Royalton & Royalton Hideaway Saint Lucia

REVIEW:

Royalton Saint Lucia is located at Gros Islet on the north end of the island, approximately 1.5 hours from Hewanorra International Airport.  The tiered property features eight 5-storey buildings with a total of 290 guest rooms, including swim-out suites on the ground floor.  The individual buildings form almost a semi circle around the majority of the resort’s amenities, and end at the turquoise waters of a Caribbean cove and the resort’s private beach.

Four of the eight buildings (2 on either side of the main concourse) are dedicated to Royalton’s regular guests, two of the buildings closest to the beach on the east side of the resort are dedicated to adults only in a section called Royalton Hideaway, and two more closest to the beach on the west side are considered upgrades with the title of Chairman’s Buildings.  Strangely, however, despite the upgraded status of Hideaway and the Chairman’s Building, ALL rooms in ALL sections of the resort look exactly alike, the only difference being whether they contain a king or 2 queen beds, and whether the sliding patio door opens to a balcony or a swim-out with 2 lounge chairs.  Calling them swim-out suites is a bit of a misnomer considering how small the pool area is. There’s nothing private about them, and each body of water is so small that daytime heating makes them feel more like a hot tub than a place to cool off.

Rooms are spacious, clean and modern, with plenty of drawers and storage space, including a wardrobe that contains complimentary terry robes and a digital safe in which guests can store their valuables.  A mini fridge is restocked daily based on consumption. A comfy oversized chair and ottoman is big enough for two people in the corner of every room, and a flat screen TV provides more than just television with an online menu for ordering room service and the ability to view your guest folio (your bill) to keep track everything being charged to the room.

Unfortunately, the location of the TV in each room makes it difficult to see.  Instead of being near the foot of the beds as is true for most hotels, Royalton Saint Lucia has mounted their TVs a good 5 feet away.  All beds face the sliding doors to the balcony or swim out, causing the TV mount to be offset on the adjacent wall next to the wardrobe.  Making it even more difficult to see is a large wooden frame built around the TV that juts out from the wall.  The guest sleeping on the far side of the king bed or in the queen bed next to the window are the most affected by the TV positioning.  The hotel would do well to install a swivel behind the TV that would allow for it to be pulled forward and angled toward the beds or oversized chair, then pushed back in for storage.

The open concept of the rooms allows for a direct view into the bathroom area, with the option of using an opaque curtain as a divider.  Bathrooms are equipped with exceptionally large walk-in marble showers with a convenient seating area and double rain shower heads as well as a handheld nozzle.  There’s plenty of water pressure and room to move around. Double sinks but with minimal counter space can be found outside the shower, with a hair dryer and complimentary toiletries, as well as an undercounter shelf for clean towels and face cloths.  Given the open concept, thankfully the toilet is a separate entity, around the corner and behind a door.  But… then there is a tub which straddles the line between bathroom and bedroom and can look and feel out of place, and like a big obstacle.  The deep tub contains several jets for a bubbly, massaging experience, but its definitely awkward for families and non-couples because there’s no privacy except for the curtain.  Even if the curtain obstructs the view from the beds, it does nothing to hide the bather from anyone coming in the door. As a result, its a safe bet the tub isn’t used by all guests.

But don’t worry about the tub.  If water is what you’re looking for, there’s LOTS of it with 4 pools on property including ‘Dips’ for a quiet, tranquil experience, the beachfront ‘Chill Infinity Pool’ with a swim-up bar, the ‘Chairman’s Pool’ for upgraded guests, and a pool intended for Hideaway guests only.

Plus, there is an impressive children’s waterpark and a stretch of beach where the Caribbean Sea is quite calm, warm and inviting.

Located on the beach is Nexus Tours, who help to organize the complimentary watersports that are part of the all-inclusive experience.  As is the case with most Caribbean beaches, there are also random and independent tour operators that work the guests on the beach to take their excursions. Sadly, however, they can tend to be a bit pushy and disrespectful, but the hotel has no jurisdiction over them.

Speaking of tours, a Nexus Tours is also located in the main lobby of the Royalton, where guests can book a number of offsite activities including horseback riding on the beach, boat cruises, island tours, Jeep safaris, dolphin and whale watching cruises, shopping excursions, ziplining, aerial trams, and more.

