A black Rolls-Royce makes a splash as it heads into the departures terminal at Grantley Adams International Airport.
Heads are turning and camera phones are up, ready to capture the mega-rich superstar inside.
Simon Cowell, maybe. Elton John? Or Kylie. Oh, maybe Beyoncé.
No, it must be Cowell. He’s in Barbados more than local girl Rihanna.
There is then a palpable sense of disappointment when a decidedly infamous middle-aged couple emerge and are handed some rather weary luggage by the driver.
It will be us then. . .
There is a palpable sense of disappointment around me and my wife as well.
We’re coming home after ten days at the exclusive, all-inclusive, adults-only Sandals Barbados resort, and that’s a key.
The free Rolls-Royce at the airport looks like a kind attempt to soften the blow.
A soft “sorry, you really have to go home now – but we’ll let you in this beautiful car as a last treat”.
All-inclusive resorts can be hit or miss, especially when the word “all” translates to “some” in the fine print.
Sandals takes a different approach. From food and drink to activities and entertainment, everything is truly included in the price.
Nowhere is this more welcome than with meals.
Instead of the often ho-hum all-you-can-eat buffets, Sandals offers fine dining.
There are 20 restaurants spread across Sandals Barbados and its neighboring resort, Sandals Royal Barbados.
It’s no exaggeration to say that this is a foodie’s paradise – subtle, flavorful and beautifully presented dishes from around the world.
And there’s none of this supplement business, where you find you’re paying extra to eat at the only restaurant you really like.
Sample seafood at Schooner’s and steak at Butch’s Chop House.
Or go for Indian at Bombay Club, Italian at Portofino’s, gourmet French at La Parisienne (next to a rooftop bar with stunning views) and American fare at The American Tavern.
In theory, you could eat at a different restaurant every night.
Or discover a favorite and eat there several times during your stay. (We absolutely loved Chi, an Asian fusion spot.)
But you have to reserve a table, they fill up quickly.
Sandals Barbados, located on the beach at St Lawrence Gap on the south coast, is a couples-only retreat where everything is designed to deliver the right adored experience.
Want to be romantic? Sit in the hot tub on your suite’s balcony with a glass of champagne before your “date” at one of the restaurants above.
COVID: You must provide proof of a PCR test taken within three days of arrival or a lateral flow taken one day before arrival.
Fully vaccinated, there is no need to test or quarantine on arrival.
Unvaccinated people should self-quarantine and take a second PCR test on day 4.
GETTING THERE/STAYING: Seven nights at Sandals Barbados in a Caribbean Grand Luxe room are from £2,045 pp, including Virgin Atlantic flights from Heathrow on September 26, 2022 and transfers.
Seven nights in a Beachfront Club Level Penthouse Suite with Balcony Bath from £2,545 pp on the same dates.
Go to sandals.co.uk or call 0800 597 0002.
Or dine by candlelight on the beach as the waves gently lap the sand just feet away.
Want to party? Alcohol flows all day in the main pools while music blares until sunset.
Then head out and enjoy the (quite good) live entertainment until the early hours.
Want to chill? There are quiet pools where you can sit and read in the sun.
Or you can head to the Red Lane Spa, in the resort’s lush and peaceful gardens, for a massage or sauna.
The bedrooms are also designed for romance. We had a suite on the fourth floor with the hot tub and an ocean view.
But for more money, you can stay in pool suites (with a private mini pool out front) or a beachfront penthouse with an on-call butler.
Ah, yes, butler service. If you want someone to go down to the beach first and reserve your lounge chairs, then bring you a picnic later, this is for you.
But you probably don’t NEED it – except to show it to your friends.
We found it was always possible to find free sunbeds and the friendly staff were constantly dropping by to see if you wanted snacks or anything from the bar.
While you’re on the beach, you can try your hand at scuba diving, kayaking, and windsurfing.
Again, everything is included no matter how many times you want to do them.
And it’s a great beach too – golden sands and warm waters protected from the choppy Atlantic waves by a breakwater. Snorkel and see the fish – amazing.
We were at Sandals last October when Barbados was working hard to keep Covid at bay.
That meant a 9pm curfew across the island, so trips to Bridgetown – the bustling capital with its UNESCO-listed colonial architecture – and further afield were a bit truncated.
Basically, that meant no Oistins, the famous Friday night party, which is like a brilliant cross between Notting Hill Carnival and a German bierkeller, complete with sound stages, food, booze and dancing .
What Covid has proven, however, is that Sandals was perfect for this weird ‘barracks lockdown’ situation we found ourselves in.
(One of the craziest Covid police moments at Sandals was when a fire-eater, who had spent ten minutes gargling gasoline and blowing out flames, finished his act – and immediately received a face mask.)
Of course, all this exclusivity comes at a price. Sandals are expensive – but you get what you pay for.
And for that special birthday, that dream vacation and, of course, the fantastic Instagrammable wedding on the beach, it’s ideal.
So when you fancy a stroll on the sunny Caribbean sands, you really need Sandals.