Caneel Bay trip

Old Jun 12th, 2003, 09:28 AM
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Caneel Bay trip

We just returned from a trip to St. John (two weeks ago). We stayed at the Caneel Bay resort. The beaches are beautiful there and so is the resort. The grounds almost feel like a golf course...they are so well tended and are beautiful. We stayed in a second floor beachfront room on Turtle Bay. We didn't mind that you had to walk around the building to get to the beach. The view was wonderful. Also great was the snorkeling right off the beach.

However, I don't think we would be return guests at Caneel Bay. The service was really spotty and inconsistent.

(Before you read on, I must qualify everything by saying that we're not complainers and are used to little glitches in a vacation. We've been going to the Caribbean for 10 years and understand island time and things aren't as they are in the states. We expect it to be laid back and even an occasional lizard in the room.)

Breakfast buffet: One day I got pastries, cereal and fruit and was charged just for a continental breakfast. The next day, my husband and I both got the same things I had the day before and we were charged for a full breakfast. We were then told that if you get fruit, that constitutes a full breakfast and that fruit is not included in a continental breakfast. Whoever heard of that? In any case, they should be consistent so you know what to expect to be charged. And at least have a menu explaining what is included in what.

Bottled Water: Sometimes we were charged for it and sometimes we weren't. Again, at least be consistent.

Wake up call: I know they love publicizing the fact that Caneel Bay has no TVs, phones and alarm clocks. I didn't miss the TV at all but really would have liked a telephone. I had to call the doctor several times and didn't like everyone at the bus stop hearing what I had to say. Cell phone coverage was spotty and kept cutting out. Then on the day we left, when we HAD to get up on time, we never received a wake up knock! So if you're going, take a travel alarm just to be safe, so you won't miss your plane.

Air conditioning: Our air conditioner was dripping tons of water and we told several people at the front desk about it (it was dripping right on their wood dresser) and it was never fixed.

"FREE" continental breakfast: First of all, this continental breakfast is only offered from 6-8 AM. When we were up early enough to attend, the bagels were stale and the muffins were hard...and the food was really sparce. We've stayed in Hampton Inns and other hotels that offered free continental breakfasts that were MUCH better then that. When we were there, we were told (by another guest) that it wasn't meant to be a free continental breakfast for everyone, just those who had early boat rides or excursions before the real breakfast restaurant opened. If that is the case, it should be publicized as such. I feel that a resort of this caliber should do a much better job or just do away with it altogether. It just reflects badly on them.

All in all, Caneel Bay is a beautiful resort and I think its probably the best one to stay on in St. John. However, compared to other resorts in the Caribbean at the same price (or even lower!), they are lacking in a number of areas.
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Old Jun 12th, 2003, 10:38 AM
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Thanks for the trip report. We've thought about possibly staying there. I appreciate your honesty! =)
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Old Jun 12th, 2003, 10:44 AM
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I'm sorry your experience at Caneel was less than satisfactory.
I've stayed there several times and never had the service that you describe.
The phone issue is something that you know going in and if it's a problem perhaps another resort should be chosen.
Glad you enjoyed the grounds.... there we agree 150%. It is spectacular!
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Old Jun 12th, 2003, 11:00 AM
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Thanks for your report. Sometimes the top resorts don't live up to expectations.
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Old Jun 12th, 2003, 12:56 PM
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We ate at Caneel Bay for our wedding. I liked the setting at the Equator/Sugar Mill. However, we had problems with the service too. The woman acted like we were putting her out when we asked for something.

The food wasn't the best either.
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Old Jun 12th, 2003, 03:35 PM
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Caneel is a wonderful resort, we have been there many times BUT it should have much better service and attitude!
I agree with you parkcitygal! It should be a lot better!
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Old Jun 13th, 2003, 04:07 AM
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To "parkcitygal" I noticed that you recommended to bring an alarm clock in order to know what time it is and to set an alarm. Did you notice if they had standard outlets in the room? Or would you need an adaptor? Or just bring a battery operated clock? My husband and I are going in October and I was wondering about that...Thanks in advance for your help!
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Old Jun 13th, 2003, 05:53 AM
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Parkcitygal, Thank you for your report...I have been so torn as to whether to book Caneel Bay for our November trip.

