We just got back from our Connecticut wedding and all-inclusive honeymoon. Maybe you’re considering the same thing…
Well, early to mid December was a busy time for me. For one, my very own Connecticut wedding (well, it was really the design of my beautiful wife, MaryKate) is over! It was just great and couldn’t have gone any better. Additionally, I’m typing this new blog post on the plane ride back from our honeymoon, which we enjoyed at an all-inclusive Caribbean beach resort.
Since you already know me as your friendly, neighborhood Connecticut wedding photographer, I thought I’d reinforce that idea by writing a guide about honeymooning at an all-inclusive resort.
Note: Terrence Irving Photography is in no way affiliated with Sandals nor was I asked/paid by Sandals to write this blog post.
Why tell when you can show? Check out this short YouTube summary of the blog post right here!
Start with the basics, please.
An all-inclusive resort all-inclusive resort is a vacation entity that includes at least the bare essentials of lodging, food, drinks, and entertainment for a flat, prepaid fee. Physically, all-inclusive resorts tend to be more substantial (i.e. larger) than hotels. Financially, as you would expect, they tend to cost a lot more due to the facts that your payment includes more than just a bed and due to the convenience of having most everything at your fingertips.
Why go to a warm-weather, all-inclusive resort after a Connecticut wedding?
Simple: because Connecticut is generally cold and all-inclusive resorts tend to be very warm.
Yes, this seems like an obvious, “duh” statement. Furthermore, you may be thinking that your honeymoon can just as well take place in a non-all-inclusive manner. You would be absolutely right. What follows, however, is info and opinion regarding the all-inclusive part. I’m not saying it’s better or worse, just telling you about it.
Wait, you got married? And where’d you actually go on your honeymoon, anyway?
I can now add husband to my list of duties. It’s definitely an honor! Anyway, MaryKate and I decided to honeymoon at Sandals Grande Antigua. Allow me to be frank: we absolutely loved it.
Antigua is a small island about 170 square miles in size (1/32 the area of Connecticut) in the Caribbean Sea. It’s part of the nation of Antigua and Barbuda, which part of the West Indies. Its population is about 96,000 (about as many as Norwalk). It’s a beautiful island, the main industry of which is tourism.
Oh, and by the way, it’s pronounced an-TEEG-ah. That’s ah, not gwah.
Since you’re on your way to getting married, you’ve probably already heard of Sandals. Well, they have one resort on Antigua; some other island nations have multiple Sandals resorts (I’ve heard that you’re allowed to hop between them during a stay).
Even though we had a great time, my intention with this post isn’t really to sing the praises of Sandals Grande Antigua.
Five things to know about all-inclusive resort honeymooning
So, let’s get to it. Here are five things that my wife and I experienced and/or learned during our honeymoon at an all-inclusive resort after our Connecticut wedding:
1. There are people everywhere
I’m an introvert; my mom has always said this and she’s always been right about it. This is a little ironic given my approach to photography. But if you’re an introvert, too, or would just prefer a little more seclusion during your honeymoon, then an all-inclusive resort may not be for you. This is something to think about
Of course, on the other side of the coin is extroversion. Do you love talking with strangers? Making new friends? People watching? Then an all-inclusive resort honeymoon after your Connecticut wedding is definitely ideal. Our experience at Sandals Grande Antigua was sort of like being on a college campus.
Being around so many other vacationing and honeymooning strangers was mostly a good thing. We even made some friends, other couples that we saw every few hours in passing that we could stop and talk to. The other interesting thing was that we met a lot of serial all-inclusive resort travelers. There was much to learn from them, such as which Sandals resort to visit next, secret menu items at the sushi restaurant, or how to play snooker.
The only negative to the crowd issue that my wife and I observed was this: a woman getting hit in the face with a football. Well, at least it was a pool football and not a leather one. But it still wasn’t good, the result of a slightly rambunctious group thinking they had more space in the pool than they actually did.
2. You’re paying in advance, for pretty much everything
It’s never all about the money, but finances sure do matter. Your honeymoon is an investment just like your wedding photography. So the first thing I want you to know about all-inclusive resorts is that they require the money up front. In the case of Sandals, they require something like a $250 deposit per room. The total cost, then depends on which level and/or type of experience you book.
What do I mean by “everything”? Well, literally everything. Off the top of my head, here are the things my wife and I had already paid for by the time we arrived at the all-inclusive resort:
- The room/accommodations
- Breakfast, lunch, and dinner
- Drinks (soft and hard)
- The mini bar in the room
- Pool and beach access
- Fitness center, volleyball courts, etc.
What’s left, then? Here are the things we could have paid for once we arrived:
- Excursions (e.g., riding jet skis, scuba lessons, boat rides, etc.)
- Spa access/treatment
- Gift shop items
- Sandals photography
- Premium alcohol (Dom Perignon, anyone?)
If there’s a drawback, it’s that after (or actually before) your Connecticut wedding, you’re going to pay thousands of dollars up front for your all-inclusive honeymoon. There is, however, a really practical point to be made here: paying in advance for pretty much your entire honeymoon really helps with budgeting.
Here are a bunch of other factors to consider regarding the financial aspects of an all-inclusive resort.
Now getting back to that mini bar, let’s discuss tip #3.
3. Unless you’re a drinker, an all-inclusive resort honeymoon may not be for you
I don’t know, maybe this is like the elephant in the room for some people. But the fact is, alcohol tends to be everywhere at an all-inclusive resort. In my opinion, this isn’t a good or bad attribute of an all-inclusive resort, it’s just a fact.
