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Grotto Bay Beach vs. Fairmont Southampton w/kids 6&7

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Hello Fodorites,

I am seeking input from my wise fellow travelers here about 2 options that we are considering for a one week trip to Bermuda in early July. We are evaluating between Grotto Bay Beach vs. Fairmont Southampton. The initial pricing with discounts is in a similar range. However, I suspec that Fairmont would ultimately cost more b/c water sports are not included, kid program is much more $$ etc.

Here are some considerations:
1 family with 2 boys aged 6 and 7.5
2 grandparents (77 and 72 - both active and able to manage stairs

My boys are super active (and a bit rambunctious). We would plan to do watersports, visit some local sites, spend some time at the beach etc. My boys are beginner swimmers. They like to boogie board close to shore but we don't necessarily have to do that this week. I am Ok with some waves but avoid rough waves.
My older son has celiac so we need solid gluten free options. I know that the Fairmont is fantastic on this front but Grotto seems to be accomodating as well so we can probably take that factor somewhat out of the equation.
We will probably use the kidcare or a sitter for small blocks of time (2-3 hrs; not every day) - mainly so that we can have dinners in peace. My parents are with me so I have some help with the kids.


Grotto Pros:
Watersports included
Like the idea of cottages vs. big hotel
Caves look fun
Walking distance to other eateries
I get the impression that this is a more intimate place and family friendly
water calmer vs. south end of island

Grotto Cons:
I heard that the rooms are so-so (we don't need fancy - hopefully they are a decent level)
Is the beach not as nice as South shore?

Fairmont Pros:
Higher end rooms and property?
Amazing Gluten Free service (sounds like OK at grotto - so maybe not issue)
Extensive kidcare program
are the beaches in the south better?

Fairmont Cons:
Get the sense that they charge you for lots of incidentals
Kidcare program is $50 per kid per visit vs. $5 per kid per visit.
prefer mid or small size establishments vs. convention sized hotels
get the feeling that they are more impersonal/ less friendly???
I heard that the water might be rough -- I am OK with some waves - are we talking really rough? I have beginner swimmers - of course adults would be in water with them

Thanks, in advance, for any advice!!!




I

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    I'd go with the Fairmont. My reasons: The Fairmont is better situated on the south shore. You'll have access to the other beaches much easier, and yes, the south shore is why you go to Bermuda! You can take the free ferry to the other Fairmont property in town, which expands your dining, sightseeing and shopping options. You're right on the bus route to the Dockyards, with a great museum, plenty of watersport/boating options, Snorkel Park, and Ft Scaur to explore on the way. We've stayed at the Fairmont and used to play golf and eat there regularly; I've never found the staff or the property to feel impersonal. The beach is nice, waves are totally dependent on the weather - some days it's wave-boarding, some days it's smooth and calm enough to snorkel. (and the spa is amazing!!)

    My thoughts on the downside to Grotto Bay - it's location - in a harbor, with a little man-made beach. The caves are cool, but as of two years ago, they were free and open to explore (will take you all of 15 min), so you could pop in on your way to St George's for the day (where you will find a great fort, St Catherine's, and good, safe, calm snorkelling at Tobacco Bay, plus a cool little beach totally covered in sea glass, at Alexandra Battery.) The harbor around Grotto Bay is great for kayaking, but I never felt like there was much 'to do' there. And it is pretty out of the way from almost anything else you'll want to do.

    I know that's kind of a general overview, but if I was booking it, esp with the kids, I would be happier at the Fairmont. Please let me know if I can be more specific on anything.

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    hi txgirlinbda
    Thanks so much for responding -- extremely helpful. My husband actually plays golf and would probably enjoy their course. If we stayed at the Grotto he would take a cab to a golf course.

    Did you ever use the watersports facilities at the hotel?

    Did you end up eating much in the restaurants? It is my understanding that the hotel is somewhat isolated. Did you go to other places to eat and did you take cabs?

    Did you have young children and use their kid services?

    Thanks so much for the feedback -- very helpful.

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    We actually lived in Bermuda for 5 years. I have stayed at both Fairmont properties but never stayed at Grotto Bay. Same with dining. Our DD was too young for the kid's program when we were there. I did use Grotto Bay's kayaking and sailing a lot, no complaints. Personally, I would toss a few cheap inflatables for the beach and a couple snorkel sets from Academy, etc in your bags. What kind of watersports are you considering?

    Which hotel do you feel is more isolated? I always considered Grotto Bay to be more inconveniently located. Most of the tourist-oriented stuff is located way out in St George's,
    along the south shore between Hamilton and Dockyard, or in Hamilton. The bus/taxi to and from Grotto Bay seemed to take forever.

    I do not know the ins and outs of playing golf on all the courses, but nearer to Grotto Bay are Tucker's Point and Mid-Ocean, both gorgeous courses if your concierge can arrange a tee time. We liked the course at the Fairmont, it's a nice short par-3. Recommend teeing off as early as possible, or doing 9 holes as late in the evening as they will schedule it - mid-day humidity is brutal there.

    Taxis are going to add up -look at bus passes, the public transport is very good, passes will cover ferry travel as well, both hotels are on major routes.

    Re: eating, it's usually my suggestion to people who stay at the Fairmont, if you want to eat off-property, either take the hotel ferry to town and do lunch in town, then return to the hotel for dinner, or ferry/bus to town for dinner, and take a cab back. I would caution you against the buses after dark, unfortunately petty theft was on the rise, and tourists trying to find their ways or waiting at bus stops in the dark make easy targets.

    Re: kids - though small, the zoo/aquarium/museum is well worth an hour or two.
    If you wind up at the Fairmont, there's a decent little grocery on the way from the airport to the hotel. Stop in and get some water, cereal, snacks etc for your room. There's a gas station/convenience store at the end of GB's driveway, too.

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    Definitely the Fairmont Southampton, the location is much better and the beaches are beautiful in that area. You can take the bus to other hotels and restaurants easily from there. There are eating places at Horseshoe Bay. There are eating places all over without having to go to Hamilton. The beach at Grotto Bay is small and a bit disappointing, it's too close to the airport for my liking. We used the hotel's scuba diving facility which was really good so had a chance to look around the Grotto hotel. The Fairmont Southampton is not beach front, its up a hill.

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    Glad you asked this question--I have been mulling over the two resorts and have not made a final decision yet. We plan to visit Bermuda this summer with my two teenagers. One has Celiac, so the ease of gluten-free dining at the Fairmont is attractive.

    Grotto Bay looks much prettier and less "corporate" in the online pictures, but the nicer beach is at Fairmont although it takes a long walk or shuttle ride to get there. Fairmont has access to Horseshoe Bay Beach. Grotto Bay has watersports on premises such as snorkeling and kayaking. Grotto Bay is also further from everything else on the island.

    I feel fortunate to have this dilemma! I just wish someone who has been to both places will comment.

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