It's a shame they take advantage of the fact that they are one of the few choices for beachfront places.

I have also heard negative reports of the Westin as well. Were there other places to stay that you saw while you were there that looked nice?
I just wish I could find a place on the beach.
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Old Jun 13th, 2003, 07:59 AM
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The Westin is alright for what it is. My understanding is that the beaches at Caneel are better---that's not much of a stretch. Westin's beach is not great.

All the Westin eateries are exorbitantly priced. Some of the food is good, but I also heard a lot of complaints.

The best food really isn't at the resorts in St. John. It is out at the restaurants.

The Westin had too much organized fun for my taste. However, it also had conveniences---like a free ferry to St. Thomas & various boat trips & watersports.

The rooms were decent but not glamorous. One of our friends had to switch rooms because something was wrong with their shower.

The staff there was pretty hospitable however.

I think there are a couple of other smaller resorts.

There is not a lot on the beach there b/c most of the beaches are parks. But the beaches are easy to reach by taxi.
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Old Jun 13th, 2003, 12:24 PM
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They have normal US outlets in the rooms so any appliance you use at home will work there.

Unfortunately we were in the same boat as many of you. We wanted an oceanfront accomodation and I'd still say that Caneel is the best one. The beaches are wonderful. I'd pick Caneel Bay if you are going to St. John and staying on the beach is important to you.

However, I'd keep these things in mind. Have a travel alarm clock for that last day when you have to get up(to make your flight) and you don't want to oversleep. When eating at the breakfast buffet, find out up front what is and isn't included in a continental VS full breakfast. And then state up front what you'll be getting...they don't like have to change the bill. Take your cell phone if you want to make any phone calls...sometimes it WILL work and then you can make your restaurant reservations direct and not have to wait (a long time!) for the activities desk to do it for you. If you want ice, put the cooler outside your door each night and the next day you'll have ice (maybe not first thing but at least when housekeeping cleans the room). And don't go expecting to get much for the continental breakfast which goes from 6-8 AM.

If you have realistic expectations, you will have a really nice time!

By the way, our favorite restaurants when we were there were Lime Inn and Fish Trap. They might not have had the best "ambiance and view" but their food was the best by far. In fact, the Fish Trap's tuna entree was in Gourmet magazine this month (or so our waitress told us!)

Oh, one other thing...if you're renting a car on St. John please get 4-wheel drive! We were told we wouldn't need one and after it rained (just a little) and we couldn't make it up some of the main paved roads! We've never had that happen before. We were wishing for 4 wheel drive just to drive through the main part of town!

Any other advice out there?
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Old Jun 14th, 2003, 08:54 AM
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I have stayed on St. John and I rented a villa and a jeep but visited Caneel and the Westin. The Westin beach is nothing compared to the north shore beaches. Caneel has seven beaches and six are exclusive to the resort. They are all amazing. However, I did not stay at Caneel because I could rent a villa with its own pool for about the same money and have a lot more privacy. Plus, I could eat out where and when I wanted to. There are a lot of good restaurants (with take out too) in Cruz Bay. However, when we wanted beach time, we had to drive to the beaches. But, we got to explore the island and all of its beautiful beaches (each one has its own distinctions). St. John is absolutely beautiful because 2/3 of the island is a national park. Because of that though, there are very few villas on the beach. I am going back to St. John again and renting another villa...this time closer to the north shore beaches.
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Old Jun 16th, 2003, 05:21 AM
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To parkcitygal, thank ou again for the info. Did you do any of the excursions offered at Caneel Bay? I also noticed you mentioned good places for dinner. Did you dine at any of the restaurants at Caneel? If so, were they any good? I'm trying to get an idea of what to expect when I go in October. We too are staying in a beachfront room, do you think the 2nd floor or the 1st floor is better?
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Old Jun 16th, 2003, 07:09 AM
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We didn't eat at any of the restaurants at Caneel...there were so many other recommendations elsewhere. We liked Stone Terrace (not as much as Fish Trap and Lime Inn though) and Asolare. We also ate at Morgan's Mango and were disappointed. Maybe we just got a bad night. We also ate at Chilly Billy's two times for breakfast which was good...it was just nice to get away from the resort for a change.

