I am sorry to report that a recent visit to St. Martin's premier resort, La Samanna, was a complete bust for me and my wife. We had a five-night package with Luxury Link for an Ocean-view room, for Nov. 2-7, 2008. Upon arrival, we were told there had been a hurricane two weeks ago and that some damage was going to be apparent, such as downed trees.
Well, yes. There was damage to the trees, but the greatest damage was to the beach itself. To stand from a distance and look at it, it seemed serene and pristine. Such was not the case, at all. Apparently, the storm took away all of the sand on the beach, only to re-deposit it a short time later, only not in exactly the same places. There was a huge mountain of sand up against the sea wall. When you walked in the surf you sometimes walked on a rocky surface. I guess some of the sand in the ocean itself was no longer there, and a huge amount of sand was pushed up to the top of the beach.
The hotel had large earth-moving machines moving sand every which way. This left the main part of the beach itself very soft and difficult to walk on. Of course, the presence of these machines did nothing to enhance the ambiance of the place either.
This information was not reported to us prior to our arrival. Had we known of this problem, we would have postponed our trip to a later date, when the beach was back to its old self. The truth is, however, the resort should have been closed entirely during this process. It is entirely unfair to us, the customers, who pay for what Mr. Frommer calls a "world class resort" and adds that it is situated on "one of St. Martin's finest beaches" to have this kind of experience foisted off on us. Frommer also points out that La Samanna is "spectacularly expensive". He is not wrong about that!
Our problems were compounded by the inadequacy of our OV room, which turned out to be tiny. Not quite as large as a Motel 6 accommodation, I would venture to say. What's more, even though there was a view of the ocean way out there, what we actually had a view of was the outdoor Ocean Bar and Grill, which had little visual appeal and lots of noise. We were moved, on our second day, to another room, having first been promised a suite. But I suppose management decided we weren't pissed off enough to be given such a nice upgrade, so we ended up in another small room.
The problems we encountered here were enough to bring tears to your eyes -- and too long for this review to cover in detail. Power went off for the entire day at the resort. Then, when power was restored, the A/C in our room didn't work. It got fixed. It still didn't work. It got fixed again, finally. There was lots of construction noise. The weather was poor and mosquitoes and no-see-ums were constantly all over us. A very annoying problem turned out to be ingress to and egress from the beach itself. The storm had wiped out stairs and other easy passageways from the rooms to the sand. Now, one had to climb down the enormous mountain of sand to get to the beach. I stayed in the room to sulk; my wife found a couple of beach boys to help her get down the mountain to the beach. But when she decided to return to the room an hour later (due to the muggy conditions and the bugs), she had no help and ended up having to climb up the sand mountain on all fours.
This is pathetic, La Samanna.
Finally, after spending most of our time fighting these and other unpleasant elements, it rained on the morning of our fourth day, and it appeared to be an all-day event. That was it. We gave up and decided to write this trip off, and that day we left for the USA, having lost several thousand dollars and four days of our lives.
By the way, we have stayedat about two dozen resorts in the Caribbean and on Hawaii, some of them modest and others genuinely world-class. Let me recommend that Little Dix Bay or Caneel Bay are superb choices in the Virgin Islands. Hapuna Prince resort on the big Island of Hawaii is splendid. The Hotel Hana Maui on the back side of the island of Maui is out of this world. At all of these grand resorts we had "ordinary" rooms, not the Premier Suites, and all were wonderful. We had assumed that La Samanna would be in a class with these places.
It was not.