“Underneath the mango tree me honey and me….”
Honey Ryder emerges from the warm Caribbean sea onto the shore in Jamaica wearing a white bikini, a knife at her hip and carrying two pearly pink conch shells. James Bond hears the strains of the calypso style song and joins in. ‘”I can assure you my intentions are strictly honourable,” he says, with a smile that suggests the opposite.
This famous scene from Dr No came to mind as I wiggled my toes in the sand in front of the Sandals Royal Plantation Hotel in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. My very own Sean Connery lay beside me and I heard his warm Scottish voice ordering our drinks from the butler: “Two pina coladas: shaken, not stirred.”
Our itinerary for the week had been primarily to review the family resorts of Beaches Ocho Rios and Beaches Negril but with the adults only resort just a short taxi ride away, a little change of plan was agreed so that Dougie and I, the empty nesters of the group, could have a little taste of the Sandals experience.
The Royal Plantation hotel began life in 1957 as the Plantation Inn, built by the owners of the well-known Jamaica Inn, on the neighbouring cove. It attracted many celebrities in the fifties and sixties: Winston Churchill, Grace Kelly, Noel Coward and, naturally, Ian Fleming, whose passion for the island was so great he built his own property here, GoldenEye. The Sandals group restored the hotel in 2001 and it is now a 74 room, butler-service boutique property, exuding sophistication and laid-back style.
The resort is small but quite perfect. Two beach coves; one for sunbathing, the other for water sports, are linked by a winding path A beautiful pool area with bubbling jacuzzi nearby, lush, immaculate gardens with tennis courts and croquet lawn. There are five restaurants including French inspired cuisine in Papillon and The Terrace where, in the evening, you can dine by the light of the stars, overlooking the ocean.
We took lunch at the Royal Grill, a very relaxed affair by the beach, and, later, a more civilised afternoon tea on the aptly named Tea Terrace where gracious living came in the form of White Lotus and Marrakesh Mint loose leaf teas with teapots, strainers and an array of cakes and tiny sandwiches.
If we had stayed longer I think some time would have been spent in the Wobbly Peacock, an English style gastro pub, so named because of the birds which meander around the grounds of the resort, though it’s usually only the patrons of the pub who end up wobbly.
All the rooms here have ocean views and are decorated in an elegant colonial style. We had a peek into one which had recently been refurbished – the dark mahogany wood reflects the traditional feel of the building but the colour palette is fresher with pure white and dove grey in the glamorous bedrooms and serene bathrooms.
This heavenly hotel, with its focus on service and attention to detail, is the ideal choice for a honeymoon or for those who appreciate peace, tranquillity and the finer things in life. But if you need a bit of excitement now and again, if the morning yoga and evenings by the piano aren’t quite pushing all your buttons, you can opt to sneak into neighbouring Sandals Ochi. It’s hardly sneaking though – there is an hourly shuttle bus or you can wade out from the shore and paddle round to the adjoining bay.
At the bigger and brassier Sandals Ochi, things are still luxurious, adult and all-inclusive but a whole lot wilder with more restaurants, activities, and even the occasional mechanical bull for that once in a lifetime thrill. Get it all out of your system before you return to the more civilised enclave of Royal Plantation. The hotel exchange only works one way so if you stay at Sandals Royal Plantation you have the best of both beautiful worlds.
Churchill, Coward and Fleming would certainly agree.
Our stay in Jamaica was courtesy of Unique Vacations (UK) Ltd, representing the Sandals and Beaches resorts.
Seven nights staying at Sandals Royal Plantation costs from £2029 per person. Price includes Luxury Included® (all-inclusive) accommodation in an Orchid Oceanfront Butler Room, return economy flights from London and resort transfers.Valid for travel dates 2 May – 24 June 2016. To book or for more information call 0800 597 0002 or visit www.sandals.co.uk