We got to Caneel really late the first night and couldn't see a thing. So the next day, we looked at our view from the second floor of Turtle Bay, then went to the beach to check out the first floor views (the best we could) and also walked Scott Beach. We felt the second floor room offered the better view and decided the walk down the stairs and to the beach wasn't a big deal. It seemed that the a lot of the units on Scott Beach had tree obstructed views (just our opinion). We were really happy with the second floor. Also, if you're on the second floor, you don't hear anyone else above you. Let me know if you have any other questions.
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Old Jun 16th, 2003, 08:33 AM
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Parkcitygal: Hmmmm... that's interesting that you said that about the 2nd floors being more quiet, etc. That may be something to consider. Did you notice how Hawksnest Beach was? I believe that there are beachfront rooms there as well. You mentioned that you never had dinner there at Caneel, but did you ever have lunch? Also I heard that Caneel Bay (beach) is where you go for snorkeling equipment, etc., do they offer any sort of drink service? Thanks again for all of your helpful responses. -Susan
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Old Jun 16th, 2003, 01:11 PM
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We never made it over to Hawksnest to check out those units. I've heard the snorkeling is good there. I think Hawksnest is an eastern exposure so you get the sunrise there. Scott Beach faces west so you get sunsets. Turtle Bay faces north so you can't really see the sunset from the balcony but in the yard area to the left of the building you can see wonderful sunsets. There are benches set up there and you can see it from there. That is also the place where we saw several weddings take place.

We had lunch at the Beach Bar at Caneel bay several times and it was very good.

And about the snorkel equipment...you pick it up the first day you arrive and take it with you...and return it upon check out. You're not confined to using it at the Caneel Beach. We never swam at the beach at Caneel so I don't know how the snorkeling is there...but I think I saw drink service there.

Turtle Bay beach also has drink service (waiter comes to your lounge chair) in the afternoon plus their afternoon tea service (which is really good!).
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Old Jun 17th, 2003, 03:58 AM
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Thanks again! I am looking forward to it. If I have any more questions I will post another question but I think for now they are all answered!
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Old Jun 17th, 2003, 04:18 AM
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We enjoy lunch at the beach bar too.
Parkcitygal-Do they serve you on the upper terrace now. Its a wonderful spot, only a few tables, great view of
Caneel Beach. They had full service,then changed it to drinks and plastic take out from the lower bar. Is it still that way? Its the best location, although service can be slow!
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Old Jun 17th, 2003, 08:39 AM
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I just got back from Caneel Bay two days ago and have to second Parkcitygal's assessments.

We were delighted by the grounds and the beaches as well - the beaches (particularly Turtle Bay and Scotts) were fantastic. No complaints.

What bothered me was a) the consistent price gouging and b) the lack of caring on the part of the staff.

If I am paying several hundred dollars a night for a hotel, I expect the hotel to be great. Caneel Bay's rooms are nice, not great. Fine - it is made up for by the property. But they charge you for EVERYTHING. $65/per person to take you from St. Thomas to the hotel. At least $50/ per person for a half day snorkeling excursion, prices going up from there (with signs saying that tipping is welcome!). $25 per person for buffet lunch. $4 for nonalcoholic drinks served by the beach.

All of this led us to wonder, what exactly are we paying for in the exorbitant rate per night? Service was spotty at best - our room was not made up every day, and when it was, it would be lacking in towels, bathrobes, etc. Staff seemed to generally regard guests as an annoyance rather than customers (with notable exceptions).

We overheard other guests complaining as well while we were there.

All this being said, we had a wonderful week and a great time. But the money issues and the staff attitude were sour notes in an otherwise terrific vacation.
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Old Jun 17th, 2003, 09:43 AM
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It may be that Caneel Bay has developed such a reputation that the managers know they will sell out the property. This gives rise to bit of complacency. It's important that you have all been honest about your experiences because unless they are voiced, the managers will keep sailing along thinking everything is fine until one day they find people aren't coming back!
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Old Jun 17th, 2003, 11:24 AM
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We only ate in the outdoor restaurant while we were there. I noticed people sitting up on the terrace but didn't notice them eating anything. I don't think it was open, but I don't know for sure

I e-mailed the property directly with my complaints as I don't know if they look here on Fodors. JHMjhm, you should do the same. They should hear the good feedback along with the bad to help them improve.
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