Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort, Casino & Spa
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Historical Traveler Reviews Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort, Casino & Spa Philipsburg
Will probably return
Spent Jan 11 to Jan 18 at this resort with my wife. We went to relax and found just what we wanted.
The food was not lavish but tasty. Breakfast was the same everyday on the buffet but you could order from the staff.
Lunch provided enough alternatives and dinner was always well prepared.
This was not an exciting place. Just cold drinks, friendly staff and small enough to relax and enjoy.
I can understand the comments about the beach, lack of entertainment etc. for those looking for excitement, but this place had a good bang for the buck.
Not so good
The good: Elizabeth, Mercillia, Verginia, Ziggy (all waiters), the New Year's Eve Party, the excursion on a catamaran to Anguilla, the gym, the beer, quick response to problems.
The not so good: cracked bathroom tiles, rusty light fixtures, only 1 elevator (small, often not working), food, beach (not a nice sand), no choice of restaurants, no bar close to the beach, small pool, very little entertainment, smoky casino, being so close to St. Philisburg.
Bottom Line: never again.
Great Bay is a Great Place to Stay
We just spent a wonderful week at Great Bay Beach Hotel & Casino (Dec. 29 2002 - Jan. 05 2003). Disregard those negative reviews. The room was exceptionally clean, with towels changed twice daily, turndown service in the evening and very friendly housekeeping staff. We had a 3rd floor mountainview very close to the lobby, the dining rooms and the pool - no need to wait for elevators.
The location of the hotel is perfect - 8 minutes walk along the beach to Philipsburg for the best duty free shopping on the island. Also a 10 minute walk to Little Bay Beach where we enjoyed some fabulous snorkeling right off the beach.
We rented a midsized car across the street at Alamo for one day and visited several beaches (great snorkeling at Dawn Beach).
The food at Great Bay Beach Hotel was very good - we had made to order omelets every day for breakfast - delivered in 5 minutes or less, which we supplemented with the generous buffet of meats, pastries, fresh fruits, cereals and juices. The New Year's Eve beef tenderloin was superb - it was the hot topic of conversation by everyone who ordered it (and I eat in some fairly good steak houses in Toronto). Every lunch and dinner meal was accompanied by a bottomless glass of very smooth French red or white table wine.
The bar cocktails were premium brand, with generous shots of liquor.
The serving staff are very friendly and you can choose to sit in your favourite server's section if you wish.
Front desk staff are extremely fast and efficient - they know where you really want to spend your time on vacation - not at the counter!
I recommend the all-inclusive option for this location. You would need a hefty pocketbook to dine at Grand Case on the French side every day, and there aren't many good eateries around the Philipsburg area. And if you're a drinker, it really pays off!
This was the finest intermediate all-inclusive resort I have been to, and I highly recommend it. The value for cost was tremendous. No it's not 4 star - but that's not what I was expecting.
Definetely Friendly Island
Just returned from Great Bay Hotel and Casino (November 23rd to the 30th of 2002). I did a ton of research before going to the island and Great Bay Hotel. I was sort of scared of how the hotel was going to be after reading others reviews so I thought I would write one myself. Myself and my Girlfriend both of us are 24, went for her birthday. When we first arrived at the hotel we had a mountain view room, PEEEEEEE YUUUUUUU this room was rediculous one of the worst hotel rooms ever! We of course went to the front desk and upgraded to an ocean view room (cost us 140 US for the week). The ocean view room was pretty nice, I would say it was a 3 star, nothing fancy but a quaint place to stay with an incredible view!
