The tourism industry on the island of St. Maarten / St. Martin continues to recover at a steady pace from the ravages of last September’s Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Several hotels and smaller properties have reopened, others have scheduled reopening dates and airlines have added new service.
St. Martin: Belmond and Beyond
According to tourism officials, most hotels in French St. Martin were destroyed, but about 200-plus hotel rooms are now available, including the Mercure Saint Martin Marina and Spa Hotel; 300 to 400 more are expected to be available by December with a total of 700 open by the end of the year.
Perhaps one of the most significant developments in St. Martin comes from Belmond La Samanna, which reports that it will begin welcoming guests once again as of December 10, following a top-to-bottom property refresh. The property’s 83 guestrooms, eight three- and four-bedroom villas and public spaces are getting a complete redesign by Muza Lab, London. The new look incorporates pastel blues, greens, pinks and peaches inspired by the natural tones of the Caribbean, with shells and corals, along with botanical prints on fabrics, artworks, lighting and mirrors, serving as accents.
Belmond La Samanna will begin welcoming guests as of December 10, following a top-to-bottom property refresh.
The Baie Longue Bar, Trellis restaurant and main building were all included in the refresh. Dining is also available at the La Cave Wine Cellar, which resort officials say is the largest private wine cellar in the Caribbean, with a fine wine paring experience curated by the head chef. The Beach Bar was also refreshed, with swings, monochrome lounge seating and chandeliers. It serves champagne and cocktails with sunset views.
Belmond is also offering a two-property package with Belmond Cap Juluca on Anguilla, which is also reopening November 17. A five-night stay (three at La Samanna, two at Cap Juluca) for two people during low season, subject to availability, starts from $3,500, including transfers and a $200 credit per resort, excluding taxes and resort fees.
St. Maarten Resort Report
On the Dutch side of the island, there are currently several hundred bookable hotel rooms available, including such larger properties as Divi Little Bay Beach Resort, Simpson Bay Resort & Marina and Oyster Bay Beach Resort. Some portions of the latter are still under construction, with all renovations slated to be completed by December.
Sonesta St. Maarten Resorts will reopen its adults-only Sonesta Ocean Point Resort on November 15, and its family-friendly Sonesta Maho Beach Resort, Casino & Spa on February 1. Both are in the middle of a complete renovation after being demolished by Hurricane Irma last September.
Sonesta Maho Beach’s Sky Tower sustained the most damage and the renovation required that the building be stripped to its main structural frame, which was fortunately spared by the storm. The reconstruction project is completely overhauling the building, instating a comprehensive architectural and interior redesign. Most importantly, the project will install TCK and LVKE building technology with a storm resistant building envelope that can withstand sustained winds in excess of 200 mph and severe earthquakes. Hurricane Irma had sustained winds of 165 mph.
Sonesta Ocean Point Resort fortunately sustained somewhat less damage, with the structure, mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems remaining in good condition, as the property had undergone a gut renovation in 2015. Repairs are being made to damaged areas, with improvements implemented to increase the storm resistance of the building’s exterior envelope. The Ocean Point lobby will be entirely redesigned and given an updated contemporary style, while the new Casa Blue, a Spanish-style tapas restaurant, will debut on the rooftop terrace above Azul restaurant.
Maho Village, the shopping and nightlife promenade located outside the resorts, along with Casino Royale, are undergoing a massive transformation as well, and are set to re-open this summer with a modern new look. Casino Royale will continue to offer more than 21,000 square feet of gaming and entertainment with the biggest theater in the region, and will debut two new alfresco restaurants and a new outdoor bar and lounge overlooking the main street of Maho Village.
Through September 30, Sonesta Ocean Point Resort and Sonesta Maho Beach Resort, Casino & Spa are offering a pre-opening 45 percent discount promotion that will be available to book online at www.sonesta.com/stmaarten or by calling 800-SONESTA and using promo code “Preopening.”
Travel agents are also invited to book and experience either property themselves with Sonesta St. Maarten Resorts’ new “See for Yourself” Program. Agent travel dates and rates are:
Sonesta Ocean Point Resort: November 15 to December 21, 2018, and January 6 to December 20, 2019. Junior Suite is $145 per person, per night; an upgraded room category is based on availability, subject to surcharge.
Sonesta Maho Beach Resort: February 1 to December 20, 2019. The Run of House (ROH) room rate is $85 and an upgraded room category is $105 per person, per night. Children up to the age of five are free and ages six to 12 are $45 per child, per night.
Some portions of the Oyster Bay Beach Resort are still under construction, with all renovations scheduled to be completed by December.
The St. Maarten Tourist Board reports that nearly 90 percent of all on-island activities are already available for guests to enjoy. Popular offerings at Aqua Mania Adventures, Flavors of St. Maarten, Rainforest Adventures, Lee’s Deep Sea Fishing, the Topper’s Rhum Distillery and more are open. For those looking to get a taste of St. Maarten’s cuisine, the vast majority of restaurants on the Dutch side are open, in particular along Front Street, the Boardwalk, Simpson Bay and Maho Stripes.
By Air and Sea
In terms of air travel, two-thirds of all carriers that provided flights to and from the island have resumed regular service, and American Airlines has increased capacity on its daily flight out of Miami, as well as added a new daily nonstop from Charlotte as of November 4. American will add a second daily nonstop from Miami effective December 19. JetBlue currently has daily service from New York’s JFK, Delta flies three times a week from Atlanta, and United has weekly service from Newark.
On the cruise front, Crystal Cruises’ Crystal Esprit will sail roundtrip from Marigot, St. Martin’s capital, on a series of five seven-day yachting itineraries, beginning November 11, and an 11-day Christmas cruise departing on December 23. The public ferry service between Marigot Bay and Blowing Point in Anguilla operates every 45 minutes, with 14 round-trips a day.