The Alegria Resort, an Ascend Collection Property on Maho Beach, Sint Maarten
A Guest Post from John (@laptoptravel)
- A Reader / Blogger Adventure to SXM – Introduction & Mileage Run
- THE CLUB at PHX Lounge review Phoenix Airport Terminal 4 – B Concourse
- The Alegria Resort on Maho Beach, Sint Maarten SXM
- What is it like at SXM Maho Beach & the “jet blast” experience?
- GoPro Video Review: The SXM Maho Beach Jet Experience
- The Priority Pass Executive lounge review at SXM
- The new Delta Asanda Spa at the flagship Sky Club JFK review
- Delta ONE JFK to LAX review – is it competitive?
- When Delta is this good – the bad flights really stand out!
- Final thoughts and all the issues & all the workarounds to SXM
Recently I attended a meet-up with fellow bloggers of Angelina Travels, The Forward Cabin and readers/followers of RenesPoints blog and Twitter followers. This began as a Mileage Run from Phoenix that went wonky for myself and another when weather got bad in the southeast USA. René had organized the meet-up and had selected Sint Maarten, home of the famous Maho Beach for the location. Our host hotel would be The Alegria Resort.
The Alegria is a Choice Hotels property which is situated on the perfect piece of land at the point which separates Maho Beach and Simpson Bay; both of which border the Princess Julianna Airport (SXM) on the island of Sint Maarten. Sint Maarten actually is composed of two nations; the south side is the Dutch and the north (Saint Martin) is a French overseas collectivity.
Besides just being an island in the Caribbean which is reason enough for most folks to visit, it also is one of the top airplane spotting locations. Maho Beach fronts the flight path of runway 28 aircraft approaches for landing at the airport. The runway is just nine feet above sea level and the beach spans about 150 yards from northeast to southeast, but the width is merely 80 feet and butts up to a very narrow two lane road and then the fence which separates the airport land from public access.
The hotel is an easy twenty minute walk from the airport but you are better off choosing a taxi if you have any larger (checked) luggage. The path (yes a path) to the hotel is narrow and primarily a footpath three-quarters of the way. The last 150 yards you would probably be forced to walk on Maho Beach itself to the Alegria as local traffic would force you off the road most times.
Taking a taxi is an easy process. Walking out from baggage claim, turn right and find the official (white} taxi stand. There will be a taxi coordinator. Tell him where you are going and the number in your party. Mini-vans seem to be the most common taxi models, regardless of the number of people traveling. I got a minivan for my single rider return to the SXM airport. The charge should be $4 USD per passenger or $8 for a single rider.
The Allegria’s lobby is small, but efficient. There is a single couch and two chairs for guests perhaps waiting for others, a taxi ride or tour from the hotel. The front desk has room for two clerks and two check-in lines, if needed. There is also a small tour desk attached to the front desk stocked with tour pamphlets and brochures. This area also features a computer to be used by guests for printing boarding passes.
At check-in I received a welcome glass of champagne as well as a unique Wi-Fi password; good for two devices. Unfortunately for others, including René, they were not offered champagne upon their arrival. The Wi-Fi is complimentary to hotel guests although the hotel offers a paid ‘premium’ service, which I did not try.
Most of the hotel is formed in a U-shape wrapping the pool area and is four stories.
My rate was booked in advance for 20,000 Choice points per night. You could also book at the Cash+Points rate of 6,000 points and $105 USD.
There are elevators; slim and narrow, those help you avoid walking up somewhat steep stairs. I often took the stairs down from my third floor just for exercise and speed.
My room happened to be one of the best on the property; an enormous suite located at the far end of the building with three sided views of the pool area, toward the south and toward the west and the Maho Bay area. Have a look. The rooms have a sliding plastic “Do Not Disturb” / “Welcome Please Knock” sign.
Guest bathroom located to right of entrance hall.
Living Room with sliding glass door access to wrap-around balcony.
Dining Room with seats for six, a bar area with stools…
A full kitchen with stove, microwave, oven, refrigerator and some small appliances. Also included were utensils, silverware and necessary plates and glassware.
A master bathroom with large walk-in shower.
Master bathroom with closet (a digital safe inside) and access to a private balcony overlooking the pool area and Simpson Bay.
The digital safe, located inside the closet was not operational. After several attempts to get someone to come fix it (it was missing the back door to the batteries) it was determined it could not be repaired during my stay. It was a hopeless cause.
As you can see the flooring is all tile, which is common in beachfront properties. It is cool on your feet after a day walking the warm sands of Maho beach, but it also can be slippery when wet.
The balconies were wonderful with chairs and a table off the master bedroom and chaise lounges along the wraparound balcony.
