In episode 8 MAST President and COO John Werner sits down with Fairytales & Sunsets Travel owner Tammy Richardson. Tammy details her recent trip to St. Lucia and discusses her passion for the Caribbean. Tammy prides herself in gaining the knowledge to create memorable experiences for all her clients. If you are interested in current travel to St. Lucia, stay tuned!
Key Points Mentioned In The Podcast
#1 – Travel agents are out there getting the important information for their clients
“this is our business so, we are going to be out and about and explore what was opened to give our clients firsthand experiences.”
#2 – Not all Caribbean islands have the same rules
“you have to make sure because all of the Caribbean islands have different requirements, different tests requirements”
#3 – Sandal’s Grand St. Lucian is on a walkable bay
“It’s a bay area. It’s not long, I would say a mile. So, it is long enough that you can walk it”
#4 – Sandal’s Grand St. Lucian is good for all ages
“Definitely honeymooners and destination weddings. One thing that I really observed that I thought was amazing, was we saw age brackets from 25 years old, all the way up to 70.”
#5 – Sandal’s St. Lucian is open with social distancing measures
The swim up bar was open. Everyone was social distancing, though. And of course, they weren’t at 100% capacity.”
Full Podcast Transcript
Welcome to the MASTers of Travel series. My name is John Werner. I’m the President of MAST Travel Network. We are a network of professional travel advisors, numbering about 1000 professionals in our network. I’m here today with Tammy Richardson, who is one of our travel advisors. And I want to talk to Tammy today about her trip to St. Lucia. I’ll learn what’s special about going to St. Lucia and, and the kinds of experiences that she would like to share with us today. So, Tammy, welcome to the MASTers of travel series.
Thank you so much, John. I’m really excited to be here and share my experience.
Well, that’s wonderful. Your trip to St. Lucia was not too long ago, maybe a month or so would you say?
Yes, it was the first week of October.
Okay. What airport did you fly out of?
We flew out of Nashville, Tennessee.
Very good. What was it like at the airport in Nashville? Was that your first time back in the airport since this whole pandemic began?
Actually, no, I started back flying in July. Of course, this is our business so, we are going to be out and about and explore what was opened to give our clients firsthand experiences. I will say it was a little sad to see how empty the airport was. That was a little different. I will also add that what I expected was not a lot of people in the line. However, because of social distancing, and all the safety precautions, it took a little longer to get through checking in for my flight as I had expected.
Okay. You probably transferred a plane somewhere to get to St. Lucia was that in Miami or Atlanta, Charlotte? Where?
Atlanta. And similar experiences. Atlanta was just kind of on the quiet side, in the airport. I’m sure you’ve been to Atlanta and you know what a huge airport that is. It was a little quieter than what you are expecting but it was great to see people there.
Yeah, no, people definitely are traveling. It is good to see. Why did you pick St. Lucia? What was Had you been to St. Lucia before, what was the draw?
I love the Caribbean and St. Lucia Sandals had offered the opportunity for me to visit Sandals Grand St. Lucian. I had to take a test. I really didn’t want to do that. I took one for the team and did it.
I don’t know if St. Lucia is still requiring a COVID test before arrival, but wasit like a 72 hour test or something like that?
Yes. And they are still requiring tests. You just had to prove that you had taken the test and you were negative.
You just had some piece of paper or something that showed?
Yes, you have to make sure because all of the Caribbean islands have different requirements, different tests requirements. You really have to stay on top of those things o make sure you get in. The biggest thing that I have noticed through all of this with entry into the Caribbean, is you have to show that paperwork on the second flight. I had to show mine in Atlanta, they will not let you board that flight without that paperwork.
And each individual has to have that paperwork.
Okay. Well, yes, at the front end before you get to St. Lucia, it would be better to you know, have the clearance once you get on the flight. Once you were on the flight between Atlanta and St. Lucia, how was the flight? Full? Was it 50% full? What was it like?
We flew with Delta and they are continuing to keep the middle seat open. It was not a full flight. There were a lot of people on it, though. I was kind of surprised to see and excited all at the same time. Yeah, Delta does a great job. They gave out snacks and drinks and they were really very adamant about you had to keep your mask on unless you were drinking or eating.
Yeah. Did they actually push the food cart down the aisle? Or were they just handing a bag? You said they were serving drinks?
It was prepackaged. It’s a small bottle of water and cheeses its and I think the biscotti biscuits.
Okay, similar to other airlines, I guess. When you arrived in St. Lucia, what was your first impression at the airport?
I love the Caribbean hospitality. So that’s what I’m kind of accustomed to, when I visit and in St. Lucia it was no different. It was my first time. When we got off the plane, we had to go through the COVID protocols, they made fill out paperwork. That was very easy to do. We filled that out. And then we went through the COVID screening. And that was easy as well, because we had already completed the paperwork. Now they take your temperature. The thing I haven’t noticed more than anything is you don’t really even have to have your hand sanitizer only because they’re pumping it in your hand.
Yes. Yeah. I’ve seen that. So, you were going to the Sandals resort? And which property again, because there are more than more one sandals property on the island?
Yes. We went to Sandals Grand St. Lucian.
