March 2010 – First Fam Trip to St. Lucia
For the first time in my life, I drive to the Atlanta airport, park in the park and ride, and check my bags at Delta’s curbside service – all by myself. I go through security, find my gate, successfully navigate a gate change, and find my new gate – STILL all by myself until I meet Ramona, Michael & Frances in the food court. I’m a big girl now.
The four-ish hour flight to St. Lucia is uneventful – one of the only times I’m excited about something being uneventful. As we descend, I look out the window and see the Piton Mountains. It’s one of those moments that catches me off guard – I’ve been seeing these for nearly a year now in my brochures and online and talking about them so much to clients that it’s like some sort of legend has manifested itself in front of me. I audibly gasp as I reach for my camera, probably freaking out the honeymooning Londoners beside me.
We go through customs at the UVF airport in St. Lucia – again, something else that I’m thankful for being uneventful. After picking up our baggage, I split from the team to take the helicopter transfer that I’ve arranged. IN MY DEFENSE, I have been recommending these transfers to honeymoon couples and I’d like to experience it myself, so that I can answer from firsthand knowledge. NOT IN MY DEFENSE, I love helicopter rides and the provided transfer from the airport to the Sandals Grande resort is about 2 hours, versus this 11-minute flight. Worth it? I think yes.
Our Welsh pilot, Jeremy, drives us to the helipad – literally a 1 minute drive. He apologizes for the Caribbean music playing in the car, “just a bit of the culture,” he shrugs. I guess, after being on the island for the past year, he doesn’t realize that the music drives home the whole experience for visitors.
Once in the air, he describes the island’s current dry spell – you can tell that the greenery is not quite as lush, but it’s still gorgeous. From the helicopter (I wind up in the unfortunate middle seat, so no super-great pictures without leaning over someone), I can see a few puffs of smoke, small fires burning in the driest of places. You just never expect that in Paradise, but it hasn’t affected the island’s tourism, as I am later informed.
When I arrive at SLU, the smaller airport in St. Lucia (ie: a runway for puddle-jumpers), a representative from Barefoot Holidays greets me and accompanies me on the 20 minute transfer to the Sandals Grande. She’s extremely nice, about my age, and a local of the island. We chat about the various properties, the island itself, her job, my job. We pass by a stray cow wandering down the street and I want to ask if this is a normal occurrence, but I had previously seen a pony frolicking along the roadside, so I’m assuming it’s not too rare.
I’m immediately greeted by two bellmen upon arriving at the Sandals Grande, one takes my bag while the other checks me in. Now, certain words are magic to my ears, but never have any had the effect on me as the six following words… “Your butler will be with you shortly.” WHA?! Up until this point we were just keeping our fingers crossed to get upgraded to butler level, but here I am, looking over the check in guy’s shoulder and reading “Epperly – Butler”. Zing.
While waiting on my butler, another Sandals employee greets me wholeheartedly: “Welcome to paradise!” he proclaims. A few minutes later, right before getting everything sorted out, Keanan, the man checking me in, asks, “Where is your husband, Ma’am?”. Before I baffle an answer about being here with a travel agency, I splurt out, “I have no idea, but let me know if you see one for me.” Keanan laughs and tells me that’s the way to do it in St. Lucia.
I’m escorted to my one bedroom Prime Minister Suite (I’ll give you the go ahead to take the time to look that up on the Sandals website and see how much it costs for a four night stay… I love my perks). The one bedroom, one and a half bathroom suite is straight out of a magazine, complete with a bottle of chilled champagne and fruit plate, a trail of rose petals, a mini-fridge and cabinet full of drinks, and a bed with two towels folded into lovingly-entwined swans.
Here’s a buzz kill for the romance, though: I have yet to mention that I’m staying here with Frances, my coworker. But we’ll have a good laugh about all of this – how most of the people at this couples’ only resort probably think that we’re lesbians. We’re not.
While I’m typing away at the beginning of this post, I hear a knock on my door – my butler arrives, a sweet girl named Jackie. She officially checks me in (in my room – that’s service!), gives me a cell phone to reach her, and sets out to find me a chocolate dessert, per my starving request. As she is gone, the others arrive and we head to their room for the an insider’s Sandal’s spiel and our itinerary for the next three days. I can’t wait, but at the moment I really can’t wait to get back to my room and see what my butler has brought for me to munch on.
Look at all of that chocolate! I could get used to this. Again, now’s your chance to call me out – SPOILED. IN MY DEFENSE, I send a lot of couples to butler-level rooms, so I should have the experience to recommend such, right? Right.