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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Tipping at all inclusive resorts - Sandals vacation

November 2013

Our departure to paradise--Sandals Halcyon Beach in Saint Lucia--is just around the corner! To say that we are excited would be an understatement. We have stayed in several all inclusive resorts, although this will be our first stay at a Sandals resort. We are looking forward to fabulous service and good quality. The Sandals' website boasts about The Sandals Difference with items like: luxurious accommodations, top-shelf drinks, Beringer wines, entertainment, motorized water sports, and all tips and gratuities included.

Our first visit to an all inclusive resort was in 2000, and many resorts at that time said that all tips were included. We did not tip any extra the first few years that we went to all inclusive resorts. We always had great service, although sometimes the food and beverage quality was not very good. I think that was more related to the resort quality, though.

In 2004, we noticed that guests were leaving tips, and that the quality of the service and beverages seemed to be related to whether the guest had left a tip or not. After that trip, we started to bring small bills with us, and we also joined in leaving additional tips at resorts that said tipping is included. 

Today, I think that those of us who gave out extra tips when we were not supposed to, created the tipping problem prevalent in many resorts today. I have noticed this get steadily worse since 2004. We do not like the way we were made to feel, if we do not leave a tip, and we do not like employees acting like they expect one, when this is supposed to be included. One of the things we are looking forward to at Sandals, is not having to worry about tipping, and having better quality service. 

As our trip draws closer, I started to read some of the recent reviews online. I found so many references to poor service, poor quality, and discreet ways to leave tips, that I became alarmed. I immediately contacted my travel agent, who had this to say: There is absolutely NO tipping whatsoever to any Sandals employee.  Their employees will be fired on the spot if they are seen taking money.  Now you can tip the porters for your luggage. Your service will NOT be any different. She also assured me that premium beverages and good quality food are served.

Some of the negative reviews that I read did not make any sense to me. One guest complained about a dead frog in her room that had not been removed all week! If I found a dead frog in my guestroom, it would be removed that day--one way or another. Another guest complained that she stood at the bar for over half an hour, and the bartender did not wait on her, so she went to complain to management. That is another thing I would not do--stand at a bar and wait to be served for over half an hour. There is more than one bar and one bartender at the resort, as well as other ways to get assistance before going to management. I read a lot of complaints about a rude wine waiter in Kelly's, who is trying to upsell bottles of wine. I read these complaints from happy and unhappy guests, so I tend to think that what I read about this experience is accurate. Hopefully, Sandals has dealt with this by now. We plan to carry a beverage/glass of wine with us to dinner, just in case.

We have a club room reserved, and plan to experience our stay the Sandals way--great service, and good quality food and drinks, without tipping staff members we are not supposed to tip. I will share our experience after we return. In the meantime, safe travels, and Happy Thanksgiving to my American followers!

UPDATE: Our stay was fabulous! Excellent service, good quality beverages, and the food was amazing! We did not tip any extra for services that were already included. I think that is Sandals intent, and that is what we had been hoping for. A full detailed review will be posted soon.
Sandals Halcyon Beach