For each ‘Planner’s Pick,’ Prevue interviews a planner for their choices of compelling, high value destinations.
PLANNER: SARAH AVETT Manager, Global Accounts HelmsBriscoe, Sharpsburg, GA
Something about the energies within horses—as well as dolphins, dogs and other mammals—help heal handicapped and grief-stricken people. The new movie Dolphin Tale focuses on the phenomenon, and members of the Equine Assisted Growth & Learning Association specialize in it.
For the past 13 years, the association’s annual conference has taken place in the West, but the vibe among the Canadian/U.S. attendees had grown a little predictable.
“They sought an option closer to East Coast members, more affordable and just different,” says Sarah Avett, manager of global accounts for HelmsBriscoe. A site visit to the 694-room Sheraton Nassau Beach Resort sealed the deal for multiple reasons.
“Such a beautiful hotel with marble floors and oversize chandeliers was a great surprise for our people who are used to more rustic environments,” explains Avett. “We chose the Sheraton Nassau for its location, the airiness of the buildings, and the down-home warmth the resort and staff exuded…. I never encountered anyone from the housekeepers to the GM who didn’t smile warmly and thank us for visiting.”
The outgoing friendliness of the islanders smoothed culture shock jitters. None of the group had ever been to the Bahamas, and they weren’t sure what to expect. They were pleasantly surprised, for example, by the cuisine.
With the Bahamian band Junkanoo Rush rocking the poolside welcome reception, the group dined on a zingy selection of fresh apps including: conch salad in shot glasses, pineapple cole slaw, jerk chicken, coconut shrimp, and Avett’s favorite, mango-crusted grouper.
“They led us in a conga line and encouraged anyone we encountered to join in before leaving us all in the lobby,” laughs Avett. “Fantastic way to end the evening.”
A fourth day was added to the usual 3-day agenda. Sheraton’s staff provided box lunches for a 30-minute bus trip arranged via Reliable Transportation & Tours to the family-owned Mariposa Stables—“the only place that had horses with personality,” notes Avett. “We wanted to take our group into an environment they were comfortable with and do demonstrations to show that learning can take place anywhere.”
Upon return, food vouchers were issued for meals at any of Sheraton’s restaurants. The Bimini Market for breakfast and Italian-inspired Amici, A Trattoria became fast favorites. For down time, sessions ended by 3 pm so attendees could kayak, snorkel, shop, laze in the sun and visit the neighboring Crystal Palace Casino, one of the island’s largest casinos.
Sheraton’s three pools, six F+B outlets, guestrooms and 12,500 sf of tropical-themed function space sit on seven acres along a 1,000-foot stretch of Cable Beach. Plus, the views from poolside and all of the private balconies of every guestroom face the dazzling sea.