Thanks to everyone who posts their trip reports. They are always essential in planning my trips. Here is my trip report on Turks & Caicos. I visited the Royal West Indies with a group of friends May 1-5. We were a group of six married adults in our early 40’s who left our kids, jobs, cell phones and lap tops at home in New York. Four of the six members of our group had visited the RWI last May. We were not disappointed with our second visit. I reserved a botanical view studio. I e-mailed a message to the hotel one month before our trip, told them it was our second visit and requested a room on the third floor. I was thrilled when we checked in and found out that we had been upgraded to a water view room. We were in room 834 over looking the quiet pool area. We preferred this room over the room we had on the first floor last year. We felt that we had more privacy and loved our view. The condition of our room was just fine, no complaints. One couple that we traveled with reserved a one bedroom suite and e-mailed a month before to request a room on the second or third floor. They were disappointed when they checked in when they were put in a room on the first floor. They were moved to a room on the third floor on the second day of their stay but they did have to check out of their room at 11 AM, leave their luggage in the lobby and then check into their new room at 3 PM. They complained about having to do this and the hotel did send a bottle of champagne to their room with a $50 gift certificate to the hotel’s restaurant Mango Reef.
The front desk staff and staff at the bar still need to be sent to hospitality classes. There is definitely something lacking when it comes to customer service at this hotel. I ordered drinks at the bar daily and not once did the bar tender ever acknowledge the order or say thank you. They are not rude, just not attentive. We were used to this from our trip last year, it didn’t ruin our trip in the least and you shouldn’t let it scare you away. From what I’ve heard most of the employees at all of the hotels on the island practice the same behavior. I will say that they hotel could use some decent bell men. When we arrived we were greeted by several bell men. Our rooms were not ready when we checked in. The bell men said they would take care of our luggage and have it moved into our rooms. We all tipped them generously. When we came back to the front desk a few hours later to get the keys to our rooms our luggage was still out front of the hotel where we had left it. It was not moved into our rooms and the bell men were no where to be found. We were so anxious to get to our rooms we just took our luggage ourselves. Since our room was on the third floor and there are not elevators (and I don’t pack light) this was not an easy task. There weren’t many bell men to help with luggage upon checking out of the hotel either. Again, this shouldn’t scare you away. Keep in mind, you are getting a bargain price for a lovely hotel on one of the best beaches in the world.
The grounds of the hotel are beautiful. The landscaping is colorful and well maintained. The pools are clean and you just can’t top the beach. We were a bit disappointed on our first day. We got to the beach around 2 PM. The only beach chairs that we could find that weren’t taken were all broken or cracked and there were no umbrellas left. We were surprised to see that the ocean was so rough. It was so windy that we were getting pelted with sand. It was so uncomfortable that we moved to the pool area. After we went swimming we wanted to lie in the sun for a while but there weren’t any lounge chairs available at either of the two pools. It was very crowded at the pool area. I suspect this was because of the high winds as we did not experience this at all on our visit last year. The wind died down some during the rest of our trip. We always get to the beach early on our vacations so we had no problem getting chairs and umbrellas the rest of the week.
We enjoyed using the hobie kat sail boat that you can take out for free. One day we saw a couple at our hotel take the hobie kat out for a sail. We noticed that the boat flipped over while they were pretty far out. The boat got away from them and they were a decent distance from land. It would have been a very long swim for them to get back to the beach. My husband went over to the guy who works the beach at the hotel to tell him what was going on. He did not seem concerned at all. My husband sails and told him he would take the second hobie kat out to help the couple but the staff member said that the second boat wasn’t working and went back to putting up beach umbrellas. Other guests on the beach became concerned that the hotel staff was not doing anything to help rescue the couple out in the water who were now without a boat. The hotel does not have a motor boat. My husband asked if they had a kayak or something else and the staff member said he did. So my husband and another guy from our group took the kayak out to help the stranded couple. By the time they got to them the sail boat was really far away from them. My husband gave the couple the kayak and another sail boat from Club Med gave my husband and his friend a ride back to shore. Our hotel borrowed a motor boat from Club Med next door to go and get the sail boat. Please note: if you take the hobie kat out you really should make sure you know how to sail because you are responsible for any costs involved to get the sail boat back. After all of that the sail boat was put away and no one was allowed to use it for the rest of the day or the next day.
Helpful tips: Go to the grocery store and put some bottled water, breakfast and lunch foods in your full size fridge. Take a fresh beach towel early in the morning and keep it with you. You have a washer and dryer in your room and it was hard to find fresh towels at the pool late in the day. Make sure you try a pina colada at the pool bar. If you are going to have lunch there don’t miss the chicken and pineapple pannini – it was delicious. The best advice I can give you is to get a card with a phone number from your cab driver. Last year we spent way too much time hanging out in the lobby waiting for the front desk to call taxis for us. It took forever to get any where and it was quite costly. This year, we had a great driver who met us at the airport, his name was Sammy. He gave us his number. We called him about an hour before we wanted to go anywhere and he was always there on time to take us where we wanted to go. He also negotiated very fair cab fees with us.
As far as activities go there really weren’t any. We planned to go diving and on a sun set cruise but because of the wind we didn’t get to do any of this. We were not disappointed one bit. We spent our days relaxing on the beach. Our daily activity was taking wine and cheese down to the beach to watch the sun set and then calling Sammy and going out to amazing dinners. We did not have one single disappointing meal during our entire trip. Keep in mind, dinners are not inexpensive but well worth it. We ate at:
1. Magnolias: Great view, great service, great food.
2. Coco Bistro: My personal favorite. Don’t miss this restaurant! The ambiance is not one you will soon forget and the service and meal was just terrific. We went here for dinner last year and I couldn’t wait to return again.
3. Hemingways: Great location, make sure you go for a sunset dinner. They had the best service at any of the restaurants we visited, they had a large menu and their dinner prices seemed a bit more reasonable then the other restaurants that we went to. If we were staying on the island longer I would have gone back to eat here again.
4. Bay Bistro: This is also a great location and more delicious food.
On Saturday night we had a just returned to our room after a great meal. We got up to our room and could hear some music from a wedding at the hotel restaurant. It was still early so we decided to go out on our terrace to enjoy the music. Then fireworks went off. - Really great, big, beautiful, 4th of July type fireworks! It was absolutely gorgeous. The music and fire works ended at 11 PM. We found out the next morning that the fire works were set off down near the Seven Stars Resort.
We did venture out to the Casablanca Casino that is walking distance from our hotel but it was a very tiny place with hardly any activity. The place was just about empty and we all gambled for about an hour and none of us won anything. You could definitely skip this place on your visit.
I would happily return to the island again. Like I said, no complaints about the RWI, but if I could find something similar in price and quality I would certainly be willing to check it out. If you aren’t a fussy person you will be perfectly happy here. There was not any noise from construction that distracted us while on the beach. There is a property going up nearby, but all of the work being done seems to be on the interior and it was quiet. We did not experience any problems with bugs or mosquitoes at all.
I do wonder how Turks & Caicos compares to Grand Cayman. We are already considering it for our next vacation. Does any one know of an affordable place like RWI on Grand Cayman?