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Jamaica's All-Inclusive Resorts


"We didn't invent all-inclusive vacations, but we perfected them," said Gordon "Butch" Stewart, the CEO behind the incredible success of Sandals resorts. Less than two decades ago Mr. Stewart was servicing air conditioners; today his holding company owns Air Jamaica and six all-inclusive Sandals resorts in Jamaica, one in Barbados and one in St. Lucia.

The concept of having all-inclusive resorts in Jamaica is a brilliant one because many tourists hesitated to visit the island due to the perceived crime problem. Some still resist all-inclusive resorts, feeling that there won't be enough variety. Sandals has, however, gotten around that, too. Guests can stay at two or more Sandals resorts during the same week (if they don't mind the packing and unpacking). Or as their marketing motto goes they can, "Stay at one, play at six," by using the free shuttles and they can dine in any of the 22 restaurants.

Unfortunately, there is only one golf course for all of the properties so golfers are best off choosing a Sandals nearest to it, the ones at Ocho Rios or Dunn's River. The sport here is way above par. The upgraded 19-hole, par-71 course is on 21 acres and has fine views of the countryside. Shuttles and green fees are complimentary.

Dunn's River is so attractive that it was chosen as a setting for one of the weddings on Lifetime Television's "Wedding of a Lifetime" series. The 25-acre, 265-room location offers a well-equipped outdoor gym, a pleasant spot from which to look out on the verdant grounds while trudging on a treadmill. There are three swimming pools, including one that is the largest in Jamaica, with swim-up bars and adjoining whirlpools. Breakfast and lunch are served buffet-style. You can eat dinner in one of three restaurants–international, Oriental or Italian. Drinks, along with food, are included in the price.

The service is outstanding. The "Playmakers" who organize activities are very friendly and behave as though it is a pleasure to serve you. Even if you are not a fan of forced festivities, the "Playmakers" bring people together to participate in the games in a low-keyed way.

WeddingMoons, a word trademarked by Sandals, a combination wedding-honeymoon costing $500 over the price of a weekly stay, is a growing part of their business. Wedding coordinators handle all of the details.

Sans Souci in Ocho Rios, which belongs to the SuperClub chain, is one of the two most upscale all-inclusive resorts in Jamaica, (the other is the fabulous Grand Lido in Negril, which is also a Super Club). The hotel's per diem rate is among the highest on the island. Wedding-honeymoon packages are available at no extra charge as are "marriage renewals" held in a gazebo overlooking the sea. They are popular among older married couples, who like the exciting, romantic concept.

There is no golf course on the premises, but three shuttle buses transport golfers every day to Jamaica Jamaica, another SuperClub where green fees are waived.

Sans Souci offers something else that keeps visitors very contented, excellent spa facilities. Although probably as many people come for the spa as came to Casablanca for the waters, a level of pampering not matched by other Jamaican hotels is offered here. For example, all guests receive one free manicure, pedicure, massage, reflexology, facial and body scrub. You can use the gym, a spring-fed pool and a shaded natural water pool set under almond trees. The bar in the pool area is for exercise rather than drinking.

There's more to recommend Sans Souci than just the spa. Magnificent cuisine is presented in luxurious indoor and outdoor settings. You never tire of it because the quality is so high. Who would mind dining at Lutece every night?

The grounds look like one big beautiful movie set with many different pretty views and quiet places to discover. Portions of "Dr. No" were filmed here. An aviary is home to dozens of birds. Of the 3000 species of plants in Jamaica, half of which can only be found in these environs, at least 20 percent seem to grow at the resort. Over by the pool is the spring, cleverly camouflaged as a fountain. Take a few steps and you are next to a natural waterfall. Nearby inside a natural boulder is a secluded area for massage tables. Here's a white sand beach and another beach for those who don't like to go into the water. Vacation at San Souci and see it all for yourself.

Sandals Dunn's River, P. O. Box 51, Ocho Rios. Tel.800-487-7324. Rates start at $775 per person for a three-night stay. www.sandals.com/main/dunns/dr-home.cfm

Sans Souci, P.O. Box 103, Ocho Rios. Tel. 800-417-5288. Rates start at $825 for a three-night stay. www.sanssoucijamaica.com

–Paulette Cooper

Spring 1996