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Petit St. Vincent Trip Report - June 2005

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We just returned from a one week visit (late June 2005) to Petit St. Vincent Resort (PSV). We have received great perspectives from this community over the years and thought we should share our experiences as it seems PSV is a popular destination.

Overall – This was our first trip to PSV. We had very high expectations given all the favorable reviews and extensive research we had done through travel sites and via other travel sources. Although we had a nice time and the resort is very well done, we did leave a little disappointed. To put things in perspective, we have recently visited One and Only Ocean Club in the Bahamas, Meridian Club at Pine Cay, and Parrot Cay resort. For us, PSV, although very nice, would be at the bottom of that list. Below we’ve outlined some of the areas that others may be interested in as they plan their trip to PSV, or not.

Cottages – We found that PSV’s website and the other reviews accurately portrayed the cottages. The bedding/mattresses are very thick, comfortable and plush. The linens are also high end. It was unclear to us why the rooms all had two queen beds if they cater to honeymooners and couples, but it was fine. The bathrooms are spacious and also nicely appointed. In our cottage (and we believe they are all the same), there was no separate tub and, be aware, that the “stone shower” is very small – the shower curtain that surrounds it tends to attack you. The designers should have doubled or tripled the size of the shower for more comfort.

As advertised, there is no AC in the rooms. Yes, there are breezes but we still found our room rather warm (but not unbearable) for sleeping. Airflow could be better in some cottages vs. others. Admittedly, we lead a pampered life with air conditioning involved in most everything we do but, nonetheless, we did sweat when getting ready for dinner and it was warm for sleeping. Although the Meridian Club is also without air conditioning, we found the breezes to be much stronger and cooling at Pine Cay.

The windows in the bed rooms do have screens. However, the 4-6 sliding glass doors that surround the sitting area do not have screens. Although this is very picturesque and increases the air flow, it does provide the bugs and birds easy access. We would frequently have little birds buzzing in and out of the room when we left the doors open.

Regarding location of the cottages, based on our many laps around the island, we would recommend Cottages 17 or 18 -- - they share their own private beach which appears to be one of the nicer beaches. Cottage 3 on the Bluff also appeared to have a nice view and good beach access. Any of the cottages on the Bluff (#s 3-5) seemed like a good choice. The beach front cottages are less secluded but do have direct access to the Atlantic Side Beach. They did seem rather close together. The most secluded cottage may be #19 – and although it does have a private “beach” – the beach is very small and mostly rocks.

Beaches/Water – This was the area of our biggest disappointment and an area that was not apparent to us from prior reviews or even pictures we had studied from the resort and others. First of all, the beaches are sand. We had seen reports that suggested the beaches were rocky. The beaches are nicely covered with sand. It is not the fine white sand you will find at Turks and Caicos but the sand is not the issue. The issue is the water. You can only enter the water at a handful of very small locations and you cannot enter the water without aqua socks. The ocean floor is very rocky and/or a coral reef by the beaches and much of it is covered with seaweed. Consequently, very few places have the light crystal clear water you might expect in the Caribbean. Rather, much of the water directly off the beaches is a darker blue (almost black) due to the coral and rocks. If you don’t mind the aqua socks – then this is not an issue. In fact, PSV provides each guest with free ones. However, this was not at all what we expected and if we had read any reviews that suggested aqua socks were required, we would not have gone to PSV in the first place. You can swim in this water, but few people seemed to do so – we chose only to go in to cool off when necessary (and it is necessary). If swimming in crystal clear water is important to you – PSV is not your place. There is a small sand spit just off the island (Petit St. Richardson) that does have a very nice beach and excellent swimming. (More on that later.) As an aside, the best beach/water on the island appeared to be a small area right next to the dock where the boaters are allowed to come ashore and where the beach barbeque is held each Saturday evening. This area was not at all private and there was no seating or other amenities provided for guests, so it was not used.

We like to walk on the beach. From a walking perspective, the beaches are ok --- although neither the West Beach (which houses about 10 private beach cabanas) nor the Atlantic Beach (where the cottages reside) is very long. The West Beach is probably the longest and (guessing), it may be one-third to one-half mile.

We spent several days in the cabanas on the West End Beach. They are rather private and the beach service from the bar and restaurant works well. The hammock and beach chairs are new and in good shape. The tiki huts provide complete shade if you like. If you like to read on vacation – the West End Beach will be perfect for you.

Food – The restaurant/bar is gorgeous and the ambience is very romantic. Stone walls, dark, and candle lit. It is very well done and very elegant. However, you should know – it too is not air conditioned. If there is no breeze blowing you can break a sweat at dinner.

