We have just spent 2 weeks at the Magdalena Grand during its 'soft opening' period during April 2012. I'll try and restrict this review to the hotel rather than the island in general (which is incredible!) but this was our first trip to the Caribbean having lived in the Far East for a number of years. I had received advice not to expect 'Indian Ocean service' in the Caribbean but in the case of the Magdalena I would utterly refute that sweeping statement. In my opinion, what turns a good hotel into a great hotel is simply the staff (they can also make a good hotel a dreadful hotel!) The staff at the Magdalena, guided under the experienced eye of American and Swiss managers were simply outstanding in all areas. From the housekeeping staff through to the chefs, reception to Kids Club - everyone we came into contact with couldn't do enough to try and improve our stay. How much of this is simply the hospitable nature of the TT people I don't know but despite this being a soft opening (and hence a bit of a learning curve) it was the response to requests, the ability to anticipate your needs and, above all, going that little bit further that left such an overwhelming impression with us. I realise this review sounds a bit gushing but I assure you that in our experience it was fully deserved.
By way of example, we arrived off our long flight somewhat tired with frazzled children. My 4 year old son had been taken ill and administered (by his UK doctor) some excessively strong antibiotics before he travelled that caused his condition to worsen in the tropical climate. He became quite ill. At this point, I now know, we became the subject of the morning staff meeting where everyone was urged to do anything they could to help our stay as comfortable as possible. Our fridge was suddenly stocked with Gatorade to help him re-hydrate (never charged for), a doctor was summoned over the Easter Weekend (never charged for), the room cleaning schedule was adjusted to have the beds remade earlier to enable him to rest again after breakfast, the chef would make him a fresh chicken consome each evening and everyone we met enquired after our boy. It felt like even after he recovered about 4 days later as if he had acquired some sort of celebrity status. And it all felt as if that was just the way they like to do things at the Magdalena - they have a real passion to provide the very best service possible.
Beyond service, we stayed in a family room facing the sea on the ground floor. Personally I think the ground floor is an excellent choice as it enables you to access your room via the patio facing the garden and the sea. Others may prefer the slightly more elevated view from the first floor rooms but even on the ground floor I was able to see the sea and the sunrise from my bed!
There are a number of pools although, with young children, we never ventured beyond the large family pool around which is the central focus of the hotel. The water is 1m deep throughout with a shallow incline at one end where small children can play. The pool was always in excellent condition and clean. It was closed for one day for cleaning which seemed to be an oversight (should normally be done overnight) but I don't think this is likely to be repeated.
The food at the main dining restaurant was extensive and excellent. I've had significantly worse breakfasts in other 5 star resorts. The staff on the egg station execute eggs quickly and according to preference to the extent that by the end of the stay my 5 year old daughter was simply marching up and asking for her 'usual' from the ever obliging Kerwin. Seating is either inside in air-con or outside on the terrace facing the pool and the ocean. While we were there the Atlantic breeze made this a very attractive option. Evening meals (half board package) were also very good and there is a fine dining option (at extra cost) offering a fusion of Caribbean and European dishes. Lamb chops are sensational!
We were on a half board package and so were careful not to let the extras (poolside drinks, lunches etc) rack up too much but I was fairly amazed at how reasonable our final tally was. Prices were very fair considering you are in a hotel. For example, a beer on the beach will cost about TT$15 (£1.50) while the same in the hotel was TT$22 (£2.20) - not an unreasonable mark up compared with other hotels I think.
I should also comment on the beaches and the watersports. I have read reviews here that you'd be 'suicidal to risk swimming in the Atlantic ocean fronting this hotel' - I find that remark very surprising. There are two beaches at the hotel either side of a small headland by the family pool. The (much larger/ longer) beach on your left as you face out to sea has a very gentle incline and a sandy beach. The waves here (during our stay at least) are not in the least bit threatening and I had no issues padling among these with my 4 year old and 5 year old children. The water is warm and it's an excellent beach. The only issues with it are firstly, from time to time they have a sea weed problem which can float in on the tide and cover the beach before being floated off again some days later. I'm not sure that it's a regular thing or even seasonal but when the weed is in, swimming from the beach is not really an option. The second issue is simply that at high tide the sea comes right up to the top of the beach so that there is no room to play in the sand etc. It's not deep enough to ever cut you off but I would say this beach is a more attractive option between mid and low tide for swimming etc. There are no life guards on duty and for less confident swimmers I would caution against going more than waist deep as, on any large beach, there will be rip currents where the water being washed in has to work a way back out to sea. The second beach (on your right as you stand by the pool) is a little more steeply sloping but is never fully covered at high tide. Again, compared with some of the beaches on the Caribbean side (Englishmans Bay etc) this is a very easy swimming beach at the time of year we were there with relatively gentle waves.
With respect to watersports, there is a watersports centre incorporated into the hotel but it felt as though it wasn't really fully intergrated while we were there but it is worth making the effort to track them down. They were able to arrange boat trips, snorkelling for my children, fishing trips and dive trips all around the island. These were some of the highlights of our holiday and I'm very grateful to David from the watersports centre for approaching us at the hotel to inform us about these.
If you've made it this far (sorry for the length) you'll realise we don't have anything negative to say about the Magdalena. Anything which at another location might have evolved into an issue was swiftly dealt with and with such charm that it never had a chance to register on your conciousness as a negative. To Vince (Hotel Manager) and all his staff, I wish you every success with the hotel because it is thoroughly deserved thanks to the excellent team of staff you have on board.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- The new, 4 Star, Magdalena Grand Beach Resort is located on Tobago Plantations Estate, a 750 acre gated community, and offers 178 Deluxe OceanFront Rooms and 22 One and Two Bedroom Suites. All accommodations are Ocean Front with private balconies. This beachfront resort offers an 18-hole PGA Golf Course, its own Dive Center, Spa, and the largest amount of banquet & meeting space on Tobago. Complimentary wireless internet is available throughout the resort. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Vhl Tobago Golf Hotel Lowlands
- Vhl Tobago Golf And Spa Resort
- Magdalena Grand Beach & Golf Resort Tobago/Lowlands