Easter week 2010 marked what could be the last reunion week at Sandals Dunn’s River Villagio. This property is one of the few that is leased by Sandals and not owned outright. In July this property will most likely close forever. Negotiations are continuing but optimism for a positive conclusion seems dimmer with each passing day. For the past 15 years thousands of guests have experienced the hospitality of its only General Manager, Louis grant, and his staff. Reunion week traditionally brings together guests from years past who all share in the warmth of the Sandals’ family staff. This year was no exception.
From the moment you step on to the property you know you are “home” again. Bellmen greet each guest, escort them to soft comfortable sofas, and offer a wet towel to freshen up followed by a glass of sparkling champagne. It only takes a few short moments to register before you are shown to your beautifully appointed room, most of which offer an ocean view. From your arrival to your departure, there is nothing but luxury and pampering.
Our room was located in the concierge building visible on the left side of the picture of the pool, restaurants, and grounds. Our travel agent sent a fruit tray to our room brimming with fresh tropical fruit. Our bar was stocked with a variety of alcoholic beverages including Appleton Special Rum. The mini refrigerator was full of juices, sodas, beer, a bottle of Pinot Grigio wine and a bottle of champagne. At this point all the stress of the outside world melted away.
The week long special activities started with a “Meet & Greet” breakfast on Monday morning. Other activities scheduled during the day were an Easter egg hunt and a bun eating contest. Bun or Easter bun is similar to a fruit cake but much tastier with the Jamaican additions such as dried fruit soaked in stout. Mid afternoon was the “Upscale Welcome Cocktail Party”, featuring a special cultural dance performance by the Parry Town Primary School in traditional costumes as seen in the picture. The day ended with the Grand Villagio beach party which offered up cooked to order grilled steaks and pork chops. There was no going hungry here as there was a large assortment of everything from salads to fancy pastries to accompany the delicious meat.
Tuesday morning was the off property excursion to Laughing Waters adjacent to Roaring River where the Silver Birds Steel Pan Band entertained us. Special activities for the day included kite flying, tie dying, jewelry making, beach volleyball, and limbo dancing. See the picture of the Hotel Manager, Rick Burrowes, demonstrating how to do the limbo. My favorite part of the day was sampling all the delicious food that was prepared by Executive chef, Junior Francis. The day ended back at the resort with the succulent chocolate buffet at 10:30 in the evening.
Wednesday was mostly spent relaxing after all the excitement of the two previous days. Those lucky enough to be around the main pool were entertained by the playmakers both in and out of the pool. They are a very talented group of young people.
The thing I look forward to the most at reunion week, especially with Chef Francis, is the “Sandals Select Gala Dinner”, which was served on the Chip & Putt Golf course. It is hard to comprehend how the gourmet food served in the restaurants could be any better but it always is at this special dinner. This year was no exception. The pictured entrée was a filet of beef stuffed with gorgonzola cheese, braised lobster tail, potato de jour, seasonal vegetables, and merlot demi glace. It was so good!
Thursday morning saw the group visit Windsor Girl’s School. Each Sandals property has an outreach program where Sandals gives back to the community, and this was one of the projects Of Sandals’ Dunn’s River. Sandals Foundation has been helping schools and communities across Jamaica to improve their quality of life for several years. There is such a need for these outreach programs and it makes me feel good knowing my small donation along with so many others is making a difference for many less fortunate people.
The last day we were all treated to a special “Farewell Champagne Breakfast” served on the pier. Chef Francis did the honors making omelets and fried eggs while we said our goodbyes to our friends and extended family. Ray & Nell Hogan, affectionately know as “Mom & Dad”, have the most visits for Sandals Dunn’s River reunion week. Mom & Dad can be seen next to Chef Francis at the breakfast although Dad is hidden behind Mom.
Goodbyes are always a hard thing to do but this year was even harder. There is something very special at this property that has brought back so many couples again and again. Part of it is the beautiful property but I believe the key to the success of Sandals Dunn’s River Villagio goes to the General Manager, Louis Grant, who has put together over the years a staff with only one thing in mind and that is to assure that each guest has the best vacation possible. Thank you Mr. Grant. Later….