St Lucia - A taste of paradise.
We recently had the opportunity to discover all of what St Lucia has to offer in terms of a destination for MICE and luxury groups. The whole experience certainly left an impression on our Head of Luxury - Dave Page: "I fell in love with the island. It has something I’ve not seen or felt before, a calming soul about it."
Our group headed up by Iana from Saint Lucia Tourism Authority (SLTA) met on a drab looking December morning at Gatwick for the the direct 9-hour flight. This was forgotten about on arrival as we were greeted by Maria (another member of the SLTA) and our lovely driver called Mr G. (Micky). He stopped off at some lovely photo opportunity points along the way, as well as a nice glass of bubbly or beer for the journey. This always helps the group to relax and bond from the start of the stay.
We arrived at Royalton, north of the island, and was greeted with welcome drinks at check in and was shown to our rooms by our own butlers. The rooms were very spacious, romantic with a spa bath in the room and a dual shower for those staying with partners to shower together with separate controls. I thought was a nice touch even if I couldn't take advantage of the facility on this occasion!
A long day meant a quiet first evening together, a buffet dinner at Gourmet Marché. The selection for food was very impressive with something for everyone.
Jet Lag! I was awake 5am so I unpacked properly and headed for the gym before breakfast.
The day itself was hosted by Solar Tours and Travel DMC and we were picked up from the hotel by a green 6-wheel jeep for our guided tour. Starting with the Rainforest Adventures, our guide was Lloyd. He was brilliant! Such a crazy guy with a great sense of humour, joking and making us all laugh with his wacky ways. He spoke to almost everyone and anyone we passed, with many locals knowing him. The jeep was an open roof jeep with bars to hold onto. We were able to stand once we got off the main road as we went into the rain forest. I loved every minute of this, ducking over hanging branches and trees!
Rainforest Adventures offers a great incentive experience with zip wires, treks to the top of the mountains and an Aerial Tram that takes you to the top and down again. You have a guide that rides along and talks about the wildlife and history of the area and island. The ride lasted about an hour, and we saw many hummingbirds that were very close to us, which was great. After the tram we also had an opportunity to try banana ketchup. It wasn’t as sweet as I thought it might be, and I’d have it again.
Our next stop was lunch at a garden event venue called Sanctified Haven. Walking down the drive we were greeted by some local music playing to get us more into the caribbean mood, helped with a welcome drink of freshly opened coconuts with a straw, it was so refreshing after such a hot day. Over lunch we had stunning views of the rainforest and had beautiful backdrop of green hills. One of our group asked for the secret recipe for the chicken that we had. It was very dark, and a slight spice to it.
After lunch we said our goodbyes and headed back to the hotel for some free time and where we said our goodbyes to Solar Tours and Travel (Carmelita and Hayle). It had been a great experience with a lot of laughter.
We had dinner in one of the 11 hotel restaurants called Calypso, which was a West Indies Cuisine, and comes with a separate room you can privatise within the restaurant. Later in the evening, just down the road from where we were at Gros Islet, they have a street party every Friday - "Jump Up’ Experience!" The music was great, and to my surprise was a mixture of local music as well as some tunes I recognised, sang along to, and even (tried) to dance a little assisted by the local rum punch! This was served from a 5-litre plastic container that apparently was made up earlier that day by a local grandmother who had made it for years. There were stalls along the streets with merchandise, food and drinks and a lot of rum. It was a fantastic street party that had a real mixture of cultures, from the many tourists that had come along to join in the fun to the locals that were there to dance the night away - we recommend trying this experience!
After breakfast we headed to Vigie Marina with Barefoot Holidays (DMC) and boarded a catamaran. We sailed along the west coast of the island to the scenic town of Soufriere for a day of experiences. As soon as we left the marina, we were offered drinks and a selection of canapés. It was such a beautiful day with gentle waves and clear skies. I loved every minute of it and the fact we could sit out the front to view the beautiful ocean and scenery was very relaxing and joyful. It was a great way to chat with the group and bond during the day's events.
After around 2 hours we arrived at Pitons Bay and the magical Sugar Beach resort - a former sugar plantation. It was a stunning private beach and it was amazing to arrive and dock at the end of the peer. Fresh coconuts in hand, we had a site tour around the resort. The rooms were lovely and the place had a real calmness about it. We were shown some of the original buildings there from the plantation which were converted into modern areas. They really gave it a unique feel, as well as all the beautiful original art (such as Damien Hirst and Kaws etc)
The highlight had to be the spa area. It was like something out of a dream. Built into the rainforest, it had walkways to the treatment huts and a stone built sauna. The huts had wooden doors that opened to a waterfall that sounded bliss. Can you imagine a better environment to have a massage or treatment?
