Monday, July 13, 2015

Escape to Sonesta Maho Resort & Casino, Sint Maarten

From the moment we walked into the lobby we knew we’d picked the right hotel. We were greeted hospitably by the concierge offering cold towels and champagne while we waited online to register. The promise of good things to come was realized over the next few days as we enjoyed extremely good customer service. Our accommodations were as promised – a spacious room with a terrace overlooking the pool and ocean – great views.
Upon registering I happened to mention that we were there celebrating hubby’s birthday and our 25th wedding anniversary later this year. On day two the concierge knocked on our door and delivered to us a bottle of champagne, two bunches of balloons which he tied to our bedposts, and charming greeting cards prepared by the ladies at the front desk. How special we felt!
The grounds are beautifully landscaped with staff cleaning and tidying up all day long to keep it perfect. The resort’s beach is situated in a cove offering 150’ of beach and we didn’t miss the chance to dip in the crystal blue waters, jumping the waves like delighted children. The pool is massive and features a swim up bar, a quaint bridge and a waterfall, all very thoughtfully designed. The terrace runs the length of the property and is beautifully furnished and pristine. Grab a drink or a coffee and sit on a comfy lounge chair or in the gazebo that reaches out over the rocky shoreline. At night there was always a band playing – Latin or Reggae – and one night an acrobat. Canada Independence Day and Fourth of July meant lavish beach-side banquets with anthems sung and games aplenty. The atmosphere was alternately serene and festive.
And now about the food…..and by the way this was an All-Inclusive package that included not only the food but your drinks also! Both hubby and I gave it a big thumbs-up. It was plentiful and delicious as well as beautifully presented. We had the option of five dining spots to choose from but soon declared our favorite as the buffet Ocean Terrace with the fine dining Ocean Point as runner up.
On a few occasions I spotted someone who was surely the Executive Chef making rounds checking on the preparations. Chef Misja Ruijs is a handsome Dutchman who has been at the Sonesta for one year now. I managed to worm my way into a personal interview and Chef graciously agreed to meet with me. Some highlights of that interview:
MJ: Chef, as self-proclaimed foodies I have to tell you that my husband and I just loved the food and the presentation this week. We’re dining at the Ocean Point restaurant tonight…..can you recommend something marvelous for me to order? Chef Misja: If you like fish I would recommend the Red Snapper served with a Tomato, Caper and Olive sauce, mashed potatoes and grilled vegetables. Note: I had the Red Snapper and practically licked my plate clean it was so delicious – thank you Chef!
Chef Misja attended Culinary School in Holland, served his mandatory two years in the army during which time they wisely put him in the kitchen, and later worked six years for Crystal Cruise Lines. Before coming to the Sonesta Chef Misja worked for nearly fifteen years in Jamaica for Sandals. He is adept at feeding large numbers of people and doing it with style.
MJ: The Sonesta is a 500+ room hotel. How many people have you served at one sitting here? Chef Misja: In high season about 1200 guests.
I gave him high points for not only his food but the presentation and ambiance. Chef Misja likes the idea of providing a complete experience for the guest. We eat with our eyes first, and as we witnessed during our stay, each meal was presented in a way that would immerse all of your senses in the experience. I love food and sweets and confessed to Chef Misja that I’d shamefully eaten dessert 2-3 times a day because I couldn’t resist his beautiful creations. No surprise then when he shared that he had mastered his culinary training as a pastry chef.
Hubby and I braved the local busses three times to visit Phillipsburg on the Dutch side and Marigot on the French side, two lovely port towns that offered the typical touristy stores and tent markets. The upside to Marigot was a divine lunch we had at a Patisserie called Sarafina’s that offered delicious crepes and French breads and OMG the pear tart with cup of cappuccino was just to die for.
There's so much more I can say and all of it favorable. There is one curious traditional activity that everyone makes sure to take part it - plane spotting. Because Princess Julianna Airport is five minutes away and has a very short runway, planes come in extremely low over the public beach next to the Sonesta's beachfront. Several times a day you will see a couple of dozen people parked on that beach with cameras at the ready to grab a video of the underbelly of planes, including the jumbo ones which kind of terrified me - but on our last day there I finally said okay to hubby's daily request for us to join the nuts. It was kind of thrilling and has become a very popular activity. All in all we recommend the Sonesta Maho Resort wholeheartedly and the best endorsement I can give you is that we WILL be going back some day in the near future.