I’ve read so many reviews of this place, and it seems people either love is or hate it. Put my husband and me in the latter group. There were a few positives, and I’ll start with those. By far the BEST aspect of this place is the people who work here. They are without a doubt some of the nicest, most helpful people I have ever met. From Jonathon, the first person we encountered, to Maritza, the best bartender there, the wait staff, the front desk, housekeeping and everyone else, everyone was so pleasant and eager to make us happy. We were given a room on the 7th floor (street view), and when we got there we found a bottle of cold champagne and chocolate-dipped strawberries to help us celebrate our 45th anniversary and my husband’s 65th birthday. The room itself was very nice and was very clean. The location of the resort was also good – a short walk to town.
Unfortunately, the “cons” were bad enough that we called USAirways our second night there to see if we could go home. It would have cost us too much to change flights and they couldn’t guarantee we’d get a refund from the resort, so we decided to stick it out for the week. The first two nights there we had no hot water for the shower and water pressure kept coming and going. As we met other people both on our floor and other floors, we asked them how the water pressure and temperature was in their rooms, and the majority of them had the same problem as we did. The next night the water cut off totally while I was taking a shower. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back – my husband went to the front desk to complain while I put my bathing suit back on. A maintenance man came back with my husband and tried to fix the problem but was unable to. So the hotel gave us an oceanfront room across the hallway, and the maintenance man made sure the water was working in that room before he left. (He had to run the water for 15 minutes before he got hot water to come out.) While I got a shower, my husband transferred our belongings to the new room. Then he had to run the water awhile to get the pressure and hot water back for his shower! Water pressure and temperature was iffy the rest of our stay. Our last day there was no hot water from about 1 pm up until we went to bed. (The hotel put a note under everyone’s door letting them know the hot water wouldn’t be working for three hours, which was a gross under-estimate.) By leaving the water run for 20 minutes, we got the temp up to “slightly lukewarm”, which is as good as it was going to get, but at least we had showers that weren’t in ice cold water. When the water problem was finally resolved and we turned the faucet on the next day, the water coming out of the faucet was yellowish brown – even the cold water. Fortunately we had bottled water in the refrigerator in the room. That was the day we were flying home, so we didn’t need to use the shower again, thank God. For the 7 nights we were there, we took cold showers 4 nights.
The food was mediocre at best, even in the “specialty” restaurants. The breakfast buffet was good and there was a nice variety, but lunch and dinner consisted mostly of spicy foods. Each night is a different theme night (Italian, Mediterranean, etc.), but there wasn’t much difference in what was offered. Although the web site says there are four restaurants, the Italian and seafood restaurants are not open every day. Some days you could go Italian, some days seafood, other days neither was open. Service was very good in these restaurants, but the food – not so much. We had filet mignon twice, and it was so tough we gave up trying to eat it and ended up at the buffet afterwards. There were a couple of nights that I made a salad and had bread and butter for dinner. It’s the first time I’ve ever gone on vacation – especially to an all-inclusive – and actually LOST weight. (I guess my Weight Watchers leader would consider that a plus and not a negative.) We had lunch twice in Tre Assi Pizzeria, the little restaurant by the beach. My cheeseburger took 35 minutes. My husband’s Panini (which was ordered at the same time as my cheeseburger) didn’t show up until 15 minutes later, after I was almost done eating. Not only was the bread on the Panini burnt but inside there was only one slice of ham and one slice of cheese. This was the off season and there were only a couple other people there, so it certainly wasn’t a case of the staff being overworked that made the meals take so long to come and then not come at the same time. We did get lucky one day and got there as a pizza was being taken out of the oven. (You serve yourself the pizza and don’t need to wait for someone to serve you.) We got our own drinks and our own silverware and napkins since no one seemed to notice we were sitting at a table, and then helped ourselves to the pizza, one of the better meals we had that week.
The beach was another disappointment. We didn’t mind the coarse sand, but the water was full of seaweed for the first three days of our stay, and there was a 3-4 foot incline you had to go down to get to the water, and then, after taking a few steps in the water, there was another steep incline, which led to a lot of people falling getting in and out of the water, including ourselves. The seaweed finally cleared up after several days, but we prefer calm water rather than the rough surf on this beach, so we usually ended up driving to another beach on the island. There are so many beautiful beaches with level, powdery sand and calm waters, but Sonesta Great Bay isn’t one of them.
The web site says you can use the Sonesta Maho Bay Resort, but be aware that you need to either drive there or take a taxi or public transportation because there is no shuttle and it’s not that close. They also say there’s free Wi Fi and there is – when it’s working, which often was not the case. I don’t know how many times we went to the front desk about it and were told “It will be back up tomorrow.” Nightly turndown service? We had turndown service once, but that wasn’t a big deal for us compared to other problems like having to take cold showers. Nightly movies? During the seven nights we were there, there was one movie. We also somehow missed the beach parties and night theme parties that are mentioned on their website, except for the night of the Manager’s cocktail party, which we missed because we were in the middle of changing rooms. If there were parties other nights, they must have been really quiet ones unless they mean a couple of people getting up to dance occasionally while a small band played music at night.
We’ve stayed at a dozen or more all-inclusive resorts over the years, and this was the most disappointing. I guess if you don’t mind cold showers with low water pressure, run-of-the-mill food, and a beach with an ocean that’s on the rough side, then you’ll like this place.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort, Casino & Spa is a serene Caribbean haven - and St. Maarten’s premier, limitless all-inclusive, adults-only resort. Delivering a new level of sophistication and style, the elegant destination hotel is situated on a mile-long white-sand beach, overlooking Great Bay and the sparkling sea. With endless amenities and personalized service, the resort invites guests to unwind at three swimming pools, four restaurants, four bars, a spa and the Golden Casino for the ultimate vacation experience complimented by stellar service. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Sonesta Great Bay Beach Hotel Philipsburg
- Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort And Casino
- St Martin Great Bay Hotel
- Sonesta Philipsburg
- Great Bay Beach Hotel
- Philipsburg Sonesta
- St Maarten Great Bay Hotel
- Hotel Sonesta Great Bay Beach
- Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort, Casino & Spa St Maarten-St Martin/Philipsburg