minutes later he was tending attentively to another couple. In the end, we actually thought it was a nice touch, but a pointless benefit, as we are more than capable of finding our own way to the restaurants and the decorations of the table were beautiful but totally not necessary.
2. Invitation to special evening events – On numerous nights at both resorts there were Butler Service only parties which we never attended. There was plenty of evening entertainment available and we didn’t feel an evening cocktail party just for those who had spent the extra money for Butler was an added benefit.
3. Drinks and lunch while you lounge on the beach or pool – This never happened at Ochi Beach but at Royal Caribbean we were supplied with a fully stocked cooler and our Butlers did make an effort to come and find us and see if we needed anything but we think this was due to the fact Royal Caribbean is a small resort and Ochi Beach is very large and split into two halves, making it more difficult for Butlers to find you. We were also never served lunch or food by the beach, nor even offered it. We found this only available when you paid additional for the cabanas. In reality, you’re never more than a few steps from a bar and in fact there is beach and poolside service every day so again this isn’t really a benefit at all.
4. Ochi Beach Butler Service – We wanted to make a special mention that of both resorts we stayed at, we felt having a Butler was the least needed at Ochi Beach Resort. The resort is so big that we never saw our Butler wandering around and therefore never received the pool/beachside service. We saw our Butlers once in the morning and once in the evening (and perhaps once if we requested something or something was missing in the room). We strongly felt that as wonderful as our Butler’s were at Ochi Beach, we were simply paying for them to be a glorified transfer service, as the only thing they did on a daily basis was drive us from our room to the lobby and then back to our room after the beach and again back down to the lobby for dinner. In reality, it was a very walkable distance and we didn’t need them to do this, but we felt we could request the pickup and drop off because otherwise what were we paying them for???
5. The big and best rooms – As I mentioned before, the Butler Service rooms tend to be some of the best suites in the resort. We booked a Butler Village Honeymoon Poolside One Bedroom Villa Suite – HV1 at Ochi Beach Resort which came with the added benefit of a private shared pool between four rooms. At Sandals Royal Caribbean, we booked a Crystal Lagoon Honeymoon One Bedroom Butler Suite – PS Suite again with the added bonus of a private swim up room entrance. When we booked our trip we thought this was awesome but in reality, we never used either pool as we were always at the beach or by the main pool. We also spent very little time in our rooms so it was pointless for us to book the bigger better room and for what?
Having a Butler at Sandals is an added luxury and it is ultimately up to you to direct your Butler about the level of service you require/desire/prefer. At the end of our stay, we felt the additional cost we paid for the Butler Service was not worth it, but worth it only for the better room and location (and not even that since we spent no time in our rooms or private pools). It took us a few days to work out that the more you tip your Butler the better service you were given and the more they were willing to go out of their way to do special arrangements. Since we had already paid additionally for the Butler Service, we felt the level of service they provide should be the same for every guest and should not depend on how much you tip.
We spoke to numerous travelers at both resorts and we received mixed reviews about whether the Butler service was worth it or not. For those that are not comfortable with the idea of Butler Service, the concierge service at Club Sandals may be the right fit for you and in fact, we booked a return stay at Sandals Emerald Bay with Club service only. Our biggest suggestion to those looking to book Butler Service at Sandals, is that you should really consider how comfortable you are having someone do things for you and having the guts to really use the service. You should also think about how much time you’ll actually spend in your big spacious and glamorous room with a beautiful bathtub and if it is worth the extra money to you.