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“Sonesta saved our vacation from disappointment”

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Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort, Casino & Spa
Ranked #3 of 12 Hotels in Philipsburg
Certificate of Excellence
kitchener
2 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 4 helpful votes
“Sonesta saved our vacation from disappointment”
Reviewed May 25, 2009

We were moved from the Mercure Simson (French side) to the Sonesta Great Bay (Dutch side) on November 18. Our vacation dates were Nov 15- 22, 2008. The reason was our sincere displeasure with the first resort. This one was such a welcomed relief.


Sonesta Great Bay, Oceanview room. The Sonesta is amazing. We were greeted in a sunny, open lobby with a genuine smile! We were given a welcome package which included maps and books and free gifts from local stores. Our room was beautiful. The oceanview was AMAZING! we would not normally bother with this upgrade, but this hotel is worth it. Breathtaking. The food: Breakfast was Buffet style, but included an omelette bar, fresh fruit and baked goods. Great coffee too. A great way to start the day. Lunch is also buffet, but we were never disappointed. Dinner you could do buffet or sit down, there were two restaurants with menu service. They were fabulous; excellent food, nice menus, good choices, well prepared, great service! the Lobster was extra charge, but we did not have any. We were very satisfied about the meals, great job Sonesta!
There were two great pools and a hot tub, right on the beach. There were several bars and everything they served was included in the package - even the grapefruit juice (not included at Mercure). Towels were on the card system, you give them a card, you get a towel, you give them a towel, you get a card. Perfect.
We were a 10 minute walk up the beach to Philipsburg, what a treat! We returned the car and walked everywhere we wanted to go, but we did not mind paying a cab to Maho, since we no longer felt gauged at every point :-0 we walked and listened and talked and watched and ate and drank and had the time of our lives for those last four days!
To sum it up: The rooms were bright and clean, the food was fabulous, the people were friendly and helpful, the pools were great, the hot tub clean, the bars stocked, the location was perfect and we had loved it so much we're planning a group tour in fall of 2010.
PS, This review has been cut in half, since it was written to compare one to another. All the obvious things (towels, juice) were not available at the Mercure. Upon our return we contacted Transat about our experience and also discovered that Mercure had been higher priced and Sonesta, even with the room upgrade. We asked for the difference back as well as the Insurance Euros to be re-funded on the basis that they were running a bait & switch, but Transat sent us a letter saying sorry. That's it. So, we're planning our return with a different carrier, because that's not cool.

  • Stayed November 2008, traveled with friends
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Helpful?
1 Thank petfishgus
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Ontario
Level 3 Contributor
2 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 5 helpful votes
Reviewed May 23, 2009

We changed to this resort, at the last minute after not being able to go to our original destination in Mexico. Our expectations were low after reading reviews, and the whole change etc..... But we could not have been happier when we arrived there. The water sooooo aqua, the sky so blue just gorgeous. The rooms were a hotel room, clean, fine we had a view of the water to die for. The air conditioning worked well and was a welcome respite at night. The buffet food was good to very good, the drinks were yummy, and verged on strong... not watered down at all. The Restaurants Molasses and Cucina were excellent especially the Molasses. The wait staff were adequate and friendly, but became friendlier if you engaged them, another case of you get what you give. We did of course tip, but due to the economy of the island it is not like say Cuba or the Dominican. The staff appreciated the tips and showed you, but we tipped mostly after good service was already given.
The real gem of this trip was the Island itself.... SAFE, to walk around and explore, and we did. We went to front street just mins. from the hotel for your "duty free" shopping
Lots of jewlery "gorgeous", and designer wares, booze-cheap, cheap, cheap. So many vendors great for a shopaholic like myself. We took the public transit to the other side of the Island (French< Marigot) and enjoyed that side as well. Our Daughter went on a catamaran day cruise, and snorkeling expedition to Angullia and thoroughly enjoyed herself. Went took a day and went to Orient Bay (Nudist) area and went para sailing
Again a great day! Our Daugter (21 yrs>) Went to a night club (TANTRIC) one night and had a great time.. keep in mind you have to negotiate with the cab driver before you take the cab, they come back to get you at the pre-specified time.
The Hotel grounds itself were clean and well kept, but is more like a hotel than a resort.
Due to the fact that most people are out and about there are always loungers by the pools and on the beach available, at anytime of the day, and that my dear travelers is something that cannot be beat. You also will not run into a line up at the buffet (except on Sundays when the towns people come for brunch after church)or have a problem booking dinner, even the day of.
To sum up, I would recommend this resort for those who enjoy experiencing the life of the island, also those who want to relax.. we had a great time.

