St. Barthelemy Avec Amour

written by | Posted on November 12th, 2012

jumping the five-star hurdle

The Hotel Christopher, a 41-unit hotel on the northeast promontory Pointe Milou with a gorgeous infinity pool, has just completed a €7 million renovation (more than $9 million) that included remodeled restaurants and new Junior Suites with balconies, a Panoramic Suite, boutique and spa, among other improvements. The addition of the spa gained the Christopher a five-star rating, which it should have had even before that happened, but as mentioned, the bar is set high in St. Barts.

The Hotel Carl Gustaf re-opened a year ago with a remodeled restaurant, Victoria’s by Akrame, that features new decor, dramatic views of Gustavia Harbor, a set menu (dishes like steamed stuffed sole filet, black truffle and fresh tagliatelles with spinach sprouts), and a special blind menu (recommended: the 3-course option for about $84).

Is it possible to satisfy clients who want to experience St. Barts without paying quite so much for hotel rooms? You could advise them to visit the island off-season, when winter rates drop 50 percent or more. Or you could send them to the Normandie Hotel, a recently renovated, 8-room hideaway owned by two Californians, where a small but comfortable accommodation costs about $257 in high season, a steal on this island.

Alternatively, suggest that they recruit two other couples and share a villa. For example, a 3-bedroom Garden Villa just uphill from St. Jean Beach at Les Ilets de la Plage costs €710 in high season; that translates to about $350 per couple. Not cheap, but having kitchen facilities could make it affordable. Baie des Anges, a family-owned, three-star on Flamand Beach, is another (relatively) budget option.

Then again, saving money by cooking in your room is not the reason why culinary pioneer and author Craig Claiborne stayed at Hotel Le Village St Barth every chance he got. Yes, the price was fair, but Claiborne really loved the hotel’s location, its stylish decor and ambiance, the cottages’ outdoor kitchens, and the ingredients he found in stores for the meals he cooked in his cottage. Like so many other celebrities and other influencers, then and now, Craig Claiborne simply loved St. Barts.

contact information

Baie des Anges: hotel-baie-des-anges.com

Eden Rock: (855) 333-6762; edenrockhotel.com

Hotel Carl Gustaf: (866) 297-2153; hotelcarlgustaf.com

Hotel Christopher: hotelchristopher.fr

Hotel Guanahani & Spa: (800) 216-3774; leguanahani.com

Hotel Le Village St Barth: villagestjeanhotel.com

Hotel Le Toiny: letoiny.com

Hotel Saint Barth Isle de France: isle-de-france.com

Le Sereno: lesereno.com

Les Ilets de la Plage: lesilets.com

Normandie Hotel: normandiehotelstbarts.com

St. Barth Tourism Committee: saintbarth-tourisme.com/index_us.php

Voyage by Pascale: voyagebypascale.com/testimonials.html

Making St. Barts Easy

Like any other destination, St. Barts is right for some clients, wrong for others. The ones for whom it’s right are “discerning, luxury clients [who] enjoy the immersion into a chic French culture,” says Kimberly K. Daley, v.p. and managing
director of Journese, the luxury brand of Pleasant Holidays. These sophisticated travelers appreciate the island’s “superior service, fine dining, fashionable shops and spectacular beaches.”

Journese’s specialists have singled out three of St. Barts’ best hotels—Hotel Christopher, Hotel Saint Barth Isle de France, and Le Sereno. Sample pricing: Journese can offer Suite Terrasse rooms in high season from $4,982, five nights. “Our travel experts personally visit and handpick each property,” says Daley. In addition, she explains, “Journese focuses on the complete journey, customizing vacations with flights and private transfers.” That’s critical, because many passengers transfer for the short hop to St. Barts at St. Maarten’s Juliana Airport, where the customs/reboarding route can be confusing. “We can offer a complimentary VIP concierge in St. Maarten to assist with the connection,” says Daley. “We make each journey easy…hence our name, ‘Journese.’”

