Balmoral openingNASSAU -- Sandals Resorts International recently unveiled the $17.5 million Balmoral Tower, the newly remodeled centerpiece of the 404-room Sandals Bahamian Spa Resort & Offshore Island in Nassau.

With a snip of the blue ribbon and the release of four white doves, Chairman Butch Stewart opened the renamed Balmoral Tower, formerly the Manor Building, culminating what began as a cleanup operation following Hurricane Irene last August and escalated into a total redesign. (See a slideshow from Gay's visit to the resort here.) 

As Vincent Vanderpool Wallace, Bahamas' minister of tourism and aviation, observed during the opening ceremony, "Nobody can turn a problem into an opportunity like Butch Stewart can, and no company has so consistently delivered high standards of tourism like Sandals has."

The upgrade included the addition of large balconies to 35 of the oceanview rooms and the conversion of 11 ground-floor rooms to walkout units with access to the beach and pool areas.

Originally the block of rooms was part of the Balmoral Club, a property that hosted high society in the 1940s, including the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. In the 1960s the club played host to the Beatles during their filming of the movie "Help," which was shot on Balmoral Island, now called Sandals Cay, the resort's private island half a mile across the water.

"The remodeled Balmoral Tower is a testament to the grandeur and panache of a bygone era," Stewart said. "With the recent renovations, it now features a contemporary look and even more luxury."

Rooms and suites feature travertine-style tiling instead of carpet, airy room decor and renovated bathrooms. More than 35 butlers service 21 butler suites in the Balmoral Tower; there are a total of 93 butler suites at the resort. The employee count at Sandals Royal Bahamian totals 620 and will grow by another 40.

Beachfront fire pits and an expanded lounge area complete the new look, as do four massive peacocks that strut along the pool deck by day and doze in giant white concrete clamshells suspended high above the lounges by night.

"Our goal with all our resorts is to continually drive up our standards and to give our guests more than they expect," Stewart said. "This building far exceeds what we had hoped for. Investing money wisely and continually improving our product instills confidence in our agents who sell it and our guests who vacation at our resorts."

Balmoral TowerMore than three groups of agents have toured the Balmoral Tower to date, with many more due to arrive in the coming weeks.

"Agents are the most important part of our sales teams," Stewart said.

He said that he has had "the time of my life developing our properties in the Bahamas, including Fowl Cay, where we will add three more villas, bringing the total to nine, and Sandals Emerald Bay on Exuma, where we've invested $85 million so far and continue to tweak the product."

He called for more airlift into the Exumas to benefit not only Sandals but also the smaller properties.

Sandals is in talks with Bahamasair, the national flag carrier, about increasing its flights beyond the seven weekly flights that now call in Exuma and to provide more connectivity for flights coming in from New York and other U.S. gateways to Nassau.

As part of the company's ongoing resort upgrades, several Sandals team members are in Europe interviewing and recruiting chefs from England, France and Italy to join the culinary teams at each resort.

"We're expanding our menus to include more items authentic to the cuisine offered in our individual restaurants, many of which we consider the best in the world," Stewart said.

For Caribbean and Mexico news, follow Gay Nagle Myers on Twitter @gnmtravelweekly.

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