Royalton Saint Lucia has 9 restaurants including Gourmet Marche, the international buffet for breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus 8 a la cartes — Armadillo for Tex Mex, Calypso for Caribbean fare, CX Culinary Experience, Grazie for Italian food, Hunters for steak and chops, Score Sports Bar and Grill, and Zen for Japanese cuisine. Dorado for seafood is located on the adults-only side of the resort and is for guests of the Hideaway only.  The Caffe coffee shop is available for quick bites like baked goods, ice cream, shakes, and gourmet coffee, and for afternoon snacks guests can visit the Food Truck by the pool for burgers, quesadillas, and more.  Guests of the Chairman’s Building have access to The Grill, located by the Chairman’s Pool, which offers specialty drinks and sandwiches as well as interesting appetizers (we highly recommend the coconut shrimp). The food is excellent, no matter which restaurant you visit (although we were more inclined to visit Gourmet Marche for breakfast only since the a la cartes were far better for dinner).

We were particularly impressed by Grazie and Hunters steakhouse, though we would recommend dining on the terrace of Hunters because inside the restaurant becomes increasingly more smoke-filled as the evening wears on.

There are also 9 bars throughout the resort.

Also on property is a gift shop and a high end jewellery store, an excellent spa and salon, a well equipped fitness center, teen center, supervised children’s center, and an entertainment area complete with a covered stage.  This is used for nightly shows including live music, dance troupes, and audience participation games for prizes.  Unfortunately, the entertainment isn’t well rehearsed.  And the game show we witnessed, intended for guests to guess the music or the artist, quickly turned into an unorganized and unfair situation of people jumping the stage and all answering at once as the host lost control.  At one point, he ran off the stage with the contestants chasing him.  Additionally, performances are short-lived, leaving little to do in the evenings except to sit at one of the bars.

Similarly, day time activities are every bit as unorganized and unfair with activities directors unprepared to take control. As an example, a kayak race in the infinity pool was ruined by swimmers grabbing the kayak and trying to dump the contestants into the water, or just refusing to let go so that somebody else would win.  Consequently, the ‘winner’ was the product of circumstance and quickly expressed his disappointment when he realized there wasn’t actually a prize.

Final thoughts — although the Royalton is modern and beautiful and sits on a prime piece of land with a gorgeous view, and despite that the resort has a lot going for it, there is still MUCH that they could do better.

PROS:

  • located on private cove/beach
  • gorgeous views
  • most of the staff is friendly and accommodating
  • clean and modern
  • spacious rooms
  • oversized walk-in marble shower with double rainfall shower heads and bench seat is convenient and luxurious
  • great variety of restaurants plus a beachfront grill, food truck, and a coffee shop with bakery items and homemade ice cream and shakes, so you never go hungry no matter what time of day
  • food is excellent
  • plenty of amenities located right on property, for example – gift shop, nightly entertainment, salon, spa, fitness center, watersports, tour booking, etc.
  • spa is top notch — very clean, modern, and spacious, with several services including bridal packages
  • a small shopping mall called Baywalk is only 9 minutes away, near Rodney Bay, and is accessible by taxi for $30 US roundtrip
  • local artisans visit the resort twice a week with souvenir merchandise making it uncessary for guests to travel outside the resort for keepsakes if they don’t want to

CONS:

  • 1.5 hour drive from the airport
  • property is not disability/mobility friendly
  • butler service is overwhelming at times
  • housekeeping staff tend to move your belongings a lot, particularly toiletries and items on end tables, and they readjust the settings on the air conditioner and fan, often creating a hot or stuffy room when you return to it
  • although Royalton boasts about their signature ‘Dream’ beds they tend to be hard and uncomfortable
  • Positioning of flat screen TV makes it difficult to see from the bed, with the added hindrance of a thick wood frame
  • tub in the the room instead of in the bathroom is awkward
  • room service is good but extremely slow
  • gift shop is outrageously expensive
  • beach and pools lack supervision so guests use their towels or beach bags to save lounges, cabanas, and bali beds for hours, sometimes all day, without ever using them.
  • lack of things to do in the evening – pools close at 6:00pm and nightly shows are short lived and unprofessional
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