With typical Sandals style, the luxury all-inclusive resort chain introduced its newest property in Curaçao to the trade on a gala weekend in late June that, literally, included a carnival atmosphere – with singers, dancers, acrobats and synchronized swimmers, and a parade.
The event did not seem out of place for a project that was “10 years in the making,” according to Sandals Resorts International (SRI) executive chairman Adam Stewart, and which marked a number of firsts for the company, not least its first foray outside the English-speaking Caribbean.
And where better to do it than colourful Curaçao, an island in the Dutch Caribbean – the C in the ABC islands that includes Aruba and Bonaire – located about 65 km off the coast of Venezuela.
Indeed, throughout the course of the weekend, guests at the inaugural (including Travel Industry Today), were blown away by the destination – most notably the capital, Willemstad, a charming city best described as “mini-Amsterdam meets Miami in the Caribbean” with Dutch architecture and impossibly vibrant colours, and bursting with street art, boutique shops, and outdoor bars and restaurants.
“Everywhere that Sandals goes is the best of the best, but the number of people that came up to me (at the opening) and said, ‘This island is amazing, the people are amazing… We just didn’t know!’ This is what gets us excited,” enthused Stewart, adding, “What you’re seeing here is about as damn good as it gets anywhere on the planet!”
With this mind, Sandals has introduced several programs designed to encourage guests to discover its new home, including a first-ever ‘Island Inclusive’ dining program, and complimentary MINI Cooper cars that can be signed out to allow guests to get out and about. Of course, excursions from Island Routes Caribbean Adventures can be booked, ranging from walking or e-bike tours to catamaran sailings at sunset or for the day to remote Klein (“Little”) Curaçao for snorkelling and the beach.
Here’s a deeper dive into Sandals’ 16th resort:
Located within the exclusive, 1,215-hectare Santa Barbara estate – 25 km (about an hour’s transfer) from the Curaçao International Airport – the resort’s west-facing position on the southernmost part of the island purposefully intertwines nature with the resort experience, while capturing one of the Caribbean’s most spectacular sunsets.
Guests, meanwhile, can go off resort to discover the Curaçao, which is known for its adventurous terrain, pristine beaches, limestone caves, spectacular diving sites, and vibrant capital, Willemstad, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Elevated infinity pool: Located at the heart of the property is the brand’s first ever bi-level Dos Awa Infinity Pool, with views overlooking the Spanish Water and the rugged mountain landscape beyond. Guests can relax on poolside loungers or swim up to the bar for signature Curaçao cocktails with a view.
New room categories: Lush garden and tranquil ocean views complement island chic design imbued with locally inspired influences in the resort’s 351 rooms and suites. From the Melemele Walkout Suites (‘affectionate’ in the local language Papiamento) to the Sunchi Beachfront Suites (meaning ‘kiss’), accommodations include entirely new room categories, such as the Kurason Island Poolside Butler Bungalows and Awa Seaside Butler Bungalows, capturing the height of luxury and overlooking private lagoons and the Curaçaon coast.
Luxury amenities and furnishings range from hardwood floors to vaulted ceilings, custom crafted king-size beds, fully stocked wet bars, smart TVs and more – with Sandals’ Signature Butler Elite service, airport transfers and 24/7 room service for select suites.
MINI Cooper: Further encouraging guests to see, taste, and feel Curaçao beyond the property, top-level suites include a complimentary convertible MINI Cooper to drive around the island, creating an immersive travel experience that simultaneously drives business to local establishments.
New dining concepts: On property, Sandals Royal Curaçao features 11 culinary concepts, including eight restaurants – seven of which are new to the brand and only available at this resort – along with three beachside gourmet food trucks and 13 bars. A sampling of all-new concepts include Aolos, home to an open-air Mediterranean dining experience; Vincent, an homage to the famous Dutch painter with a robust European fusion menu; and Toteki food truck serving up traditional Curaçao fare.
‘Island Inclusive’: Sandals Royal Curaçao offers the brand’s first-ever off-site dining program, Island Inclusive, which expands its all-inclusive dining options to eight partner restaurants around the destination. Valid on seven-night minimum stays, the program is available exclusively to guests who are booked in Butler suites, as well as Sandals Select Reward Members (Diamond, Pearl, Ambassadors Club levels), offering one US$250 voucher to dine out at one of the partner restaurants, with off-site roundtrip transportation included. The carefully curated restaurant selection varies from chic gastro-bars to international fusion restaurants to more classic establishments serving elegant cuisine paired with ocean views.
As the resort gets off the ground, staff from across the Sandals roster of hotels have parachuted in – some for as much as a year – to train staff and ensure that Sandals standards are maintained.
SRI’s philanthropic arm, the Sandals Foundation, joined forces with the Netherlands’ AFC Ajax team to launch Future Goals, a program that turns fishing nets sourced from the ocean and recycled plastic waste into soccer goals for children. The program is one of the many projects underway on the island of Curaçao for the Sandals Foundation, including beach cleanups that have helped rid the planet of over 400,000 kg. of trash to date, and the development of a digital hiking app in partnership with IVN Tiny Forest the Netherlands to help make the island’s natural resources more accessible to visitors and locals.
“Every time we come to Curaçao,” Adam Stewart continued, “we fall more and more in love with the destination, because of all these things coming together: this Dutch culture, this vibe of the Caribbean, South America is 40 miles away… And it all comes together in a way that makes this not a normal place – and an undiscovered place!”
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First published at Travel Industry Today