Setting Sail On The Swanky Lady Sandals

With Martha Chapman

Long-time colleagues Maureen Barnes-Smith and Gary Sadler

The Boys from Bahamas tourist board Seve Williams, Steven Johnson and Paul Strachan with AVC execs Dina Bertolo and Diana Rodriguez

The Lady Sandals waits for her next group of VIPs

The Toronto skyline – beautiful on a summer evening

Some people say thank you with chocolates. Others send flowers. With Sandals and Beaches resorts, the ultimate thank you is an invitation on board the 40-metre Lady Sandals, the luxurious yacht owned by resort group Chair and founder Butch Stewart.

The yacht is currently on a North American “tour,” which started in Chicago and included a few days in Toronto, to be followed by stops in Kingston, Montreal, Quebec City and Halifax. At each stop, top-selling travel agents and other VIPs are invited on board.

While the experience is very upscale, it’s also very low key.  No presentations, a few (very informal) speeches and then it’s on with the wining, dining and admiring of the Toronto Islands and the city’s ever-growing skyline.

“We won’t sell you anything tonight,” Maureen Barnes-Smith, Director of Sales and Marketing/Canada told the appreciative group of 60 VIPs, tour operator execs and media on Thursday night. Added Gary Sadler, the popular Vice-President of Global Sales: “The summer is almost over!” (Genteel boos from the crowd). “And I want the summer to be over! The brochures are out and tour operators have to get back to work!” (Much laughter from the crowd.)

As we enjoyed a generous buffet dinner and open bar on the three-hour cruise, Consuls General from several Caribbean Islands mingled with Sandals staffers and tour operator execs chatted with friends in the media. 

I did make time to do a little shop talk with Maureen. “This fall we’ll be doing 85 travel agent educational dinners,” she told me. “We’ve trained over 2,000 agents in our workshops so far this year – and I take my hat off to our top-sellers who take the time to visit the resorts.  You have to get the taste, the feel and the touch to really appreciate what we offer.”

And those multiple room categories? “Yes, I know - we offer as many as 20-plus room categories in one property. But it’s very helpful to appreciate that every word in that room category is a useful descriptor regarding location and included amenities.”

All too soon we pulled back into dock, with more than one passer-by wondering what sort of celebrities we were. “Just friends of Sandals!” I wanted to say.

Martha Chapman

Martha Chapman Columnist

An OJ columnist since 2006, Martha is responsible for the Biting Questions features as well as special seasonal series. A travel industry lifer known to all in the biz, she frequently covers industry events for Open Jaw.



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