The food at the hotel was ok, breakfast was standard canadian style breakfast eggs, bacon, toast, bagels, pancakes, no complaints there. Lunch sometimes was pretty blasee, make sure if you don't like the buffet lunch ask for a menu, they offer burgers and clubhouses if you don't like the buffet, the menu was what we did most of the time. Dinner was generally good, nothing special but it was fair again maybe a 3 out of 5. The drinks at this resort are INCREDIBLE!!! I arrived to find Canadian Club Rye, Labatt Blue and Blue light, Caribbe, Heineken all the drinks you would want from home plus some extra caribean style liquors as well. This hotel is a drinkers paradise! I drink rye straight alot and my drinks (rye and cokes) were really strong, I just told them how I liked my drinks and they were perfect for the rest of the week. The beach is quite nice, and I agree with one of the other reviews stating its nice to see the cruise ships roll in and out of the bay. I made it a point at sun set to be out on my balcony (of course with a CC and Coke) to see the ships roll out of the bay with all of there lights on.
A rental car is an absolute must, this island has soooo much to offer it is imparative that you rent a car. We got an amazing deal it was like 65 US for a car for 4 days (we got it throught ...). It was a little Kia Rio but it did the trick. We usually toured around with another couple we met and the car held all of us fine. If you can drive a standard it is strongly recommended that you rent a standard, the island is very hilly! My renta car was being referred to as Kevins Kia Rio tours by the end of the week because we had so much fun driving around the island (you need to gain lots of speed to make it up the hills!). Dinner in Grande Case was really nice as well, we ate at El Netuno it was fantastic!
Other tips are visit Orient Beach it is incredable and cannot be missed, we spent a couple of our days there. Also make sure to leave a tip for your servers and bartenders, nothing big, maybe 2 bucks at a meal it will make a huge difference, we ended up with the best service all week long. My overall impression was if you are looking to take a honeymoon this resort would probably not be your first choice, but if you are looking for an affordable vacation for yourself and a signifigant other and maybe some other couples, this island and resort is perfect. I will be going back to St. Martin some time soon, I plan to rent a home on the french side near orient beach but if I was going to hotel it again I would stay at Great Bay again.
Your gonna love it
On Jan 11, 2003 I'll be returning to St. Martin, and staying at the Graet Bay Beach Hotel for the 4th year in a row. My wife and I love the place. It's not fancy but the beach is fabulous, food is always good and the drinks cold. The rooms are a good size and always clean. Phillipdburg is about a 10 min walk from the hotel, and although the walk through town isn't the prettiest it is the typical carribeean streets and houses. A nicer walk is along the beach to the town dock. You'll be hot so just stop at one of the many bars along the beach and have a cold one before you begin to shop. Enjoy.
Not what we expec ted
This hotel was not what we expected. We went on our honeymoon and left immediately. If you are expecting character, romance and seclusion in a lovely setting, this is not for you. It seemed to appeal to many tourists and looked to be good for families who are not looking for a luxury resort. But a honeymoon it's not. Seemed kind of old, located in a really yucky part of St. Maarten. Rent a car!
