from New York City, New York
Submitted on 11-26-2016
We stayed at the Sonesta Great Bay for four days during Thanksgiving 2016. Upon arrival, we were told that the hotel had not had air conditioning for six days but that they were working on fixing it. There were no apologies made or offers given for a rebate or alternatives, although we later heard about people moving to other Sonesta properties. We figured we'd give it a try and asked to have a fan put in our room. It took two more requests to actually get the fan, but we were very grateful to h...
We stayed at the Sonesta Great Bay for four days during Thanksgiving 2016. Upon arrival, we were told that the hotel had not had air conditioning for six days but that they were working on fixing it. There were no apologies made or offers given for a rebate or alternatives, although we later heard about people moving to other Sonesta properties. We figured we'd give it a try and asked to have a fan put in our room. It took two more requests to actually get the fan, but we were very grateful to have it once it arrived! After 10 days of no air conditioning, the problem still hadn't been fixed by the time we left. Additionally, during our stay, one of the two elevators was broken, and something was wrong with the smoke alarm system that prompted men on ladders digging into the ceiling of our hallway each day.
I read all of the TripAdvisor reviews before booking, and I don't regret the decision, but I wouldn't return to this particular hotel. It's very old and needs to be redone, and it was unpleasant to be sweating in our room without air conditioning for the entire stay! Our room (#517) was cleaned every day, but it was in bad shape, with a very musty smell, cracked floor tiles, and a rusty shower/tub. We paid for an Ocean View, per review recommendations and this was definitely the way to go. The other side of the hotel faced a parking lot and busy street. Our view was gorgeous. We would have gotten a nice breeze if we had kept the sliding balcony door open, but the couple hours we did, we had a ton of mosquitoes and one lizard guest, so we didn't open it again. There is WIFI, and it does work well in the room. Honesty, we didn't spend much time in our room because it wasn't an enjoyable place to be. If you are considering paying for a butler suite, I was definitely not do it here. We saw a few people who had butlers, and it doesn't seem like you get much more for your money, other than someone to fill your buffet plate for you.
The resort is very close to the airport ($20 cab) and is in a beautiful location on the side of a mountain along the Great Bay. You can walk along the beach to Philipsburg in less than 10 minutes, and you should definitely go! The resort is old and is due for an upgrade, but it's a very pretty spot. I read that there are three pools, but we only saw two of them. One is a small pool that is typically empty and the other is an infinity pool that runs along the beach and has a swim-up bar. There are plenty of lounge chairs with umbrellas along both pools and the beach, but you need to get up prior to 8 am to make sure you put a towel down to reserve the good ones. The resort gives you a towel card per person which you get back when you return your towel. Be careful not to lose it, because they charge you $15 per card if you don't have it at the end of your stay. During the day, there are loud pool games (e.g. bingo, ring toss, etc.) and music at the infinity pool, and we spent most of our time lounging on the beach. Servers come through every once in awhile to offer you a drink. It's a gorgeous spot to relax and soak in the sun if you can avoid sitting by smokers.
The sand on the beach is not soft, and there is a drop-off into the water as other reviews have mentioned. I was picturing a cliff, but it's very short and it's not a big deal. The water does have a lot of seaweed, but the farther you go toward Philipsburg, the less seaweed there is and the calmer the water becomes. We swam in the ocean a few times and it was great. The water is turquoise, but not crystal-clear and there are hardly any waves. If you want good snorkeling, you should go to one of the dozens of other beaches on the island.
There are three restaurants: an air conditioned seafood restaurant with a fixed menu, an open-air buffet restaurant, and an outdoor self-serve pizza restaurant. The buffet is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and has a different theme every evening (e.g. International, BBQ, etc.) I've read that all-inclusive food is typically good but nothing special, and that's exactly how I'd describe the food at the Sonesta. There were plenty of options in the buffet. The fixed menu at the seafood restaurant was also pretty good. I found the pizza to be oily and bland. For Thanksgiving, they really went all-out and produced a lovely spread of carved meats, salads and desserts. They also delivered little plates of dessert to each room with a Happy Thanksgiving note - it was a lovely touch, particularly in light of the lack of air conditioning everyone was dealing with in 85 degree weather! There was also a singer or band every night for entertainment.
Along with the restaurants, there are also several bars that serve well alcohol, soda, Coors Light or Heineken, wine (Cab, Merlot, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc) juice, and frozen drinks. You do not have to wait very long for a drink. The rooms are also stocked with soda, water, champagne, beer, and rum, vodka, and gin, and are refilled on a daily basis. The drinks were good and the bartenders at the pool bar were especially fun and friendly. The servers who walked the pools and beach were all great, especially Adriano.
There is a Hertz car rental in the hotel, and I definitely recommend taking advantage. It was $45 to rent a car for a day, and we enjoyed driving around the entire island. We went over to Maho Beach and the other Sonesta there, and we both felt that we should have asked to move to that hotel. The Maho Beach is bigger, nicer, and has a gorgeous view. It's also right next to the airport and you can watch the planes land right above people's heads on the beach. We ate lunch there, and the food was much better as well. The reason I didn't choose it in the first place was because it allows children, and we were looking for a more relaxed holiday. However, the Sonesta Great Bay is full of adults behaving like children, so be careful what you wish for!
It seems that most of the guests at the Sonesta Great Bay have been coming to the hotel every year for quite some time. It's great that they love it there and that the hotel has dedicated fans. We are Americans in our late-thirties and were definitely the youngest people there. Most of the guests were Canadians in their late-fifties or sixties and a lot of them were there to DRINK. They had large thermoses full of alcohol from the time they got up to the time they passed out on a deck chair at 5. It was both amusing and sad to watch them every day.
The staff at the Sonesta Great Bay are welcoming and kind, with very few exceptions. We really enjoyed all of the great people from St. Maarten we met, and they live up to "The Friendly Island" motto. St. Maarten is a beautiful place, and we're so glad to have visited. If we were to return, we would not choose the Sonesta Great Bay again, but we would definitely consider the Sonesta Maho Bay. This was our first all-inclusive experience, and it was nice to have our meals and drinks taken care of so that we could focus on exploring all of the great things the island has to offer.