Brian and I had the privilege of taking a much-needed 5 night vacation without kids to celebrate our 10 year wedding anniversary. We planned this trip about 9 months ago, and in true Bridget fashion - I did a LOT of research. We knew that we wanted a tropical beach-like paradise. We knew we wanted all-inclusive. And we knew that we didn't want to break the bank.
Based on that criteria - it was easy to narrow it down to the Caribbean. The only other place we had been to in the Caribbean was our honeymoon in the Dominican Republic. We loved it. But we wanted to try a different place. Our research took us to various places like Turks and Caicos, Aruba, and St. Lucia. We also briefly looked at Belize, and the Cayman Islands. And then there was Jamaica. That was always in the back of our minds. After ruling out everything else because of various reasons - like cost, ease of travel, and some islands just don't have all inclusive options - we decided that Jamaica was the place for us.
We knew two people who had been to Sandals Whitehouse. And both people highly recommended it. In fact, they raved about it. Now, everyone has heard of Sandals. My opinion of it before we experienced it firsthand was that I was a bit doubtful. That's right. I wasn't sold on the whole "Sandals" thing. After all, they spend a TON of money on their advertising and marketing. They have all different levels of rooms - enough to make your head spin. The pictures show romance, tropical beaches, pristine rooms, and white-sand beaches. Was it all photo-shopped? I just wasn't sure I wanted to contribute to the hoo-ha of it all.
Then I started reading the reviews on Trip Advisor. And they were good. Really good. My system of review reading is that I read the bad reviews first. If there is a repeat of the same type of complaints, I steer away from that place. However, if the reviews are just people who are bitching about random, one-off situations, then I can look the other way. After all, there will always be bad reviews of people complaining about something. Bad reviews are inevitable. After I skim through the bad reviews, I look at the good ones. Then I look at the pictures that people post. Real people. I know the resort photos taken by the resort always look amazing. I am more interested in what the REAL photos look like. If I like what I see then I move forward.
And that's what happened with Sandals Whitehouse. There were hardly any bad reviews - and the ones that existed were mostly about the ride from the airport. Which admittedly - sucked ASS. But once you survive the 90 minute winding, pot-hole ride from hell, you are greeted with paradise. True tropical paradise. I was not disappointed in our choice. The place was amazing.
As Brian and I talked to different couples throughout the week, we discovered that there is a Sandals following. Most people go from one Sandals resort to another, and another, and another. Lucky bastards. Of course, a lot of those people that we talked to didn't have kids. So they can do this. But, I was amazed. People could rattle off which Sandals was the best, and the pros and cons of each resort. "Wow," I said to Brian. "We need to get on down to the Caribbean more than once a decade. Let's get on that."