For MaryKate and me, it began as soon as we stepped out of the van that delivered us to Sandals Grande Antigua: one staff member greeted us with cool towels and another had glasses of champagne. Both were well received: Antigua is pretty hot!
Next, we entered the lobby and had a seat as the staff explained what was next. I couldn’t help but wander with my eyes as they spoke, taking in the beautiful architecture and furniture of the lobby. But then something caught my eye: a bottle of Johnnie Walker Black scotch whiskey in the corner of the room, near the main desk. It was sitting among other bottles on a little self-service bar. Honestly, after flying all day, that bottle looked like heaven to me (I didn’t have any until much later though, I promise).
Then we arrived in our room and saw the mini bar; “impressive” barely begins to cover it.
Here’s how I would summarize the presence of alcohol during our all-inclusive honeymoon resort stay:
- As with everything else, you are paying for alcohol in advance. There were exceptions in our experience: bottles of premium alcohol at restaurants. The house wine at Sandals Grande Antigua was Robert Mondavi when we stayed, so we were good to go.
- Bars are open and widely available. A swim-up bar is an especially welcomed treat after a Connecticut wedding. Sitting on a submerged barstool sipping on a Bob Marley or piña colada is a treat.
- Housekeeping will get your bottles and cans refilled/replaced once they are nearly empty.
My wife and I barely had time to drink anything during our Connecticut wedding. Therefore, paying in advance for alcohol at Sandals worked really, really well for us.
One more thing about alcohol consumption at all-inclusive honeymoon resorts: remember that most of the other guests are probably drinking all day, too.
4. Some all-inclusive resorts have a no-tipping policy
This is an interesting one. It’s definitely something you should be aware of, however, because it applies to more than just etiquette. You can’t tip all-inclusive resort employees willy-nilly; you’ll have to do your research first to see if the employees are allowed to accept them.
Since I went to a Sandals after my Connecticut wedding, I can kind of speak to that: Sandals has a no-tipping policy for the majority of its employees. Here’s why I say “kind of”:
- The FAQ list on the Sandals website doesn’t specifically mention tipping. There is advice, however, about carrying cash: “Additionally, you may want to carry small bills to tip luggage attendants at the airport and airport transfer drivers outside of the resort.”
- At Sandals Grande Antigua, we observed several employees wearing buttons on their uniforms containing cute no-tipping statements.
- When we were there, we spoke to a few Sandals Grande Antigua guests who had butlers. I seem to remember them saying that Sandals butlers are allowed to accept tips.
- There are plenty of online resources which speak to Sandals’s no-tipping policy, seemingly confirming the notion.
Something else to know: in the case of Antigua, our ride to and from the airport was not a Sandals employee, so tipping was fine (our first driver as actually very verbal about it).
Again, I’ve been focusing on Sandals because that’s the all-inclusive resort that I have experience with. This post does a good job of summarizing all-inclusive resort tipping, including brands other than Sandals.
So how can you show your appreciation for all-inclusive resort employees who are forbidden from accepting tips? Rate/review them to their management! At Sandals Grande Antigua, for example, my wife and I were given instructions for accessing a web-based review system that allowed us to leave feedback (a Sandals employee actually responded in writing each time). If this weren’t available to us, I probably would have just gone to the front desk and spoken to someone in person about the high level of service we were receiving.
5. This is the most important vacation of your life, so choose your all-inclusive honeymoon resort wisely
Just like choosing a Connecticut wedding photographer, the process of choosing a honeymoon location is very important. This is especially true if you’re leaning towards an all-inclusive solution (the investment is typically larger).
Here’s basically how my wife and I picked our honeymoon location:
- We set some ground rules. Translation: she made it clear from the beginning of our selection process that her vote counted more than mine because she was the bride and planned the whole wedding. I said “OK” and went along with it. Who am I to argue? Our other factors were a. Somewhere warm and b. A country within about a day’s worth of travel. We quickly realized that we were targeting the Caribbean.
- We ruled out locations that we weren’t really interested in visiting at this time. Next, we narrowed the field. For example, my mother is from Jamaica, so I’ve visited that island many times over the years. My wife-to-be and I agreed that we preferred to visit somewhere new to both of us. Several other factors helped us rule places out, not the least of which was…
- We considered safety. This should actually be #1. Please, before you sign a contract and make a payment, check out what’s going on in the world (remember this incident, for example) and consider the reputation of your prospective honeymoon resort/hotel/rental. My personal quirks aside, I urge you to put safety at the top of your honeymoon destination factor list. You and your new spouse need to enjoy your first vacation as newlyweds after your Connecticut wedding. That means hopefully avoiding any incidents or fretting about your belongings making it all the way back with you.
- We asked around. Talking with friends, family members, and coworkers, my soon-to-be-wife and I were able to get some more feedback and ideas. Also, in the end, we ended up hiring a travel agent to help us plan our honeymoon. This helped us confirm that we were making the best choice for ourselves.
Bonus Tip: there may be cats
If anyone out there can figure this one out, please let me know. I still don’t get it.
Thanks again for dropping by the blog!
Like tip #5 says, figuring out your post-Connecticut wedding honeymoon is an important decision. The all-inclusive route is definitely a viable one and I hope this post helps with your decision!
As always, Terrence Irving Photography is booking weddings for 2020 and beyond. Please head over to my contact page, reach out, and I’ll tell you more!
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