And what did you take for transportation to get to the resort?
Sandals included the transfer. So, we used their transfers to and from their resort.
Okay. And it was it? Were you the only people in the transfer or were their other guests going to the hotel?
There were other guests, and they keep the windows rolled down and you have to wear your face masks.
All right. So, then you arrived at the resort. ad then what was your first impression getting out of the vehicle?
It was gorgeous, which is what I expected. And they met us of course, they took our temperature first. And then they gave us hand sanitizer. And then of course, their cold washcloths that have the essential oil on it. I think it’s lemongrass. That is so refreshing. Yeah, that’s probably my favorite part of you know, when you arrive.
Yeah, well, that’s neat. I heard they’ve changed the check in process a lot. So, people don’t have to stand in lines, and they tried to make it contactless. Was that a breeze then to just get a key and go to your room?
Yes, well we were club level so, they took us to the club level lounge and we were all separated. You know, social distancing? The club Lounge is a bigger area so, that was easy to do. Yeah, it was a very easy process. And again, the hand sanitizer.
Okay, and that’s a fairly good-sized resort isn’t it’s quite spread out?
No, I don’t think so. I find it to be more of a compact resort. When you compare it to other Sandals. I like the feel of it, because it was the smaller quaint resort.
Okay. And then the staff, how was the staff at the resort? As far as following all the protocols and everything you what did you notice that they had to do?
They all wore mask, and they were very sweet and genuine. You could tell that they were so happy that people were coming back. So, we, my husband and I, love crepes. We went into Josephine’s a couple of times while we were there. And every time we were leaving, they would say, “Oh, please come back tomorrow”. It made me feel good to be a part of that.
Right, yeah, it’s really nice. Speaking of restaurants were all the restaurants open?
Yes. They were all open. However, they had them on rotating nights. One night one would be closed while the others were open. It gave them the opportunity to clean and sanitize.
I don’t know if reservations are required offhand or not. But for those restaurants that you make reservations ahead of time, there’s only a certain few that require reservations, the club lounge and the culinary department will help you with that.
Oh, sure. Sure. And so, once you were at the resort, what was the feeling around the property? Everything was open? The pool, the beach, and you get to use all the resort amenities?
Yes. The swim up bar was open. Everyone was social distancing, though. And of course, they weren’t at 100% capacity. It was very easy to social distance. We used the beach, we used the pool, and everything was perfect. We had a great time. Everyone that was there, the clientele, you could tell they were happy to be there. We met quite a few that had to reschedule their honeymoons and vacations. They were just excited that they finally got to go.
Sure. Did you get to see any other properties while you were on the island?
No, because the government in St. Lucia has pretty strict guidelines on it.
Yeah. I was I was wondering because there’s so many neat, smaller, kind of hidden, properties, but I know luxurious properties that are great for just kind of chilling out and kind of having a private hideaway type of experiences in St. Lucia, but you didn’t get a chance to see the other resorts.
No unfortunately, we wanted to. They have regulations and guidelines. It’s to protect their beautiful island and their people and I understand that.
Right. Did you did you go off property though, to any other activities away from the resort?
We did not. Unfortunately, it rained a couple of days that were there. You know, we can’t stop Mother Nature. In this time of the year, October they do get more rain, but I know the island is very lush and tropical, very green, beautiful scenery like the Teton Piton, I’m not sure if I’m saying that right, but very breathtaking scenery and hiking and things like that.
John 12: 48
So, the pool area itself is, is this kind of a small pool area or a very large area and every lounge chairs is all spread out?
I would say it’s probably a good medium sized pool. There’s also a quiet adult poll. And then there’s another one where there’s a volleyball net.
What’s the the beach like there? Is it the kind of beach where you can take a long walk on it or is it?
It’s a bay area. It’s not long, I would say a mile. So, it is long enough that you can walk it. And it’s beautiful. One thing I noticed was because it rained those couple of days. Even during the rain, and after the rain. The water was still clear. And you could see the ocean floor.
I thought that was spectacular.
Yeah, that’s nice. You like going in the ocean into the water? I’m sure nice and warm!
Definitely warm. And it was beautiful. I always travel with my water shoes because you never know if you’re going to have seashells and that was what I found in St. Lucia. You never know when you may step on something unsuspecting.
Yeah, absolutely. So, it sounds like being in a bay the water was fairly calm, so you didn’t get knocked over by waves and things like that. You could really walk out a distance, I guess?
Yes, you could, and it was very calm. Oh no, it was perfect.
What was your favorite restaurant at the resort?
Oh, my goodness. I would probably say Josephine’s and the pizzeria, they have a woodfire Pizzeria and my husband and I love the pizzeria and the crepes. I try not to indulge on the crepes too much. But the chocolate peanut butter with Nutella is amazing.
Right? I’ll bet it is. Besides the woodfired pizza and the crepes, what would you say was your favorite meal there your one breakfast lunch dinner pick just pick one. What was your favorite?
I really love having Club Lounge at club level. We always do breakfast in our room. And that’s probably my favorite, the Blue Mountain coffee and the pastries and whenever you want to order there’s so many things on the menu.
