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Joined: 01/21/10
Posts: 351
Trip Report 1 - Planes, Beds, Chairs and a Car
      #1730329 - 04/18/17 03:21 PM (

St. Maarten March 20 – April 4, 2017

“Welcome! You’ve been upgraded.”

That seemed to be the theme of our trip this year and we had a blast during what turned out to be an adventure on our most favorite island in the world. TTOL has been a tremendous source of information for us over the years, so due to length, I’ve divided my report up into two sections. I hope our experiences on St. Maarten can help others plan their vacations in the months ahead.

Trip Report 1 - Planes, Beds, Chairs and a Car
Trip Report 2 - Food, Glorious Food and Other Stuff

We were part of the Caravanserai/Alegria fiasco so as we bid farewell to the heartbreaking world of Timeshare we realized the last of our points were expiring on March 31st. Anyone who has ever booked through RCI knows how much of a challenge it can be trying to string a few dates together so when I was done it looked like a bit of a hodge podge but we decided to treat it like an adventure and pack lightly because we’d be moving a lot.

Our accommodation based on timeshare points and availability had us staying for two nights at the Sonesta Great Bay, two nights at the Sonesta Maho (we paid the standard rate for the room), one week at Sapphire Beach Resort and the last night – we weren’t sure where we’d be going. Like I said, it was going to be an adventure!

Two weeks to the day Westjet 2652 just about landed ON the sand of Maho beach due to bad weather (the video even made the nightly news here in Canada) we boarded the SAME flight bound for St. Maarten from Toronto. It was a bit of a GULP! But being good fliers we weren’t worried and soon we were pulling up to the Terminal at Princess Juliana.

First stop: Great Bay Sonesta – Timeshare building. We’ve stayed “all-inclusive” at Great Bay before and this was our first time at the Timeshare side of the property. We were upgraded into a two bedroom condo over-looking the ocean. It was a lovely unit with THREE bathrooms. It was a bit much for two people rambling around but we loved it. The bed was comfy, the view was amazing and the unit, although a little dated, was perfect. If you have a chance to stay here I wouldn’t hesitate to book it although make sure you stock up on groceries and beverages because unless you purchase the all-inclusive option, dining and drinking at Great Bay is really expensive.

I loved staying so close to Philipsburg and enjoyed several walks into town to visit my favorite shops. After all these years of coming to St. Maarten I had never bought any linens so I stopped into Mr. Tablecloth and purchased a beautiful topper for my dining room table. I was impressed with the quality and price but the best part of the experience was dealing with the lovely lady who worked there. After a few more minor purchases we visited my most favorite shop of all, DK Gems International. We absolutely love Raj and Jeff and just let me say, the BEST upgrade of the trip happened in their beautiful store as hubby decided to honor our twentieth Wedding Anniversary with another purchase. Love him!

Next stop: Sonesta Maho -2 nights – all-inclusive
“Honey, prepare yourself,” I cautioned my wonderful but overly picky husband, “I rented us a STANDARD room at Sonesta Maho and from what I’ve read online that means we’ll have an un-renovated room overlooking the garbage cans at the back and we’ll be kept awake all night long by the pounding bass of one of the clubs in Maho. However, the price was right so, here’s your earplugs.”

We cabbed over to Maho and rolled our cases into the lobby for the next stage of our adventure. We were handed two plastic glasses of “sparkling-something” as we checked in. I had done some research prior to leaving and was relieved to find the Norovirus that this resort was dealing with last year seemed to have gone away so we were willing to give it a try. The gal behind the counter seemed to be taking a long time to process our reservation however, so when I cheerfully inquired what was happening, she looked up quite puzzled and said, “You’ve been upgraded to Sonesta Ocean Point!” I thanked her very much, threw back the contents of my plastic glass and sprinted across the lobby. Hubby finally caught up to me and said, “You just guzzled your champagne!” “You bet I did,” grinning like a mad fool, “now get in the golf cart before they change their mind!!”