Good Quality and Clean
I stayed at the Great Beach and Casino Hotel in Phillipsburg from 12/4 - 12/11, 2002. My room was clean, and the service was excellent. This hotel is a bit off the beaten path, so if you want solitude, it is a good place to stay. Shopping is a 10 minute walk, but that area is closed at night, except for some Casinos and a few restaurants. Maho is about 15 minutes away and the most developed area on the Dutch side. One small drawback at Great Beach are the dailiy Cruise Ships. They are always in view from the beach and your balcony. The hotel is not a noisy place but thre are small hotels, and homes always in view around the bay. It looks busy. So if you want a clear view of the ocean, if you want to be one with the ocean and horizon, this is not the hotel for you. There's also lot's of activity at the pool, the usual games, and competitions, all in good fun. The beach was nice, but at night it is not too safe. Very dark. During the day, the water is very nice, but there is a drop off a few feet into the ocean, it gets deep quickly. If you are not all inclusive, the prices for meals are reasonable and the food is so - so, but plenty of it. Dinner was $28 a night, not at all worth it. I recommend sampling local fare from the street corner vendors. They are licensed by the government, and provide cheap and delicious barbecue chicken, ribs, and lobster. Don't forget to order the Johnny Cake. Some kind of traditional bread thing, and not bad, but fills you up fast. Burger King and McDonalds are also in town. The rooms are nice, no rugs on the floor, and the bed will move if you are a vigorous sleeper. The television receives many American stations, also there is HBO, etc. The volume was extremely low on several stations. A reception dish thing. Air conditioning was fine, and you control if in the room. I rented a jeep and traveled most days. Orient Beach was beautiful, it's on the French side. Only a 20 minute drive from Great Beach. A small number of people go nude there, and it is a bit crowde
unch prices are reasonable. Orient is a great place. Further up the road is Grand Case. Many wonderful French and other restaurants, including some outdoor barbecue stops with delicious foods. Marigot is the capital of the French side, and very nicely developed. Many
restaurants and all types of stores you would find in the United States and Europe. Maho Hotel on the Dutch side is one of the nicest hotel on the Island. From their beach, you are a few hundred feet from the runway of the airport. When planes land, they look as if they are 10 feet away from you. It is eerie watching them land. You have no choice. The beach is not that great either. There is also a quick drop in the ocean from 4 feet to about 7 feet. I would never stay there. On the street in front of the hotel is really the fascination. Many well appointed shops, a major topless establishment, a Subway hero shop, a Casino, and a Nightclub. And many, many restaurants through town past Simpson Bay. Maho Hotel and Great Beach are owned by the same people by the way. Dawn Beach is also on the Dutch side. One hotel in attached to the beach, it is very quiet, not many people, and a great place to be alone and relax. I am told that there are many wonderful little beaches on the Island, but not enough time...You should also take the drive to Le Meridian Resort. It takes many steep hills to get to this palaltial hideaway. If I only knew, I would have stayed there. Hidden, quiet, and beautiful. Check it out. Bottom Line -- Great Beach is a reasonably priced hotel, and a great jump off point to see the Island. It was a comfortable place to come back to at the end of the night.
I read the reviews here and based on them and my research (which I now feel was inadequate) I built up an expectation. One reviewer said they had been to this hotel for their honeymoon -- which was the purpose of my trip. We took the advice of a reviewer and spent the extra money for an ocean view vs. a mountain view. When we got there we found that the hotel did have a mountain view and an ocean view. The ocean view was decent, but our room was on the far side, closest to Phillips burg and there was a swamp-like area below and roosters. Nice. The mountain is more a glorified hill, host to some ramshackle homes and located above a parking lot. Not what I had expected. The service seemed very nice (we left the next day) and hospitable. The price for all inclusive, given the caliber of the hotel was completely ridiculous. Phillipsburg is not that great. The walk to the main drag from the hotel is horrible. I would not recommend and especially not for a honeymoo!n.
We booked Great Bay because it was all inclusive, had been highly recommended by friends that are fussy about where they stay and what they eat, and because we had the time off and Great Bay was available. Three couples traveled together and it was the third trip to the island for one couple. They had always stayed at Orient Beach previously. We had a great time. The food was excellent and the service from the staff was attentive. We were treated like family.
We rented a car and on the second day on the island and after touring the island we stopped at Orient Bay. We locked our beach supplies in the trunk and walked the beach to determine where to locate ourselves. When we came back to the car an hour later we had been cleaned out. Our driver lost his wallet and all ID and credit cards, camera and cash, the other couple lost prescription glasses and clothing as they had rented a scooter and had put their valuables in the trunk of our car for safe keeping. I lost 2 kitesurfing kites, camera, cash, lifejacket, harness, water boots etc. Quite a haul for the thief if they can kitesurf. They left my board in the car so I believe they did not know what they had stolen. We also lost our keys to our rooms and beach towels from the hotel.
We immediately contacted the Great Bay and they immediately changed the lock codes for each of our rooms and did not charge us for the lost keys or beach towels, three keys and six towels.