Our next stop was Chocolat hotel. We were led upstairs to an awaiting bench with very hot bowls and ingredients all laid out for us for our own chocolate making experience. It was a 15-minute process of banging the cocoa to get it into a paste, which was a good workout. We poured the mixture out into a mould and they set them for us in a deep cooler. Mine was broke so I shared it out. It was quite nice, although a little gritty.
After the activity and lunch we headed to the Volcano, which we were able to drive right into. The smell was quite something! We stood only about 20 meters from the smoking base of the volcano. The sulpha springs were just around the corner. Its supposed to be great for the skin. They had buckets of the mud and dipping pools which were very hot indeed, like having a mud bath.
Finally it was back on board at Soufriere port as we headed back to Vigie Marina and our hotel. Not before stopping for a quick swim in the sea. In true We Are MEaT fashion we had to have a go at diving off the boat (makes a change from other team members cannonballing!) Not quite as graceful as I had envisioned and had a few comments from the group over banana rum on ice, as we watched the sunset cruising back into the harbour.
We got a coach to The Landings hotel, our next stay and what an amazing entrance it had. I shared a 3-bedroom apartment with shared living space with another member of the group. It was located right on the marina with views from our balcony of the boats moored there. Dinner was on the beach with entertainment from fire breathers. It was a bbq and a full self-serve dinner with many dishes to choose from. The food and setting was truly memorable, as was the whole day.
Waking at 6am (jet lag!) and went for a walk around the harbour and then to breakfast. We did a site inspection of landings before a team building experience where I chose kayaking, a very chilled out 45 mins.
Serenity Travel & Tours were our hosts today and our first visit was to a bar called JJ’s owned by Jennifer. I had to try the local coconut rum! We then went to John Mathurin‘s place for a real authentic Creole food cooking activity.
We returned to the hotel to watch England beat Senegal. Then got ready for a site tour of Harbour club, owned by Hilton. Great harbour views with the sunset before dinner and a return to our hotel. We all decided to have the red wine from our rooms on the beach together. Some great conversations had while listening to the sound of the waves in the background.
We met at 8am for a trip to bay Gardens Resort. Of all the hotels visited, this felt more authentically Saint Lucian. Nice bay, smaller, family run and felt more in keeping with the area - traditional.
We had a networking event here with 6 tables of DMCs. It is always great to speak with our suppliers in this environment as well as when on the tours. After our 121 meetings we then went out on segways. This was awesome, I loved it! I had done segways before but never on such terrain and with these ones were capable of off roading.
After that excitement is was lunch and a site visit at Body Holiday. A lovely wellness retreat venue with a great spa and gym facilities. Later in the afternoon, just before dusk, we went on a sunset cruise. This was great. What a way to see the sunset and get in the mood for an evening’s dining. The crew were great and looked after us all very well. The yacht was total luxury and real experience that made you feel like royalty. This is another must for luxury clients coming to Saint Lucia.
We docked and were welcomed at Sandals Grande Resort. Dinner was in the restaurant on the peer. I liked the fire-pit on the way out of the restaurant, a very nice touch. We watched a water and fire display before returning back to the hotel.
Our leaving day! We went out early to Pigeon Island for a climb and looked around the event space. Amazing scenery and views from the top. It wasn’t too strenuous considering it was so hot. The guide had great knowledge and there are some lovely places to host an event on the hill.
A quick freshen up before a trip to Pink Plantation, where we had lunch. It was amazing and in the jungle. An idyllic and serene location to enjoy food in. The views really are magical and from the middle of the rain forest. It’s a unique venue. Staff, the artwork and the food were fabulous.
Our final visit before heading to the airport was with Zoetry Marigot. We were shown the master suit, where we had nibbles and a glass of fizz. It had stunning views overlooking the harbour and the beautiful mountain opposite.
What do I say… Was it a dream? It sure felt like it. What a place, seriously! I am not one to be able to relax easily, but here it came very naturally indeed. I’m so privileged to have been invited on this trip. A massive thank you to Iana, Maria and all that helped make this possible for me and the group. It has memories I will treasure forever and I will be happy to re-live the trip when speaking to people about it, and smiling away. Exactly what what we always look to bring to our clients when planning their group event experience.
It really is a paradise island. Thank you Saint Lucia ❤️
In the famous words of Arnold Schwarzenegger…."I’LL BE BACK."