We stayed at Sonesta Ocean Point last year and it was – WONDERFUL. The view from the rooms are spectacular, the beds and pillows are down-filled paradise zones, the well- appointed bathrooms with waterfall showers and fluffy white robes are sheer heaven. The food at Azul restaurant out on the point is a real dining pleasure and our wrist bands gave us full dining benefits. As guests of Ocean Point we could go anywhere on the property to dine and drink but Azul was our favorite and we took full advantage of it. Please see Trip Report 2 – Food, Glorious Food and Other Stuff for the details. I truly feel that the “All-Inclusive” option doesn’t really work on St. Maarten because it’s the gourmet dining capital of the Caribbean and you need to get out and enjoy all the wonderful restaurants. However, I really would recommend that you spoil yourself, even for a few days on your vacation, and try out Sonesta Ocean Point. The views from the balconies with their big comfy two person lounge beds, the private pools and butler service really need to be fully experienced and enjoyed. I can hardly wait to go back.

Next stop: Sapphire Beach Resort – 1 week Timeshare Exchange
I did not want to stay here. This Timeshare resort used to be one of the best resorts on the island and it was so special RCI said you could only exchange in here once every five years. We stayed in a one bedroom at Sapphire many years ago and it was quite nice, however, ownership issues had taken their toll and I had read the property had fallen into a sad state of disrepair. It had gotten so bad RCI even removed the resort from its list of properties. Now in 2017 it was back. I had learned some upgrading to the property had happened and its RCI designation was back so with our points expiring I reluctantly booked us a two bedroom for one week. “It’s just a bed!” we kept telling ourselves. “We’ll be on the go all the time and it’s just a place to sleep!” After the luxury of Ocean Point we were dragging our suitcases and our butts to the lobby but we were in St. Maarten and decided to make the best of our vacation.

Allan from AC Car rental met us at the door of Sonesta with our little blue Getz that would “Get” us around the island for the next week. We’ve known Allan for years when he worked at Safari and Paradise car rentals. He’s started his own company now and I’m pleased to say our rental experience was perfect! It was nice having our car dropped off at the door of Sonesta too.

We made the short drive to Sapphire to drop off our suitcases. Putting on a brave front we approached reception and told them we were checking in. The fellow behind the desk started to smile, then handed us our key cards and said, “Good news – you’ve been upgraded to one of our Villas!” To say we were shocked is an understatement. We opened up the front door and walked into a gorgeous two story – white palace. The main floor had a well-appointed kitchen but all roads of this beautiful villa led to the sliding glass doors that overlooked the ocean just a few feet below. The view was breathtaking. We had our own pool on the huge deck (that turned different colors when you lit it up at night) along with lounge chairs and dining table. The living room was decorated with comfy white wicker furniture along with a large flat screen TV. The sweeping staircase led up to the two bedrooms with another two marble filled bathrooms to match the one on the main floor. Both rooms had balconies and large sliding glass doors that led out to the ocean. Even our little blue Getz was in the lap of luxury with not one but two designated parking stalls to sprawl out in.

Craig from Pack Light met us with our two chairs and umbrella that we would use for the upcoming week. This was our first time using his service and we loved it! I wasn’t sure how I’d feel schlepping chairs, umbrellas, coolers, towels and beach bags around the island but we worked out a system and found the experience to be awesome, especially on beaches like Long Bay where there are no services. We will be using his wonderful company again on our next visit to St. Maarten.

We had a fabulous week at Sapphire and I’m pleased to report the refurbishing of the property continues. The resort was a hub of activity, the pool looked lovely and inviting, the beach towels were fluffy and fairly new, the little restaurant was busy but the best part was the staff. They truly cared about you and did everything they could to make your stay a good one. Sapphire still has a way to go and I don’t think the private Jacuzzi tubs are working yet in the main building (which was one of the big draws of this resort “back in the day”) but they are slowly getting there. Our Villa was FANTASTIC!!!!!