  • Stayed May 2009, traveled with family
    • Value
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Helpful?
4 Thank 3dogsplus
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Montreal
2 reviews
Reviewed May 21, 2009

Our rental car was broken into while parked in the hotel parking lot (lesson 1, don't bother renting and if you do, pretty good chance you'll have the same experience). Of course the hotel is not responsible, we knew this. What we did not expect was the total lack of cooperation. We were finally told we could not call the police from the main desk and would have to return to our rooms and, oh yes, don't forget the call will cost you .75 cents per minute. It turned out ok in the end, no thanks to the hotel staff and all thanks to Gene, the Dancing Machine, a taxi driver sent from heaven! He took us everywhere we needed to go, helped us through the process (so much so that you could call it an excursion!) and got us through it no worse for the wear. Back to the hotel, very clean, good food, decent beach (bring footwear and forget elegant exits from the water), great location for shopping and watching cruise ships come and go in the harbour. The staff? They could use a few lessons in customer service. Oh, and yes, they did charge me $2.56 for the call to the police station, which I refused to pay.

  • Stayed April 2009, traveled with friends
    • Value
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    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
Thank jbandco
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Dayton NJ
Level 4 Contributor
46 reviews
11 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 22 helpful votes
Reviewed May 17, 2009

My wife and I booked here last minute - we were scheduled to go to a 5-star resort in Mexico but were scared off due to the swine flu. So our expectations were pretty high, unfortunately.

We were booked into a Deluxe Mountainside room. I guess the 'deluxe' aspect was due to the size of the room - it was large but that was it's only redeeming feature. It was really a 'Deluxe Main Road-view Room', as it looked out onto the main road. If you crane your neck, you can see the mountain. The room was very old-looking, with old fixtures, furniture and TV. Also had 2 double-beds, when we had specifically requested a king. We made a big stink about the room - it really was crappy - and were moved to a really nice room in the 'apartment' wing of the resort - a Deluxe Oceanview'. This room was phenomenal. Smaller, but with a king bed and access to a covered porch and a long veranda that the 12 or so rooms on our wing all had access to. But since we were the only people on this floor, we had it to ourselves the entire week, which was great. DO NOT GET A MOUNTAINSIDE ROOM!

The food was consistently excellent, every meal. The buffets were excellent, with a different theme every night, and the 2 restaurants (really one, as each named restaurant is only open 3 nights) were excellent also, but make sure you check the menu as some of the items are not part of the all-inclusive package.

The location of the resort is excellent as well, the beach is good (although the water gets very deep very quickly, with a pretty strong undertow, careful if you have kids). It is a 5-minute walk to Philipsburg, and the main road turns into Front Street, the main shopping district. Hertz has a car rental desk in the hotel and you can rent a Corolla for only $44 for 24 hours. You should take a day to drive around the island.

Ok, the bad stuff - the staff is very indifferent. The bartenders get you a drink as if they are doing you a huge favor, and infrequently acknowledge tips. Most of the servers are also surly, a major issue on 'The Friendly Island'. Would a smile be a big deal?? And there seem to be many locals hanging around the bars at night, providing more distractions for the bartenders that really don't want to get you a drink anyways. The health club is horrible, with cracked mirrors and bare lightbulbs hanging down. The attendant sleeps on the massage tables, so find someplace else to get a massage. You have to pay to rent any sort of water item - boogie boards, noodles, snorkeling gear (although the staff in the aqua center is very nice). They charge for wireless access which I find very irritating. And the computers in the Internet 'Cafe' (there's no food there, why is it a 'Cafe'?) are ancient and slow. I used 29 of my 30 purchased minutes just trying to sign on to my Yahoo account! Many of the beach lounge chairs and umbrellas are on their last legs. We saw an umbrella on the beach actually fall apart, and the heavy wooden supports just missed falling on someone. Dining options are limited - there are 3 buffets a day, but as I noted above, the 2 restaurants are only open 3 days each, and neither is open on Monday. So, Tuesday through Sunday, you only have 2 choices for dinner (buffet or restaurant) and only the buffet for breakfast and lunch. TV channels are limited to about 12. Many of the common areas seem a little run-down - a coat of paint and a little spiffing-up are needed. And while I expect to see tip jars at the bars, the meat slicers at the buffet having tip jars was a bit much....

