We stayed here for 3 nights in March 2013, following a 4 night stint on the South Coast. When booking the hotel, I did wonder if it was good enough to warrant such high room rates, but decided to go for it based on the many excellent reviews. I have to say that within 15 minutes of arriving at the hotel, I fully understood why they charge as much as they do! The pictures on the website really don’t do the place justice.
Check in was efficient and we were offered a welcome drink of our choice. The hotel is largely open air, the reception is housed in a small building, and you then follow an outdoor path to get to the rooms. As a small hotel (only 75 rooms), the layout is fairly simple, there are 2 separate buildings which each have 3 floors. We were on the top floor in the building furthest away from reception. Upon entering the room, we were very impressed. It was very spacious and had a real luxurious feel to it. The bed was one of the most comfortable beds I have ever been on! The balcony was large and contained two loungers as well as two normal chairs. All rooms face the ocean, which is just a few metres away from the hotel buildings. You are able to watch the sunset from the room, and we were lucky to witness a spectacular sunset on our first day. There were a few small touches in the room which I liked, such as a cordless phone and a remote control for the air conditioning unit. The bathroom was well appointed and stocked up with Rose 31 toiletries. Shortly after checking in, a bottle of complimentary Piper Heidsieck champagne was delivered to the room, and I noted that the hotel normally sells this for US$120.
During our stay we had three breakfasts and three lunches at the hotel (we had dinners elsewhere). I didn’t expect too much from the breakfast buffet, given that it is a fairly small hotel, but the spread on offer was impressive. The normal buffet was available, plus there was a large selection of a la carte items that could be ordered as well. I was quite pleased with the selection of fruits at the buffet, some of which you wouldn’t normally find at breakfast buffets (e.g. blueberries, strawberries). Note that some items on the breakfast menu incur an extra charge, namely smoothies and speciality coffees.
Lunch is served in the same place as breakfast (Cafe Taboras), and consists of a fairly standard hotel lunch menu (burgers, pizza, salads, etc). The food was quite nice, without being particularly memorable. The hotel does serve an amazing rum punch, probably the best I had on the island! On Sunday, a BBQ buffet lunch is served, and the restaurant became fairly full on this occasion (as non-residents are allowed in as well). In this case, the spread was a bit smaller than I imagined, although they did include the items you most want to see at a BBQ (steak, king prawns and ribs). One complaint I have is that the hotel does not allow kids under the age of 16 during a few months of the year (including when we were there). However, non-resident kids were allowed in for the buffet, and while lying at the pool after lunch (which is adjacent to the restaurant), there were a couple of kids making a fair amount of commotion and disturbing the peace!
The loungers at the pool and beach areas are quite comfortable, and there is a little stall near the pool where you would meet a towel attendant who could set up your chairs for you. Towels are available in abundance if you so desired. The pool area was very serene and felt quite tropical with large palm trees in the background. It is a standard rectangular shaped pool, but it is the right size for the property. We never had any issues finding loungers by the pool, but it was sometimes a bit trickier at the beach. Service at the pool/beach could have been better. A member of staff would occasionally go around taking drinks orders, but apart from this there was not much of a staff presence in the area. What was nice was there would be a couple of freebies handed out during the day, such as cold towels, ice lollies or mini smoothies. The beach was very calm (as can be expected on the west coast) on our first day and we enjoyed time spent here. However, the next day the sea was noticeably rougher and we were informed that there was a sea swell in place that would persist for the rest of our stay. They had put up red flags on the beach (meaning swimming isn’t recommended), but some guests were not deterred by this. This was not much of a big deal for us, as we generally prefer the pool area in any case. The rougher waters were also noticeable at night when trying to sleep, as the sound of the waves was more audible than I would have liked them to be when lying in bed.
Service was generally excellent throughout the hotel, and we encountered many friendly members of staff. In particular, I would like to mention the ladies at the concierge (Tawanda and Charlene) who were very pleasant to deal with. We had a guaranteed late check-out of 4pm (as part of a deal booked through Amex), but with an 8pm departure flight I wanted to push this to around 6pm. Initially we were told this was not possible, but they were able to offer us a hospitality room for a 30 minute slot where we could take a quick shower. However, later on they agreed to a 5:30pm check out time at no extra charge, which was much appreciated. Even after checking out, we were offered a complimentary drink while waiting for our taxi, which was another nice touch.
One thing that was odd was the lack of a spa at the hotel. In room massages are available, but at a hotel of this calibre I would have expected to see a full spa. We ended up visiting the spa at Sandy Lane, which was just unbelievable!
Keep in mind that the West Coast of Barbados is an expensive place in general, and I was a bit bothered by certain things, like the hotel charging US$9 for a bottle of water, which turned out to be only 1 litre in size. Taxis available at the hotel were also surprisingly expensive, charging around US$15 for a less than 5 minute journey to Holetown. We first thought this was because they were premium vehicles (BMWs), but we then found that return journeys in standard vehicles cost the same price. We were told by our independent tour guide that once you mention the Fairmont name, drivers would hike up their prices! It felt about twice as expensive as what we paid for taxi rides in the South Coast of the island. I suppose the local bus is a viable and much cheaper alternative, which in hindsight we should have given a try.
Overall, we had a truly amazing time at this resort, and only wished we had been able to stay for longer. I would definitely hope to return in the future.
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- Also Known As:
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- Fairmont St. James
- Barbados Fairmont Hotel
- St. James Fairmont
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