With respect to food, we are not big “food people.” We have simple tastes and are generally easy to please. A grilled piece of chicken, fish or beef and we are happy. Surprisingly, we had a number of food issues at PSV. Dinner at the restaurant each night consisted of a choice of 5 entrees - - and best we could tell, no deviations/special requests were allowed. It appeared they were attempting to please the gourmets – everything was highly seasoned, sauced, or covered and smothered. Our efforts to get things “plain” with no seasoning or sauces were always rebuked and generally not accommodated. The first night we requested a salad with no dressing and the waiter shook his head no and told us “we would not like it that way”. Other nights trying to get a plain piece of fish or chicken also came up fruitless. The one dinner we did enjoy was the Saturday night beach barbeque. They served simple grilled food, right on the beach with a local steel drum band. It was very well done and nice. Lunches were also not to our liking. Although they had a grilled cheese sandwich on the “beach menu”, when we ordered it for lunch, it consisted of a hot dog roll with melted cheese inside. The next day the grilled cheese sandwich came in a hamburger roll. There were no chips, french fries, no nothing available with the sandwich. We learned to eat a big breakfast--the best meal of the day at PSV in our opinion.

Most people seemed to eat in their rooms for breakfast and had lunch delivered to the beach or cottage as well. Several days we were alone in the restaurant for breakfast and only a handful of folks for lunch. Dinners were a little more crowded but not any where near capacity. PSV did do a very nice job with the room service, and the cottages were very romantic, so it was easy to imagine why people would eat in their rooms or on the beach. It was sometimes easier to communicate special requests in writing using their room service request sheets. We believe some of the issues with special requests at meals may have been due to a language barrier with the wait staff.

The Bar area was very nice and had some nice views. Few guests seemed to visit the bar area except before dinner. We did notice a table or two of yachters in the bar most every afternoon. They were always very pleasant and should not alarm any one.

Service – Generally the service was very good. The flag system was relatively effective and efficient. The employees were good intentioned and pleasant. We did find a couple of the waiters to be less accommodating and not particularly focused on client service and the office staff at times seemed a little confused; however, the overall service was fine. We don’t think the service would make or break anyone’s experience at PSV.

Activities – There really is very little to do other than read and relax and snorkel in the reefs just offshore—which for most should be an ideal vacation. If you like boating activities, kayaking, sunfishes, etc, they seem to be well equipped and offer excursions to Tobago Cays and other areas if you like.

There is no pool. There is no spa. There is no fitness room. There are no tvs. There is a tennis court. The primary activities are reading, swinging in a hammock, listening to the water and taking walks. There is a lot of walking/hiking that can be done around PSV. We walked a couple laps each day.

They advertise Petit St. Richardson as an excursion for a private beach picnic lunch. It is a small sand spit accessible only via a 5-minute boat ride. They will pack you a lunch or take you at other times throughout the day. It has much nicer water than PSV and is readily swim able without aqua socks. The water here is what we expect with the Caribbean. All of this sounds nice and it is a fun little excursion but you should be aware of several things. 1) Although there is a tiki hut for shade– there are no chairs provided. (We have done private beach drop-offs in the Turks and Caicos and were always provided chairs to relax upon). They bring whatever food/drink you request, but you are responsible for towels and anything else you might need for several hours. 2) Don’t expect to be alone – we did and were not. Yachters seem to enjoy this small spit as do other private tour groups. While we had our “private” beach experience, another boat of 8 people pulled up (the entire spit is only 25 yds long by 10 yds wide). From where we sat on West End Beach each day, we could see that there were generally multiple groups of people on the spit. Again – all of this is fine – just be prepared.

Clientele – Like us, most of the resort guests were couples in the 25-40 age range and many were honeymooners. We saw two families during our stay, but none with young children. We could not imagine this as a family destination, but suppose there are some this might appeal to.

Communications – There are no phones in the cottages and we expected this. There is also no TV’s or Internet access anywhere on the island and no newspapers or daily newsbriefs to keep you informed. This sounds charming and some may prefer to totally unplug from the rest of the world, but we felt a bit disconnected. A little world news would have been nice. The resort office has a phone and fax and you are able to use it if necessary. We needed to make several calls and while pricey, it was easy to do and they were very accommodating.

Travel/Connections – It took us quite a while to get to PSV from the Eastern U.S. (14 hours door to door). We flew from the states to Barbados and had quite a long wait for our flight to Union Island due to a delay in the shuttle flights that run between Union and the other islands. Upon arrival at Barbados, the commuter airline folks do take care of your luggage and expedite you through immigration. It worked fantastic – other than the 3 hour wait in the departures area that ensued. At Union Island, PSV folks take over and escort you to the boat and care for your luggage retrieval. Use the PSV luggage tags. They did serve a very useful purpose.

In closing, we had a good time. We fell into a rhythm and pace that allowed us to really relax and enjoy each other. PSV is a true nature and wildlife preserve. The owners do a fabulous job of maintaining an unspoiled paradise for all types of interesting flora and fauna. If you appreciate nature and prefer to completely disengage from the rest of the world, then PSV could be an ideal place for you. PSV is very private. The flag system and decent food/beverage service to virtually any location on the island ensures that you can spend as much or as little time with other people as you desire. You also are assured of spending a lot of quality time together with your spouse/partner, and in the end, that was the most important thing to us for this vacation!

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