Bottom-line is that the location is great, the food is excellent, but the details really let me down, especially the attitude of the staff. I can recommend this resort but keep your expectations low.

  • Stayed May 2009, traveled as a couple
    • Value
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    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
1 Thank Dan D
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Ontario, Canada
2 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 6 helpful votes
Reviewed May 5, 2009

A friend & I traveled to the Sonesta Great Bay in late April with Air Transat vacations. We stayed for 6 days. Considering how much I value opinions on TripAdvisor, I am going to try to be as in-depth as possible to help people in deciding whether or not to pick the Sonesta Great Bay. This was my first all-inclusive trip & I am not a super picky person, but I want to be as detailed as possible for people considering this resort.

Weather wise, we were fine for 95% of the trip. When it did rain, it was quick & usually at night. Sun rose very early and clouds were usually coming in around 5pm.

The resort is smaller, not segregated for children - so if you are used to staying in a huge resort with plenty of amenities, pools, restaurants, action, etc, I would suggest re-considering. The beach does not have the soft, powder white sand. It has crushed up shells, but it isn't hard on your feet. The beach isn't very shallow & drops, so if you have young children, the undertow combined with this may make you consider staying near the pool. The sand never became difficult to walk on or too hot.

Room -
Our room faced the road, not a very big deal, but we then found out we had a rooster issue. When we approached a clerk to upgrade to an ocean view, we were informed it was $35. This was fair for us however we were told to come back after 6pm. We did as told and paperwork was prepared. It was then we were told it would be $35/ a day, which frustrated us. We had no issue with the room, however, we did have an issue with the rooster who seemed to hang out in front of the hotel. We informed the front desk of this and they seemed to not really care about it. Otherwise, the beds were comfortable and the room was a good size. Nice soft pillows, plenty of space to put things away. The shower wasn't the greatest at draining itself but this wasn't a huge issue. Maid service was fine & the room was always clean. I can agree with a previous review stating the halls were noisy. They were tiled and things would echo if people came in late at night.

Food wise, the hotel's buffet was good. Breakfast was by far the best meal - good selection of eggs, french toast, pancakes, toast, etc. I didn't eat much meat/fish, so I can't comment on that. There is a swim-up bar and another bar in the dining area. On our first day, we tipped the bartender (as we had been told this is customary to establish good rapport) and he didn't even thank us. He was very lethargic and complained at one point about making frozen drinks. We noticed that overall, the staff has a "oh well" type attitude. You would thank them for a drink and they wouldn't reply. They didn't seem to be cheerful at all. In other instances (like the a-la-carte restaurants), the service was better & much more professional. Both times were did a-la-carte, the food was very good, cooked well & seasoned well.

Location wise, you are about a 15 minute walk from Philipsburg. There is plenty of duty free shopping. If you like fine watches, you will be in heaven. Plenty of stuff to check out for interested parties. Shops/bars don't stay open late, so if you are a night owl, you may be better off staying at the Sonesta Maho, which has casinos and clubs near it.

We did several excursions. We booked with our Air Transat rep Melanie who was extremely helpful. If you are traveling with Air Transat, she knows the local area very well & tells you how to save money rather than over-spending (i.e. by using public transport instead of taxis)

The activities desk -
It would close early or you would have trouble finding someone. When we were in there, I found that we were being pushed to do certain hotel organized tours instead of picking other ones we had expressed interest in. My friend & I both wanted to go zip lining at Pic Paradis (located at Loterie Farms on the French side of the island). We managed to book through the hotel; however, when we arrived there, we found out that running shoes were needed - a major detail neglected to be told to us at the hotel. Luckily, we found some shoes to wear from the staff. The staff was even frustrated, stating that they frequently invite staff from the Sonesta to attend the course so that they could know the particulars when suggesting it as a trip to guests.

