The Chairman Is In The House As Sandals Welcomes ACV To Exuma
with Bruce Parkinson

Air Canada Vacations and Unique Vacations folks  were out in force to welcome the sold-out inaugural non-stop flight from Toronto to Exuma. l-r: Fiona Barclay, Sr. Director Product Development ACV; Kevin Froemming, President, Unique Vacations;
Zeina Gedeon – President, ACV;
Gary Sadler, Sr. V.P. Sales North America, Unique Vacations;
Susan Lawson, General Manager Sales, Ontario & the Prairies, ACV;
Nino Montagnese, V.P. Sales & Marketing, ACV.

Sandals Chairman Butch Stewart was on hand to welcome Air Canada Vacations to Sandals Emerald Bay in Exuma, Bahamas. Stewart is flanked by Hotel Manager Cinzia Saccani and General Manager John Keating.

The Emerald Bay beach

The Emerald Bay pool

One thing is certain about Sandals Resorts founder and chairman Butch Stewart – he doesn’t miss much, in more ways than one. That’s apparent as he walks the grounds of Sandals Emerald Bay, the recently-opened reinvention of the former Four Seasons Exuma, exhorting staff to make things perfect. (“Young Boy, there’s a cigarette butt in the garden!â€)

It’s also apparent in the fact that ‘The Chairman,’ as he is universally known to Sandals staff, is on hand to welcome our group invited to visit the resort on the occasion of Air Canada’s inaugural non-stop weekly Sunday flight from Toronto. Stewart has always been a hands-on leader, dating back at least two decades when he personally handed out Sandals brochures to Canadian travel agents at tour operator product launches.

Stewart’s attention to detail is one of the secrets to the astonishing success of the Jamaica-based all-inclusive chain, which has been celebrated by travel professionals around the world with 16 consecutive World Travel Awards as the ‘Caribbean’s Leading Hotel Brand’ and 14 as ‘World’s Leading All-Inclusive Company.’

With Sandals Emerald Bay, located on the Bahamian ‘Out Island’ of Exuma, 200 kilometres south of Nassau, Sandals has taken on another new challenge. The property consists of 500 acres, most of it undeveloped. The ‘world’s first all-butler resort’ features 183 suites, set on a long crescent of powdery white sand. Next door is a challenging and scenic Greg Norman-designed golf course; beside that is a new venture for Sandals, a 150-slip marina that will accommodate mega-yachts up to 240-feet in length.

The Four Seasons Exuma went bankrupt and closed its doors last May. After scooping it up, Sandals invested $15 million in the property before opening in January. It is a gorgeous property, especially when you come through the main lobby and outside to ‘Centrestage,’ where an expansive zero entry infinity pool leads to beach and ocean. This is the focal point of the resort – all restaurants open on to the pool area, and there are poolside cabanas and a swim-up bar. A second ‘quiet pool’ area offers relaxation without music or other distractions.

The accommodations are glorious too. The 183 units are contained in three ‘village’ areas. All offer ocean views, while the Seaside Villas open on to white sands. There’s British Colonial elegance to the decor, with dark woods and stone floors, as well as expansive bathrooms with separate soaking tub and glass-enclosed shower.

Resort highlights include the 16,000 square ft. Red Lane Spa, featuring 17 treatment rooms, outdoor hot and cold pools and a choice of places to relax before and after spa treatments. The Drunken Duck Pub seems like an unusual choice for such an upscale resort, but it was a favourite spot for guests with its casual ambience, excellent service and food that compared favourably with that served at the fancier restaurants. Barefoot by the Sea is another nice concept – an outdoor beachfront restaurant where you can sink your toes into the soft sand.

There’s work to be done at Sandals Emerald Bay. The much-vaunted butler service (each is trained by the Guild of English Professional Butlers) was uneven, with guests reporting wildly varying levels of service. But it is early days for Sandals ownership, and few people doubt the situation will improve. “It’s Sandals,†said Air Canada Vacations President Zeina Gedeon. “Any problems will be quickly fixed.â€

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