To reward agents and their clients, Journese secures exclusive promotions, specials and extra values. It also offers incentives for travel agents, including bonus commissions and complimentary vacations. “We award TRIP (Travel Reward Incentive Program) points to the agent on every booking, which agents use toward their own Journese vacations,” notes Daley. “We provide TRIP bonus points incentive programs as part of our promotions as well.”

Above all, she says, “by exceeding traveler expectations, we make the travel agent look like a hero.”

(800) 762-7222; journese.com

Archived related articles (available on recommend.com): Four World-Class Private
Island Resorts (October 2012)

Decadent Splendor at Hotel Saint Barth Isle de France

how to impress clients when booking st. barts

Saint Barthelemy is so unique (and expensive) that clients
appreciate any good advice you can give them. Following are tips from professionals who really know the territory.

Getting There

“I encourage my clients to fly to St. Maarten, then take the 15-minute flight to St. Barts via WinAir or St. Barth Commuter,” says Owen Gaddis, leisure, corporate, and adventure advisor at SmartFlyer travel agency. “This gives them the best chance of arriving with minimal delays.”

“Just remember that St. Maarten’s airport is one of the busiest in the Caribbean,” says Douglas Fiorella, senior travel and lifestyle manager, Fischer Travel Enterprises. “There can be flight delays during high season, making Anguilla a great alternative.” San Juan is another choice. However, notes James Daltrey of Premium IV St Barts VIP Concierge Services, “This is the more expensive option and more limited in terms of connecting flights.”

What about taking a boat from St. Maarten to St. Barts? “I personally like the ferry,” says Daltrey, “but a lot depends on the weather, and some people get seasick. Then again, some people don’t like small planes.” What do the celebrities do? “Many of them charter private boats. We have clients who will casually take three or four hours to get from St. Maarten to St. Barts, sipping cocktails, swimming and sunbathing.”

Getting Around the Island

“You need a rental car with a little horsepower so it can handle the hills, which are steep, but you want to keep the car as small as possible,” says travel consultant Becky Lamb, Becky Lamb Travel.

“Managing clients’ expectations is a large part of our job,” adds Daltrey. “Yes, we can rent you a villa for $250,000 and fill it with champagne and caviar. No, you can not rent a Ferrari, because they are totally unsuitable for the island’s roads.”

Fiorella recommends a Mini Cooper, Daihatsu Terios or Jeep Wrangler. “I work with Cool Rental,” he says. “If your car breaks down, they don’t send a mechanic, they send a new car—day or night.”

Gaddis advises first-timers to have the hotel pick them up at the airport, suggesting they take taxis for the first day or two so they can see the island before stepping behind the wheel—especially at night. “I don’t mean to scare anyone, but it’s pretty easy to get lost, and the roads and other drivers can cause a bit of anxiety. Every hotel can arrange for a car to be dropped off for their guests.”

Dining

“Visitors should make dinner reservations during busy times (of course, we take care of this),” says Pascale Gherardi of luxury tour operator Voyage by Pascale. “You can pay everywhere in euros or in American dollars, but ask about the exchange rate first.” Kimberly K. Daley, v.p. and managing director of Journese, the luxury brand of Pleasant Holidays, points out that “tipping is not necessary, since service fees are included.”

Where to eat? Almost anywhere, but Gaddis singles out the Sunday brunch at Le Toiny as “the most impressive brunch I’ve ever had.” On another day, he says, have lunch at Le Toiny’s Le Gaiac, and dinner at Bonito, in Gustavia. “It’s known for seafood and tapas, but don’t ignore the drink menu!”

Fiorella describes Le Ti St-Barth restaurant/bar/cabaret as “an institution…. This should not be missed if you are looking to party!”

Random Wisdom

“St. Barts has decent waves for surfing (and wind for kitesurfing),” says Fiorella. “The best spots are Anse de Toiny, Lorient, and Anse des Cayes.”

Lamb urges visitors, “Explore! Get in your vehicle and visit different beaches, spend an afternoon in Gustavia shopping…eat in different restaurants.” But visitors shouldn’t try to do everything. “There’s no need,” says Daltrey, “because once people have come here, they will certainly come again.”