Jamaica -- Rising up from what not so long ago was desolate,
uninhabited, brush-filled beachfront property on the southwest
coast of Jamaica is Sandals newest and grandest effort to date.
Its heavy on the
The opening of
Sandals Whitehouse European Resort & Spa on Feb. 10 -- the date
is solid, promised general manager Jeremy Jones -- marks the firms
return to where it began in Jamaica in 1981 with the opening of
Sandals Montego Bay.
The last Sandals
resort built from the ground up in Jamaica was its Dunns River
Resort 13 years ago. (Other Sandals have opened on the island since
then but were acquired properties and not newbuilds.)
What I saw in
mid-December was a resort more than 80% through the three-year
The hard-hat tour
took more than two hours as I traipsed through three European
villages, stepped over pipes and planks, skirted scaffolding and
marble columns and chatted up an army of tradesmen from bricklayers
to tile fitters, painters, carpenters, crane operators and beach
My tour guides
were Jones and Brian Roper, Sandals director of operations, two men
who know this resort from blueprints to bedspreads.
Theyd been on
site for months as architectural renderings evolved into reality
and building outlines took shape.
" The resort is a
palette of 62 Caribbean colors that extend well beyond Sandals
trademark hues and neons.
reflect fruits, feelings, flavors, said Jones.
Indeed they do,
with names like playful periwinkle, passionate papaya, coral dust
and melon medley. The place glows, especially when the sun hits the
roof tiles or exterior walls.
color scheme and anchoring Sandals public areas and pool complex is
the gold-domed roof of the main lobby area with marble statues and
arches framing piazzas and sea views beyond.
Weve taken the
designs at this resort to the highest degree, Roper said. Our
tilers came from Israel, Romania, Italy and Mexico to work on this
project. At one point we had 800 workers here, and all who were not
locals were housed in staff units that we built.
" A total of 360
rooms in nine categories set on a 50-acre resort site makes for a
sprawling complex made intimate by the three-village concept --
architecturally themed Dutch, Italian and French guest buildings,
set off by landscaped courtyards, four pools, many bars and seven
No guest has to
walk very far to swim, drink and eat, Jones said.
" Sandals Whitehouse has one of
the few fully air-conditioned -- yet open-air -- lobbies in
Jamaica, topped by the gold dome, a cedar roof and many trademark
With the total
cost of the project hovering around $80 million, Roper acknowledged
that Sandals Whitehouse is one of the most expensive resorts on a
per-room basis that weve built.
" Six of the
seven restaurants will serve a la carte meals; the Casa Blanca
martini bar overlooks a 12,000-square-foot, zero-entry pool (the
largest in Jamaica, according to Roper); each guest room and the 80
suites offer ocean views; continental breakfast is served in all
rooms and in 48 suites, while the 32 top-category suites offer
24-hour room service and Sandals new butler service.
" Two beach clubs
flank either end of the half-mile beach. One club is at the active
end of the beach where the water sports are based, and the other is
at the restful end, Jones said.
The resort sits
on a peninsula bordered by Parkers Bay and Bannister Bay, both
protected by a natural reef.
beaches when we select a property, and weve got a winner here,
In fact, there
still are 29 empty acres of Sandals-owned beachfront property next
to the resort, which leaves open the possibility of a Beaches
Resort opening there at some point.
" The resorts spa
will have 10 treatment rooms; an oversized courtyard and fountains;
hot and cold plunge pools; and misting areas.
it as the ultimate retreat.
options include a three-level theater seating 120 with a mezzanine
bar and cocktail seating at tables for two, a game room with an
X-Box Game Oasis and a retail village with gift shops, clothing
stores and a tour desk.
especially proud of the back-of-the-house operation, where weve
spent a lot of design, time and money.
changing lockers for the 600 employees, a large laundry facility
and the latest in environmental systems, drew equal praise.
" Land sports
include four tennis courts, a full gym, a putting green, two squash
courts and, still to come, an $8 million, 18-hole golf course in
the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains bordering the
will bring many agents to Whitehouse on fam trips in 2005,
jump-started bookings by offering them an opening special rate,
which sold out very quickly, Roper said.
In fact, the 32
top-category suites that feature Sandals new butler service are
sold out for the first six weeks after opening, according to
rates through Dec. 31 range from $335 per room, per night, double,
in a deluxe unit to $595 in a one-bedroom penthouse.
minimum stay is required.
For more on
Sandals Whitehouse Resort & Spa, visit www.sandals.com/main/whitehouse/wh-home.cfm.
reporter Gay Nagle Myers, send e-mail to [email protected].