Guest Report

135 room luxury 4* beachside resort at Crown Point (listing)
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John Gilham

Guest Report

Post by John Gilham »

Guest Review 11th to 26th September 2008

Apologies in advance for the length of this review but I see so many that are short and negative that we feel we would like to talk in detail about our experience on this visit. And yes it is only our experience but we have stayed in the Caribbean on many occasions and on many different islands. We are also well travelled around the world and know what to expect from a hotel.

Before I start our guest review I should make it clear that we were ‘repeaters’ to the CoCo Reef Hotel Tobago having previously holidayed there in May 2003 and September 2005 on both occasions for 14 nights.

Our holiday was booked with Virgin Holidays and we travelled Gatwick to Tobago with Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy. The holiday started the previous evening when we took advantage of the twilight check in the evening before our flight, checking in our baggage and then stopping over at the Gatwick Hilton leaving us only to go directly to departures in the morning. It should be said that Premium Economy made the flight a very pleasant experience and highly recommended.

The flight was on time and upon arrival in Tobago we experienced the usual lengthy importation control and then the baggage reclaim experience. It seems that the airport bring in staff for one day when all the large flights arrive at an airport too small to cope with one large jet let alone two or three. Once we found our baggage the Virgin Rep whisked us into a taxi for the 3min ride to the CoCo Reef.

Upon arrival at the CoCo Reef we were met and looked after with a Rum Punch at the ‘Repeaters’ desk where I was given the key to my room safe and welcomed back, yes I did say room safe.
When thinking of returning to the CoCo Reef in Jan 08 I posted a note on the forum asking if the hotel still only had the safety deposit boxes at reception and showed my concern at the inconvenience. Almost immediately I received a PM from Eric Feniet the hotel manager saying if I returned there would be a safe in my room. I was very impressed with this attention to detail and booked our holiday.
When were shown to our room (#304) which was in the centre of the hotel overlooking the sea and Bacchanals restaurant. There was a bottle of Lanson Champagne on ice and a fresh fruit plate to welcome us as well as a highly decorated bed saying welcome back Mr & Mrs ******; excellent, we felt at home immediately.
Yes, the safe was bolted to the wall in the wardrobe.

We changed and went down to Bacchanals for a snack and immediately Bernice, one of the senior waitress’s saw us, and she greeted us with a “welcome back”. I was stunned as we had been away for 3 years and are not the type to get too friendly with anyone on holiday so didn’t expect anyone to remember us and she didn’t know our room number so wouldn’t have access to our detail.

The first night at dinner in Tamaras restaurant we were welcomed with a personalised menu which started “Welcome back Mr & Mrs ****** and then given a glass of Champagne each on the house.
The next day whilst crossing the foyer Eric Feniet said “welcome Mr & Mrs ****** “ and asked us if everything was ok, again very impressive as though I had spoken to Eric on my last visit I would not have expected him to have remembered me, he was so confident of our names he must have made it his business to know our names, I am sure it is the same for all of his guests.

There have been mentions on forums of tired décor and bathrooms being in need of upgrade. It was evident throughout the hotel that taps on all sinks had been replaced recently and as far as our bathroom was concerned we had a good pressure on the shower and whilst the décor was the same style as it had been on the two previous visits it had obviously been redecorated and was very clean and perfectly fine, as was the room in general. The hotel offer a twice daily maid service, once in the morning (as you would expect) and a nightly turn-down service, where the room was again tidied, towels replaced, etc.

When spending two weeks at one hotel it is very easy to start to get negative but we found that quite difficult and where we did it is being very picky. For example the furniture in Tamaras restaurant is in need of replacement and the paintwork where birds perch is definitely not cleaned with the same amount of attention as it was on our last visit. The floors are made of terracotta tiles throughout the hotel, which are regularly varnished. That seems to have deteriorated and could do with stripping back to its original finish.

The all inclusive deal still seems a very good deal when looking at prices for non all inclusive customers. Having said that we were a little annoyed one day when returning to our room to find an invoice for a bottle of water we had used from the minibar. Though only 85TT I couldn’t believe that as an all inclusive guest with access to as much free water as we wished from any bar in the hotel this was a serious bill. When I raised this with the duty managers they pointed out to me there is a list of charges in the room for the mini bar. The hotel is so good at many things but then such a very small thing let them down, as did the young lady and gentleman duty manager. This was however removed from my bill without further mention.

The guy on Beach Bar service most of the time was Gary who I have to say was superb. After just two days he knew our room number and the drink we preferred so much that even when we were bathing in the sea, he called out to us and then returned with our usual drink. He was excellent and gets our vote for a member of staff to mention.

We prefer to eat formally in the evening, which we feel makes a pleasant change to the days of relaxation and so usually head for Tamaras restaurant. Tamaras is a very pleasant dining experience with dress code rules, which help keep the standard we find enjoyable. The food is excellent quality and well presented by pleasant staff. There has to be days when staff have a day off and Saturdays and Sundays are noticeably those days, when service levels do drop in the restaurant. The restaurant is open air, which is traditional Caribbean; again this is the atmosphere we are looking for.

On the last two visits we indulged in the huge lobsters in Tamaras restaurant and looked forward to the same this time, however we found lobster was only featured on the supplement menu on three occasions in the two weeks and I have to say that on one occasion it was overcooked and therefore tough. Another special, which we had previously indulged in, was the soufflé; remembered as being a deliciously large and indulgent dessert (even allowing for the 20 minutes wait while it was cooked). This time, we were advised by the waitress to pre-order it because the wait could be up to 30 minutes, which we did. It turned up while we were only halfway through our main course and the waitress clearly wanted to just leave it with us. We accepted it but found it much smaller, tasteless and not up to our expectations. We were very glad that we didn’t wait the 30 minutes and did not request the dessert again!

Whilst we only dined in Bacchanals once for dinner, we understand it was the same menu as Tamaras, which does restrict the choice for those looking for a burger or a less formal menu.

Bacchanals is however a pleasant restaurant for relaxed dining in shorts and flipflops. It is also a very pleasant lunch venue where there is a buffet and BBQ of fresh catch of the day, salads, chicken, hot dog or beef burger on most days along with toasted sandwiches served with fries.

As this was our third visit to Tobago, we avoided the recommended sightseeing trips around the island. We have done those! Instead we hired a car and re-visited the sights that appealed to us, travelling around the island several times in the 3 days that we had the car. One thing that we did do differently was to go on a powerboat trip to watch the sunset. The power boat ‘Zoe’ and her captain Peter, regularly come into the small bay and take people out snorkelling, swimming or just a trip around the island, seeing the sights from the sea. We joined 2 other couples and went out at 4 p.m. for around 2 ½ hours. Peter is a lovely guy, very friendly and knows the best spots to take his customers. We would highly recommend a trip with Peter on ‘Zoe’.

All in all, we spent a very happy and relaxing two weeks at the Coco Reef hotel and spa. It should be noted that this hotel is not a high rise, air-conditioned, 10 restaurant, 6 swimming pools, 1000 room hotel that our American friends seem to look for! It is a relatively small, well-managed and very high (Caribbean) standard hotel and we were looked after wonderfully well. We look forward to our fourth return visit in the near future.

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