About the price: yes, it's really expensive, so how to think about it? For me, I can appreciate a good bottle of wine for $12-15; would I ever buy an $85 bottle of wine? Probably not; I just wouldn't expect it to be 5+ times better than the $15 one. Same with airfare: first class seats cost 5x what coach does. Is it great to fly first class? Yes. Would I pay for it? Probably not, or it would have to be a darn good occasion. I didn't come to La Samanna expecting it to be 5 times better than other resorts where I've stayed, though it costs about 4-5 times as much; but I did expect it to be better. I knew the property was gorgeous from the reviews; and I also expected top of the line service. On this latter point, they did not deliver.
We only had a weekend, it was a very special occasion, and decided to try it because of the convenience (direct flights from US; 10 minutes from airport); and because it looked beautiful, and sounded like the kind of place where if you only had 2 days, you'd just want to stay there. And for the most part, it was.
Our room was absolutely beautiful, on the first floor, steps from the gorgeous water. The cove is stunning. It was perfect for spending the little time we had. A nice touch was they left a bottle of champagne in the room for us; though we saw that others checking in were getting a basket with a bottle of something else and fruit -- which we didn't get. But ok, fine, not a big deal.
A number of people have commented that at this price point, they expect perfection, and I'd have to agree. There were many hiccups:
1. When we arrived, tired and antsy to get to the beach, the person checking us in took his time giving us a tour of the premises until we finally said, "no thank you". He was distracted, phone ringing, talking to other staff in the middle of our conversation. It would have been nice to have a little "you're with us for 2 nights, welcome, what are your plans while here, can we do anything to make you more comfortable?" In general, the attitude of the staff seemed kind of short -- maybe a cultural difference? We asked if we could have a late checkout when leaving for example, and were told in a somewhat brusque way: you'll have to request it the morning you're leaving. Ok, that's fine; but could you have been a little nicer about it? how about "oh, I see you only have 2 days with us. We're glad you're here and understand that every moment counts. We'll do what we can. Please check back with us morning when you're leaving, but I'll make a note of your request here.." Something like that. Same message, but presented so differently, would have left us feeling so much more welcomed.
2. The room is small, but fine, very nice, and the beach is gorgeous. The shower in the bathroom is completely open -- no curtain or glass b/w it and the room; and we needed to use 2 towels to mop up the water that ran off toward the middle of the bathroom. Also, the screen door to the outside didn't shut tightly, so we were apprehensive about leaving the main door open at night for fear of bugs getting in.
3. The toiletries were nice, though we had to ask cleaning crew to replenish them; and cleaning was very irregular. On both mornings we were there we said hello to the cleaning ladies standing outside the door as we left for breakfast, expecting them to clean up while we were gone. No. Both days we got back, and they hadn't done it and started doing it after we got back. When I made a comment about needing to change, the woman said, "just go in the bathroom," rather than leaving to let us get ready for the beach. Similarly, both nights, we told them what time we were going to dinner; and they didn't come till after we got back, after 9 p.m. to turn down the beds. The second cleaning is much needed because even though we tried not to, we got sand into the room, and it needed to be swept. Second night a supervisor came to knock at the door after 9 o'clock asking if they'd been there. They hadn't. Wasn't till 9:30 till a woman came. In general, we couldn't understand why with the number of staff visible throughout the grounds, they could not have been more attentive.
4. dinner at the hotel restaurant was pricey and "meh". We asked several questions about the menu of the waitress, and her only response was "it's good" without any explanation of the dishes offered. Our second night we went to Le Moulin Fou, and it was fantastic, at about 2/3 of the price; the waiter steered us to excellent specials. Also, our second night was a Sunday, and the concierge informed us that most restaurant on the French side would be closed. So, see above, would have been nice as we were checking in if someone said, "oh, I see you're here for 2 nights; I recommend if you want to eat on the French side you go tonight b/they are closed Sundays..."
5. Breakfast was good, but service was slow -- I was on my second plate of food before coffee came, and only after a request -- no one came up and greeted us at the table. They were busy, but still...
6. Our bill included a charge for a lunch that we did not have, on the day we checked in, and we didn't arrive till 5 p.m. We were offered no apologies when we phoned to ask about it, just a "we'll check into this," as if there was a possibility that we were making this up????? At checkout the charge was still there, "oh, it's a computer error" we were told; no apology offered.
7. there was much confusion when they made the reservation for Moulin Fou and called us a cab. AT the agreed upon time a taxi came, we got in, the driver said he didn't know where the restaurant was (????). We pulled up to the main lobby, he asked a staff member, who told him there are 2 Moulin Fou restaurants (???), so we asked that he checked with the concierge who made the arrrangements. Finally concierge came out, told us we got into the wrong cab, insisted that we get out and wait for "ours". We waited for another 15 minutes for the "right" cab to arrive. This was all very strange (why couldn't we have taken the cab that we were already in?), and again, no apologies.
In general, and here is where I think I agree with the "at this price point comments" -- it was a good stay; a gorgeous property. I'm glad we came. But I really wanted to love it; wanted to create the kind of memory where we felt so welcome and special that next special occasion we'd want to come back. But that's not the feeling we're left with. I would expect and have had these little hiccups happen at many other hotels, but not when paying $945 per night.
So to me the question is: can I find a property that's equally gorgeous for less money? My guess is yes; Would I come back here? If I had only a couple of days, and wanted something easy and convenient -- maybe. Did I expect it to be 5 times better than the other hotels where I've stayed in the Caribbean? I don't think so, that would have been unfair; but I did expect an experience a notch above in service, and that didn't happen here.
Visited February 2012
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Belmond La Samanna nestles amongst lush gardens overlooking 55 acres of spectacular beachfront. A complete resort in itself, Belmond La Samanna offers a spectacular private beach, two poolside terraces, 83 luxurious rooms and suites and 8 recently renovated 4600sq. ft. villas with private pools. Enjoy its sophisticated food offerings and award winning wine cellar, indulge in its European Elysees Spa, or simply enjoy the privacy and relaxation of this sophisticated and sensual French-Caribbean enclave. Gourmet dishes are served in the elegant Trellis, and Baie Longue Bar offers pool-side dining and views of Baie Long Beach. Dine on your private terrace and later enjoy a drink from the wine cellar. Belmond La Samanna is everything you could wish for in a Caribbean hideaway. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- La Samanna By Orient-Express Hotel St. Maarten/St. Martin
- La Samanna Hotel
- La Samanna Resort St Martin