After years of thinking about it, we finally visited in April with the kids (ages 2 and 3) and the inlaws. It is amazing. Really at a loss for words-- but you'll see I've forced some out below. In the past few years we have taken holidays at St Regis, Ritz, W properties around the world. In places like Tahiti, Hawaii, St John, Greek Islands and I must say this is the best and most unique experience. You will never see water so clear. I thought Tahiti couldn't be beat-- and I was wrong. There are moments here where you feel like you and your family have the entire world to yourselves. Just stars and private beach.
The basic room, it is actually your best bet with small kids. We toured the Water Villas and we much preferred this room. It is much larger. And close to the beach. Now, if we visited as a couple then maybe we would go water villa. But keep in mind many water villas are a long long walk from the beach. What we loved about the bv, they are huge. Have an enormous outdoor tub-- essentially a hot tub or plunge pool and an outdoor shower. You are protected by high villa walls so it seems private. Also great for kids, it has an atrium with a fountain and sand where they can play. Then you have your own little slice of beach right in front. When we go back wont even worry about upgrading.
We didn't have any food included. But we basically brought cereal for the kids, snacked early then had a big lunch and dinner. Kids ate at Rangali Bar and we went to the nice places. Let's be clear about one thing, this is not resort food. This is 4-5 star food you find in NYC and London. No joke. Even the crappy burger/chicken finger lunch food is great. Our favorite restaurant was Sunset Grill. We went twice.
Everyone's favorite subject. Do not go here looking to watch what you spend. Now that said, prices are not nearly as crazy as some people say. I honestly didn't find prices that different from luxury hotels in London, Miami etc. Where prices do seem high are on smaller things, like $9 cokes and $18 mixed drinks-- but again, no different from the Caribbean. We skipped the $35 breakfast. And we never did the $95 dinner buffet. Looks ok, but not really into the stuff yourself thing. As mentioned, the restaurants are lovely. Top of the line. You can always eat cheap at the bar- like $18 pizzas. You can factor about $150 a person a day for food -- without going crazy. This includes dinners with cheaper bottles of wine.
They are wonderful with kids. Just great. Only annoying thing is they only take kids 3 and up. The women we great. They even had amazing excursions for the kids like pirate boat rides. Couldn't have been better. And knowing this is included in the price helps make the overall cost better, as you basically get all day babysitting. It should also be mentioned they have an onsite medical clinic staffed with a dr and nurse. Shady? Sure, but great for being stuck in the middle on the ocean. They have all sorts of meds and bandages.
Exceptional. Like you would expect from a St Regis or Ritz. They anticipate your needs at every turn. Poolside sunglasses cleaning was a nice touch. You also have a personal butler who can provide anything and seems to be reachable 24 hours a day.
Another favorite topic. This is a great ride and kind of worth the money-- though you have no choice in the matter. There is a fantastic arrival lounge before you board with food, drinks and a play area-- but, perhaps most insulting, you can ONLY use the lounge on arrival. So when they assign you a water plane that leaves you with a 4 hour wait, you are forced to wait in the hot and sweaty airport -- despite the fact you paid $500 for each 15min plane ticket. Now this is just absurd. Same on them. The ride is great. What they don't tell you is you sometimes have stops to drop people off-- kind of annoying because,again, you pay $2000 for a family of four but have to stop and wait for others in a sweltering plane (and I mean hot!) bouncing on the waves.
Everything-- and I mean everything, like a bottle of lotion in the gift shop, has a 10 percent service charge. Up to you if you add more. We did add tip on dinners, but not small things. And at the end I gave 20 euro in ash to our favorite bar waiter and 20 euro to our butler, who didn't really do anything-- but we didn't ask anything of her.
We loved it. We are already planning on coming back next year. And nice wifi. Almost every part of the island is covered-- better than some London hotels. It's not fast, so you can't really download iTunes films or stream video.
Check out the sea plane: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qpn38fd2qHg