So, you just have a menu, and you check off what you want, and you put it on your door before going to sleep the night before and they come by and just deliver it the next morning. whatever time you designate, it’s that right?
You call club lounge, and they take your order, and they deliver it the next morning and it’s perfect because you’re on vacation.
Yeah, absolutely. What type of clientele do you feel this resort is perfect for? You mentioned honeymooners. What would be your recommendations for the type of person that would just love it there and never want to leave?
Definitely honeymooners and destination weddings. One thing that I really observed that I thought was amazing, was we saw age brackets from 25 years old, all the way up to 70. And everybody just mingled and talked, and I loved that!
Very good. Yeah. Well, since you brought up destination weddings. Did there happened to be a destination wedding taking place while you were there?
No, there was not a destination wedding, but there was a bride there looking at the over the water chapel.
I didn’t realize that they had an over the water chapel. Was it the kind of thing where they have a glass floor, and you can get out there and say your vows and have fish underneath you swimming?
Yes, that’s exactly how it is.
What kind of other tips or advice would give people that are traveling to St. Lucia?
Well, one thing I would suggest is to make sure that you research and know what excursions are open before you go during the pandemic.
Because obviously, right now we’re in the middle of a pandemic, and the government has restricted what’s available. It’s for social distancing. Just keeping them safe and their clientele because they also don’t want clients flying home with COVID exposed and be on the plane and back in the States. So that would probably be my number one tip.
Yeah. Okay. Since some of the activities off property may not have been open and that you didn’t venture to them. At the resort itself do they pretty much have their activities open like could you go snorkeling right there from the beach and take different watercraft out and so forth?
Yes, they did have their water sports.
Good, good. So then, what was it like at the end of the day, you were there, how many nights?
We arrived on Thursday and left Sunday, so we were only there for three nights.
So then at the airport on the flight home, anything unusual that you had to go through just to get back?
Really, the only thing that people will want to know is that when you get back into the airport, they take your temperature. You never know it; they tell you to stand on the red circle and they have a senso that takes it you don’t even have to be close to anyone. And then the people that help you with your luggage, you can’t take your luggage in, they have to help you with your luggage.
I thought that, and I was happy with that, because I don’t mind. I don’t mind tipping him for that. It just makes it a lot easier. They helped us with our flight vouchers and getting our boarding passes and everything.
That’s good to have some more assistance like that. To help ease everybody through the airport and not let them stand in lines and bunch up. Then on the way back home, same situation flight it was fairly full, but Delta has the middle seats open. You changed planes in Atlanta again, I guess on the way back, okay.
One tip I will say is, when you’re flying back, it’s really important to either eat at the St. Lucia airport, or to eat a nice breakfast before you leave your resort. Because once you get back into the states, you have limited dining options, in the airports.
Yeah, that’s what I experienced at the restaurants; the airport restaurants are just not open. Most of them anyway. What would you say was a learning experience, obviously, because you’re in the in the business, and your biggest takeaway from this trip, would you say?
I’m really grateful that I got to experience St. Lucia because I have a passion for the Caribbean, but I was able to come back and I write up step by step instructions for my clients that are traveling to St. Lucia. I believe it’s important to have that firsthand knowledge. You know, and to explain, because if you’re already nervous, having that step by step will help ease your mind and get you through it without panicking. I felt safe during our travels to St. Lucia. I can’t wait to go back again.
I’ll bet, I’ll bet. What other Caribbean islands have you been to?
I’ve been to St. Lucia and the Jamaica multiple times. And I had quite a few trips booked to Turks and Barbados. And those all got cancelled unfortunately. It’s okay, because it’s on my 2021 bucket list.
Right. Right. Yeah, I’m sure you’ll get the opportunity to go there. Do you have any other trips planned?
I am supposed to go to St. Lucia again in January. We’re just kind of going with the flow and see what happens. I’m heading back for my agency to Disney and Universal in December. I’m ready.
This is so wonderful to have that firsthand experience that you can share with your clients. And because I know that people are asking questions, what is it like, what, what can I expect? And it’s great that you’re able to do that for them. Anything else that you can think of that you would like to like to say?
I am really proud and honored to be a part of the travel industry, and our travel agent community because the ones that couldn’t travel, we tried to help each other and just share that for your clients because people are starting to travel again. And it’s just really great to see everyone come together for that.
Yeah. Yeah, that’s good. It’s great to be able to talk to your peers and colleagues in the industry and of course, share a lot of information and knowledge and so it’s a very excellent thing to have that resource. Well Tammy, I think that this has been great. I’ve enjoyed the conversation and learning all about St. Lucia. I’ve not been to St. Lucia myself. I’m excited about hopefully being able to go there in the not-too-distant future as well.
Yeah we need to get you there.
I think you’ll love it. It is definitely lush tropical. Wind reminds you of Hawaii.
Yeah, the pictures are amazing that I’ve seen. Talking to people like yourself that have returned from there. So someday, I will someday soon.
Well, thank you, Tammy, very much. I appreciate it. And we’ll talk next time.
Thank you so much John. Appreciate the opportunity to give this interview. Take care. Thank you.