The Coco Reef Resort is not a ‘family’ resort. Having said that, I’m sure the hotel does everything possible to welcome youngsters and make their stay enjoyable. Baby-sitting services are available, at extra cost, but this is effectively the limit of childcare facilities.
Tobago is a chill-out destination. The Coco Reef is a chill-out resort. How can anyone chill-out if children are running about screeching (or anyone else, of course)? Don't get me wrong; there is nothing more endearing than watching well-behaved children at play. But, I mean ‘well behaved’ in the traditional manner.
Everything about the Coco Reef Resort is focussed toward couples. Not just the middle-aged and elderly, but also young honeymooners. What about the couples who have left their children at home, possibly for the first time, and are trying to spend ‘quality time’ together; perhaps trying to keep their own relationship on track? By taking babies and young children to this sort of resort, parents are in danger of destroying the very type of hotel that they will one day desperately seek for themselves.
I appreciate that these views are contentious and will be condemned by many. I am, however, heartened by the many emails received in support of these sentiments when I expressed them in earlier reviews. And, let me state for the record that I am a loving parent of four wonderful children and six grandchildren.
It is little surprise that the Coco Reef Resort is such a popular wedding/honeymoon destination. After the stressful lead-up to the happy event, the quiet calm of the hotel must be a tonic.
The hotel’s Social Director will make all arrangements for the ceremony, either directly or through the guest’s tour operator. A minimum of three working days of residency on Tobago is required before the wedding. The hotel can provide the necessary two witnesses. Weddings at the hotel are performed by a priest or minister. Civil weddings (without a priest or minister) can only be conducted at the Registrar’s office in Scarborough.
On your first day at the hotel, you will be taken on a tour of the property so that you can choose a spot for the ceremony. Most couples opt for the beautiful gardens with the ocean as a backdrop. The hotel then decorates the wedding area with palm branches and colourful tropical flowers. Subject to weather conditions, couples may prefer to have the ceremony on the beach, or on one of the jetties overlooking the sea, although this can be a trifle windy. The private veranda of Sunset Villa makes a wonderful venue, but this can only be arranged when this exclusive suite is unoccupied.
The hotel’s Wedding Package includes a one-layer wedding cake, a bottle of champagne, a bridal bouquet plus all official arrangements and costs. The hotel can also arrange a still or video photographer, extra flowers and even musical entertainment.
With all due respect to the Coco Reef Resort and other hotels on Tobago, I would suggest that few people come to the island just for the efficiency of local services, the wonderful restaurants, the coral-sand beaches or the range of activities and sightseeing options. I can think of far superior destinations for each and every one of these features.
The fact is that Tobago, and the Coco Reef Resort in particular, has an innate ability to considerably exceed the sum of its parts.
The reason is the Tobagonian people. In the context of this review, I am specifically referring to the staff at the Coco Reef Resort. No other large Tobago hotel achieves anything like the same staff friendliness or efficiency. And, efficiency is not an attribute common on Tobago.
John Jefferis, the hotel's owner, once told me that the main characteristic that his management look for in front-of-house staff is personality. As he so rightly said, you can teach anyone to lay silver service, but you can’t teach them to smile from the heart.
This ethos shows and is clearly endorsed and practised by Executive Director and General Manager, Eric Feniet. Eric demands and gets the best from his employees. It is the reason that so many guests leave with tears of sadness and join the hotel’s remarkable and constantly expanding happy band of ‘repeaters’.
Eric is remarkable. Assisted by equally dedicated Food & Beverage Manager, Kirton Sorias, and their team of long-serving employees. They will be seen morning, noon and night, seven days a week, buzzing around the hotel, checking that everything is running properly and chatting to guests. Eric is a traditional hotelier – his primary focus is the guests, not the balance sheet. Leading from the front, he wins the respect of guests and staff alike. He has trained his staff to perfection and they achieve a wonderful combination of service, courtesy and friendliness. Within a day or so of arrival, guests are laughing and joking with the staff and, in turn, with each other.
I've often heard it said that service in Tobago is not up to the standards of top hotels in many other destinations. There is some truth in this. The nature of the Tobagonian people means that they will never become the bottom-kissing servile automatons found in some parts of the world. They are an extremely proud people and no matter how professional their training, will find it near on impossible to hide their feelings should you upset their sensibilities. Clicking a finger, for example, is a guaranteed way to cross that line. However, treat them with respect and good manners and you will experience truly genuine Tobagonian warmth and friendliness; the very characteristics that cause so many visitors to fall in love with the hotel and, in turn, the island.
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