Last Stop – 1 night where?
Our Sapphire Timeshare was for one week and we needed eight days so the adventure continued. I mentioned earlier in this report that we used to own two weeks at Caravanserai/Alegria. Last year we stopped in to say hello to our favorite staff members from the past but I found the experience of being back in the building so nauseating I had to leave. This year I got over myself and we checked in to a one bedroom because we wanted to end our vacation in the Maho area and we were curious. We relaxed and enjoyed it so much we ended up moving our flight to the following Tuesday so we could stay a few extra days. Alegria is very quiet but the units are FINALLY at the standard we expected when we bought into the property pre-construction. The beds and most of the crappy furniture has been replaced and the quality of the “hotel” is vastly improved from when we stayed there. My heart is still sad but we moved on and enjoyed our last few days in paradise.

The length of this report has been long however, I hope some of my experiences at these resorts and timeshares will be of value to you. For our Food, Day trips and thoughts on the island, please check out Trip Report 2 – Food, Glorious Food and Other Stuff.


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Joined: 03/04/04
Posts: 486
Loc: Framingham,MA
Re: Trip Report 1 - Planes, Beds, Chairs and a Car [Re: Teresasxm]
      #1730334 - 04/18/17 03:36 PM (

That was one of the best trip reports I have read. I think now you should play the lottery! You explained every detail so perfectly, I felt like I was with you! Glad you had a great time!

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Joined: 04/18/01
Posts: 11329
Loc: Brookfield, CT.
Re: Trip Report 1 - Planes, Beds, Chairs and a Car [Re: Teresasxm]
      #1730335 - 04/18/17 03:37 PM (

What a great trip report and I don't think the up-grades could have happened to a nicer or more deserving person. Congrats all around. And in particular for your DHes upgrade. Happy anniversary and from reading the above, I know it was.



"Always keep your words soft and sweet, just in case you have to eat

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Joined: 03/31/01
Posts: 12564
Loc: Ohio
Re: Trip Report 1 - Planes, Beds, Chairs and a Car [Re: Teresasxm]
      #1730336 - 04/18/17 03:38 PM (

Thanks for the report and congratulations on the upgrades. Did you gamble? You might have won big with your luck.


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Joined: 08/01/00
Posts: 63879
Loc: Central Florida!
Re: Trip Report 1 - Planes, Beds, Chairs and a Car [Re: Teresasxm]
      #1730339 - 04/18/17 03:46 PM (

Wow, you didn't say, but I hope you went to the casino!!! What a streak of great fortune!!

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Joined: 01/22/08
Posts: 12430
Loc: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Re: Trip Report 1 - Planes, Beds, Chairs and a Car [Re: Teresasxm]
      #1730343 - 04/18/17 04:15 PM (

Fabulous! It is so much fun to get surprising upgrades everywhere! I sure wish I had some of that good luck.


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Joined: 04/12/07
Posts: 765
Loc: Toronto Canada
Re: Trip Report 1 - Planes, Beds, Chairs and a Car [Re: Teresasxm]
      #1730345 - 04/18/17 04:53 PM (

great report-very entertaining and good info

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Joined: 10/04/16
Posts: 18
Loc: Virginia
Re: Trip Report 1 - Planes, Beds, Chairs and a Car [Re: islandgem]
      #1730351 - 04/18/17 05:14 PM (

Great report. Pleasure to read.

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Joined: 04/25/08
Posts: 1907
Loc: Connecticut
Re: Trip Report 1 - Planes, Beds, Chairs and a Car [Re: Teresasxm]
      #1730352 - 04/18/17 05:27 PM (

What a wonderful report! I enjoyed all the wonderful things that happened to you both!! (Even made me feel better, since we had to cut our trip from 2 weeks to 3 days this month!!)

Looking forward to part 2!!!

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Joined: 07/19/01
Posts: 6760
Loc: St Louis, MO
Re: Trip Report 1 - Planes, Beds, Chairs and a Car [Re: Teresasxm]
      #1730516 - 04/20/17 08:56 AM (

Thanks for the review of ALL the places on SXM.

Next SXM visits ??? in 2018

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