We also did a catamaran to St. Bart's, which was coupled with a bus trip around the island for $80 US booked through Transat. The tour guide on the bus was great. We also took the public transport, which consists of buses with signs (reading Philipsburg, Marigot, Maho, Mullet Bay, etc). You pay $2 a trip and they run all over the island. This is the BEST way to go if you wish to check out beaches. We went to Maho beach, watched planes take off & land and ate at the Sunset bar.

Water sports were very limited at the hotel. Everything was at a cost or deposit, even for floating mats, despite it being all inclusive. My friend & I wanted to do the banana boat, and we were informed they didn't work very well and were hard to use in the water. We had to track down a staff member just to be told prices to get a floating mat.

Overall, I would probably spend slightly more money to stay at a nicer place in St. Maarten. The brochure we booked through categorized it was a 4 star, but I would put it at a 3 1/2 just because of the service.

In short, I liked:
- The proximity of the beach to the resort
- The weather
- Proximity to Philipsburg
- Various different types of things to do
- A good variance of ages of guests
- Very clean (rooms, dining area, beach).

I disliked
- Staff's "oh well|" attitude
- Noisy halls/people yelling frequently despite how late it was
- Certain types of food (i.e. salad) were the same every day

  • Stayed April 2009, traveled with friends
    • Value
    • Location
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
3 Thank 052411e
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Florida
Level 3 Contributor
14 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 6 helpful votes
Reviewed May 4, 2009

My girlfriend and I stayed at this hotel for 6 days. We really liked the location. It was a short beach walk to Philipsburg. We had an ocean view room which was great. The breakfast buffet was exactly what we needed. We never ate dinner there as the restaurants on the island are out of this world. All the people working at the hotel were very friendly and accomodating. My only complaint is the hallways are extremely noisy. A couple of nights we were woken up by boisterous people coming in late at night.

We visited the other Sonesta Maho on the island and found it to be very big without direct beach access like our Sonesta. So we were please we picked Great Bay.

  • Stayed April 2009, traveled with friends
    • Value
    • Location
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
3 Thank reeb11
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Toronto, Ontario
Level 2 Contributor
4 reviews
3 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 20 helpful votes
Reviewed May 2, 2009

We stayed at the SONESTA Great Bay during a one week period in April 2009. Although we had visited the SONESTA MAHO RESORT in the past, we were pleasantly surprised to find that Great Bay is more peaceful and relaxing than Maho. Maho is nice however the commercial aircraft traffic overhead and the noise is annoying while on the beach.

Great Bay's staff is polite and very helpful. These folks work hard to make guests feel comfortable and ensure that your vacation is trouble free.
We booked our all-inclusive vacation through Transat Holidays and we must recognize their representative Melanie who greeted us in St Maarten and provided guests with invaluable information throughout our stay (where to shop, how to save money, tips on excursions, food etc.

Great Bay offers good food and nice fine dining in their banquet hall. The water supply is safe so no need to worry about sickness. The guests are mostly Canadians of varying ages. The beach is awesome for both walking and swimming.

Our only comment for those seeking nightlife and entertainment is that this resort offers little and the surrounding area is rather quiet. Maho has nightclubs that are within driving distance.

The shopping in Philipsburg is awesome, duty free and tax free. No need to rent a car, take tours and taxis instead.

  • Stayed April 2009, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
2 Thank motek_tor
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort, Casino & Spa

Property: Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort, Casino & Spa
Address: 19 Little Bay Road, Philipsburg, St. Maarten-St. Martin
Phone Number:
Location: Caribbean > St. Maarten-St. Martin > Sint Maarten > Philipsburg
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Beach Business Center with Internet Access Casino and Gambling Fitness Center with Gym / Workout Room Free Parking Restaurant Spa Suites Swimming Pool Wheelchair access
Hotel Style:
#2 Romantic Hotel in Philipsburg
#3 Family Hotel in Philipsburg
#3 On the Beach Hotel in Philipsburg
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $$$
Hotel Class:4 star — Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort, Casino & Spa 4*
Number of rooms: 257
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 Resort And Casino
Sonesta Great Bay Beach Hotel Philipsburg
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

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