We spent the rest of the day tracking down the police, no easy feat, it was a holiday on the island so they were closed from noon to 3 p.m. We finally gave up and came back in the evening.
That was the bad part of the vacation the rest was heaven. The days passed slowly with lots of activity to make everyone happy. We took a day long catamaran tour for snorkeling which was fabulous and spent the rests of the week enjoying the various beaches on the island. I had one kite left so spent one day on Orient Beach surfing.
The beach is wide and beautiful at Great Bay and it is interesting to see the cruise ships come into the harbour at Philipsburg every morning and leave at sunset. I would go again tomorrow just ask me. Just don't leave anything in the trunk of a rental car. Also avoid driving first thing in the morning, relax, have a slow breakfast and the traffic will be gone when you get on the road. There is usually only one road going to a destination so roads are busy early and late in the day.
Great Bay also offers tours of the island and daily trips to Orient Beach so you do not even have to rent a car. We did it because the group wanted the freedom to go when and where we pleased. We did a bit too much sight seeing for my liking, next time I would relax at the pool all morning, have the excellent lunch offered, then spend the afternoon going to another part of the island. Nothing is more that 30 minutes away by car. I would be sure to make it back in time for the excellent evening meal provided by the staff who later in the week are also your friends.
Great Bay Beach Resort and Casino
Went there the week of 6-10-02 to celebrate 25th wedding anniversary. Booked through Vacation Express, wasn't expecting 12 hr travel time from Nashville to St.Maartin. Accomodations only OK, was supposed to have ocean view room, got hillside view the first nite, even though the hotel was only 20% booked (be sure to pay more for ocean view), the staff was very rude (and we weren't hard to please) they made us feel as if we were were intruding. But, the beach was wonderful. Almost isolated, water clear, view spectacular!!
According to locals though, it's a very dangerous place for visitors outside the resort. Since the alcohol is very cheap, many of people who live there choose to drink to excess and make their living stealing from the tourists. Rent a lockbox from the hotel for your valuables, stay with a group, and watch out after dark!! It was fun to go once, but we won't be going back - ever.
TripAdvisor Reviews Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort, Casino & Spa Philipsburg
Travel Blogs from Philipsburg
... back towards the port to make it back by 4 - our debarkation time. I have to mention that on the way back we tried some samples of a few things at the shops and I tried some coconut smoothie. I tilted back my head, sipped it down, took about 3-4 steps and immediately turned around and bought a large one. It was unbelievable and its about all I thought about the rest of the day. They were also giving samples of some guavaberry rum that was pretty tasty.
Woke up this morning and breakfast was delivered by 8:30am. We had to eat and shower quickly because we had the bridge tour at 9am. The bridge tour was really cool – the bridge is huge, and they have separate rooms for the safety command center. Pretty neat.
After the tour, we went to deck 15 for Rob to smoke, and we ran into my mom. We told her to grab Tish and then come to our room while we got ...
... Eventually, my feet worked and I stepped off - it only went for a short time but it was fun! John refused to take a turn. David had been on the Flow Rider 8 times during the cruise which he loved as well. It was always busy and people were always standing around watching. He found it difficult - 'no comment' he says, except for 'I was doing well by the end'.
... we didn’t do any sun bathing, but then it started to warm up and we got busy working on our tans and checking things out.
Our first port of call was Philipsburg, the capital of Dutch St. Maarten. The island was a very important part for the Dutch back in the 17th century. St. Maarten was known as the Great Salt Pond and the Dutch inhabitants would send shiploads ...
While on the island, I looked out and did not see the boat that we came in. I said to Joanne "Oh heck, they probably got tired of waiting around and have stranded us there." I kept looking out and thought I saw our boat leaving the area. I yelled at Joanne to swim with me toward the boat all the time I was yelling "stop..wait for us".
I forgot to mention that there were quite a few boats ...