The champagne and the room were the highlights of the property. It quickly went downhill from there.
The hotel’s Wi-Fi is a timed access and although it should last 9 hours it often drops the connection and re-connecting is a nuisance and often not without several failed attempts. With too many attempts the system rejected my password indicating the password was already in use or no longer valid. Others in our group experienced the same results forcing us all to contact the front desk for additional codes.
The pools, although beautiful in their design, were extremely cold and the Jacuzzi attached inoperable. During my stay I never witnessed any guests making any use of either. There were only three or four guests even sitting on chairs around the pool over four days and none of those stayed for longer than an hour.
There is a bar shack located in the pool area but only seemed to have any guests seated there after the nearby Sunset Bar & Grill closed each night at 6pm. Even in its peek there were never more than three patrons at any time.
Members of our group reported many deficiencies with their Alegria stays. It seemed that toilet paper was actually rationed to guests not staying in a suite. Even clean towels were not available on request by many guests. The front desk responded that after enough sufficient towels had been washed by housekeeping the towels would be delivered; that commitment often failed on follow-through.
My own experience asking for additional toiletries reinforced my observations and belief that the hotel operated on a tight budget and quite probably might be having money issues. As I walked the property I noticed some interesting indications that everything is not well with the resort. There is evidence of a previous fire, but that section appears abandoned and long-standing. What looks like an effort for a small and private beach area for hotel guests has been abandoned and is littered with rocks, trash and discarded building materials.
Besides the pool area, the housekeeping staff seemed over-extended and cleaning in many circumstances resulted in the bare minimum being completed. Items such as dirty grout or stained walls went uncorrected. The Maho Bay facing portion of the property showed signs of damage and disrepair. The Simpson Bay side had buildings left uncompleted and exposed to the elements for years. In contrast, take notice of the designs which cover the hall area leading from the lobby to the pool area.
Here, the Alegria attempts to reveal their master plan for the property.
Hmmm, when do you think these will become a reality?
The Sunset Bar & Grill, owned by the same group that owns the Alegria, is located next to the hotel but does not allow charges to the room and on some occasions enforced a minimum twenty-dollar charge to use credit cards.
Refuge, a restaurant sharing the same deck area as the Sunset, also owned by the operators of the Alegria follows the same policy with credit cards. It is a much nicer place to have dinner, and is only one of two choices to eat after the bar closes. It also features its own pool ($5 charge).
Dining at either is a practice in patience. Service at any meal always resulted in incorrect and missing items, mixed up bills and frustration all around. Speed of service, regardless of the meal time never impressed.
Although the prices were quite reasonable for a beach resort and the most popular spot on the island, the menu seemed very limited and no one seemed focused on the customer experience. Actually you will find many people occupying tables and chairs along the deck’s edge (facing the approaching and taking off aircraft over Maho Beach) without making any purchases. The restaurants seemed uninterested in enforcing any ‘pay to sit’ policy.
The menu features pizza selections named after airlines which serve the island.
Wi-Fi is offered at the Sunset Bar & Grill and although it is not a ‘timed-access’ system it continued to drop connections continually. Apparently, it is not atypical of other locations. A friend staying at the Sonesta all-inclusive resort on the northeast side of Maho Beach also reported similar issues.
I use Sprint as my carrier but they do not include Sint Maarten in their free international roaming plan so I was at the mercy of Wi-Fi access; good or bad as it may be. René thought he was covered and ran up a $50 data roaming charge in one day!
This certainly added to frustrations during my visit. It made it difficult to keep up with friends as everyone is wandering off to various locations for either food, sun & fun or to find the perfect spot for that next arriving aircraft. Wi-Fi or cellular service is essential to keeping up with arriving and departing flights.
The arriving of aircraft was thrilling and I certainly recommend a visit for any aviation lover. However, the Alegria Resort hotel may not be your best choice. The Sonesta, across the beach, offers competitive all-inclusive rates (including alcohol) and pairs up with many charter packages. I also highly recommend trying Airbnb (a private residence rental service) since there are some beautiful properties on the island of Sint Maarten.
Hopefully the Alegria will make future improvements, but you cannot argue their location is ideal, even if the experience is less than what you should expect for an Ascend Collection property.
Hopefully you will come visit us on our next meet-up and Mileage Run, or come learn how to travel better on points and miles at FTU (the next one is in Seattle, February 24-26th.) The FTU event will feature René, Jamie Larounis of The Forward Cabin and myself (laptoptravel) as speakers.
Have you had the opportunity to visit the Alegria Resort? Are you tempted now to visit Sint Maarten and sit on the sands of Maho Beach and watch commercial aircraft and private jets take-off and land just above your head? Let us know in the comments below! – Thank you, John @laptoptravel