Multiple repeat Sandals visitors say Jamaica is home – Jamaica Observer

IRISH by birth, David and Elaine Mcanulty refer to Jamaica as their home.
The couple, from Banbridge on the east coast of Northern Ireland, have been coming to Jamaica since 2007. They are Sandals ambassador guests who have spent over 440 nights at the luxury-included resort, and 250 of those nights have been at their favourite watering hole in Jamaica — Sandals South Coast — where they are affectionately known as “Mr And Mrs Rumhead”. They even have their own personalised Sandals name badges to prove it.
“It was by sheer chance that we ended up in the Caribbean,” David said. He explained that back in 2003 he and Elaine actually planned a trip to Hong Kong but had to cancel as there was an outbreak of SARS [severe acute respiratory syndrome]. Still yearning for a new adventure, they decided to go west instead. “Sandals Regency La Toc in Saint Lucia seemed like the best choice then, as we could get both flights there and suitable accommodation, so we went for it and that became our introduction to Sandals,” said David.
“We started with Sandals in Saint Lucia and we loved it, but then we thought there are other properties so we’ll try them too, all of them,” said the couple. Thereafter, they island-hopped between Saint Lucia and Antigua, made a stop in The Bahamas and then eventually touched down in Jamaica. “Our trip to Jamaica was the first time that we left a vacation saying, ‘We’re coming straight back,’ and we’ve done that every January since,” David added.
Even though David and Elaine have continued to take the odd detour to other Caribbean islands over the years, their hearts always led them back to where the vibe is irie, the sun is warm, and the people are even warmer – Jamaica.
“What first got us hooked on Jamaica was the staff at Sandals South Coast and the interaction with staff and guests,” they said. Elaine still remembers meeting a watersports attendant by the name of Dennis on their first trip to Jamaica. “Dennis taught us real Jamaican patois, not the one we found in a glossary online,” said Elaine with a laugh. Learning patois was fun for them as they felt it provided an opportunity for unique interaction with staff, and to this day they love the reaction they get whenever they speak patois.
Over the years the couple has had a lot of opportunities to not only learn the local dialect but also experiences on and off the south coast’s beaten tracks, such as trips to Appleton Estate, YS Falls, Lover’s Leap, and Jack Sprat. “As a matter a fact, I remember we were on the very first Island Routes boat tour to Floyd’s Pelican Bar and that was quite an experience,” said David.
But they aren’t just in love with Jamaica, it’s Sandals too, and Sandals South Coast in particular. “I’ve had some amazing memories here,” said David. Now when the Rumheads visit, they take the time to switch off and focus on the other thing that got them hooked on Jamaica – the friendships they’ve made over the years.
“We’ve made some of our closest friends here, friends from all over the United States and England as well,” said David. “A number of them have even come to visit us in Ireland,” Elaine added. The couple agrees that those friendships are indeed priceless and are what makes their vacations so special. “On this trip there are about 20 of us here,” Elaine added. “And with technology it’s so much easier to stay in touch and plan our trips together.”
“That corner of the main pool right next to the bar is our office everyday starting at 10:00 am, and the team members here are our family. This is home,” David chipped in.
The perks that come along with being members of the Sandals Select Loyalty Programme are also a plus for the couple. “It’s just great to know that while you’re spending to come on vacation, you’re also getting something valuable in return; from token Sandals collectables to loyalty points to spend on accumulated paid nights. Knowing that each trip gets you closer to achieving another level is great,” said David. “And we absolutely live for those free week stays.”
The couple has another vacation booked for this November and another for January 2024.
Back in Ireland, David is a recycling manager for the local government, with just enough time for a game of golf on the weekends, while Elaine, an avid entrepreneur for the better part of 30 years, balances running a successful spa business with running marathons. She holds the honour of being the female with the most marathon runs in all of Northern Ireland.
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