My mother and I stayed at the Smugglers Cove for a week at the end of September/beginning of October. I wasn't originally supposed to be going with her, but we'd read some reviews on TripAdvisor before she booked the trip - some of the pedantic ones were quite amusing - and were going with an open mind, particularly as the resort seemed good value for St Lucia.
Having never been to the Caribbean before, we were quite overwhelmed by the humidity. My mother can't walk very well so this wasn't going to be a sailing, zip wiring, jet skiing type of holiday, so we didn't venture out of the resort very often so that it didn't tire her out. There seems to be quite a bit to do on the island - every water sport imaginable, golf courses, riding, zip wiring, dolphin spotting, fishing, trips to neighbouring islands etc. - but the trips out seemed quite expensive for what they were. It may be that our tour operator's prices were a bit extortionate (as these were the prices we were cited), to give you a rough idea, if you wanted to do a trip every day you'd probably set yourself back about £700+ pp with our operator. I can't comment how this measures up against local prices as our tour operator might not be all that competitive.
On to the hotel - first impressions were good - you were greeted with a hot towel and invited to sit down and fill out a form before being transported to your room via a golf buggy. Most of the staff were very helpful - as my mother relied on the buggy quite heavily, she was using it quite often, but the guys who usually drove the buggy - Kim, Glen and another gentleman who didn't usually wear his name badge were so kind and obliging, there within literally minutes, and couldn't do enough. They often offered to pick my mum up from outside the Cove (the main dining area) which reception would sometimes advise was "not allowed".
Reception were very good - we had a slight issue where the AC was dripping slightly. It was reported at nighttime and someone was on site within the hour fixing it. They called the next day to ensure we were happy with it and no problems. They really were very good. Room was otherwise nice and clean. The rooms are chalet style and you have a little outside area too. We had a separate little lounge area with a chair, sofa, and desk. Bathroom was fine, absolutely no problems. The maid was lovely, we chatted to her on a few occasions - she usually smartened up our toiletries and made everything neat and made origami shapes out of the towels which was a nice touch.
There's a massage parlour on site which we can't comment on as we didn't use the services but every day there appeared to be an offer, and they were good value with a fixed price for a number of treatments.
There were several pools and a jacuzzi (though it was heated so I don't think anyone wanted to use it). There was a swim-up bar (which you could also walk up to) as well as a bar at the Cove (main site which was a short walk from the loungers). Rarely did I ever have to wait, and drinks were made at record speed. There was a choice of non-alcoholic cocktails, alcoholic cocktails and fruit juices as well as sodas, water etc. to keep everyone happy. A few of the pools back on to the beach - the sand is natural there and as it is a volcanic island the sand isn't completely white and soft, but the view was amazing, really pretty. There were a number of beach sellers, but the hotel's security does generally keep them under control.
Plenty of pool loungers, really wasn't an issue getting one. The hotel supplied towels and you could swap these in exchange for fresh ones daily. The only thing raised in one review (which I agree with) is that there aren't enough parasols. The majority of tourists seem to be Brits/Europeans/Canadians and the sun is strong and the heat sometimes unbearable so someone on hand to assist would make the stay that bit more satisfying.
There were so many activities the hotel offered (most of them free) water sports, kayakking, literally everything you could think of. I saw one couple hire snorkels too. They also taught archery, yoga, pilates, dance, had an aqua aerobics class, always encouraging you to play water volleyball, walks at night - all free - there were plenty of things to do.
Onto the food. The food was absolutely amazing. There is a sit-down help yourself buffet restaurant (the Cove) but this is no ordinary buffet. The food is fresh, so tasty, and so much choice. Even if you are a fussy eater, there will be something for you. There was usually a fish stew, sometimes two, usually chicken options, and normally they would have a roast too; always had soup, usually pancakes or grilled fish as well, I'd say on average there were about 10 or so hot options, loads of bread, and even the rice on its own was so tasty, really fragrant and nice. They always had fresh vegetables, potatoes, menu changed daily, always loads of salad options, pizza, I can't praise the food highly enough. Breakfast was varied - always had fried breakfast options, usually had a fish stew as well and a few other random options, three lots of cereal, fruit, so much choice. There was also an ice cream maker so you could help yourself to ice cream and always loads of dessert options. Staff at the Piton/Cove were so friendly, always seated my mum near the buffet so she could easily make a trip. Would ask you if you wanted a drink and were so attentive and thoughtful, cleaning away dirty plates straight away.
There were other restaurants on site - an Asian fusion restaurant (which we didn't go to but heard was amazing), La Trattoria, an Italian, which was nice but it was more of a Caribbean take on Italian, and the Waterside Grill - thoroughly recommend the restaurants, but you have to book these at the Cove (you can make several bookings in advance though) and they tend to fill up quickly as quite popular.
The night entertainment was usually the resident Smuggler's Cove band, Movement International (a dance troupe) and after that there were two male singers, who were really good. They were all entertaining to be fair. Some (if not all) of the performers tend to work in the day too so I'm not sure when they sleep! All really friendly and kind. There was a pub on site too but didn't venture in there. Hotel also had a shop with loads of essentials - beachwear, souvenirs, crisps, drinks, ice creams, mosquito repellent, suncream etc etc (basically everything you might've forgotten). Also a diamonds shop which sold jewellery and watch - they seem big on diamond and jewellery shops in St Lucia.
There are so many good things about this hotel I could go on and on. The majority of the staff were so kind, friendly, happy to help out wherever possible, and they worked really hard. There were a few that were a bit standoffish or sometimes would not acknowledge me despite me smiling at them but maybe they were having a bad day. All the fellow tourists (mainly Brits we met) were so lovely too, the staff did everything they could to make sure you enjoyed your holiday.
If you like complaining, then this hotel probably isn't for you as whilst it is good, it's not 5*. The few criticisms I could make is that whilst the service is good, and the staff work hard, some are a little blase and would spill water on the table as they'd pour it into your glass or forget to set cutlery if they were setting up the table for you. Sometimes drinks orders would be forgotten, or you might be unfortunate enough to get a surly server in the restaurants. The quarters where laundry is carried out (to the left of the hotel through the gate and round the side to get the Cove) is unsightly - it's hard to describe but basically seems as if it's under construction. Loud music tends to blare all day and some of the music is a bit inappropriate (I'm no prude and I'm 23 but obviously there were children about) some of the lyrics are a bit suggestive. If you're sat right by it, you'd probably be annoyed. Whilst you can't criticise the hotel for wanting to entertain, you don't always want to hear constant loud music - usually pop/pop-style hip hop - interspersed with a bit of reggae and ska, especially if you're just lounging about trying to relax. It also plays at mealtimes including breakfast. There was a beautiful macaw at the resort - sadly caged - which was quite upsetting to see as he seemed depressed every time I saw him. I know the hotel sometimes reply to comments so it would be good to learn whether he's ever let out? I was sad thinking about such an intelligent creature being stuck in his unstimulating environment all day.
The resort otherwise has a lot of charm, bags of potential, and worth a visit if you're planning on going to St Lucia. It may not be perfect, but you certainly will be looked after and will enjoy yourself.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.