Two years ago, the island of Sint Maarten/St. Martin was devastated when a category 5 Hurricane hit the northeastern Caribbean and the Florida Keys causing an enormous amount of destruction. Known for it’s luscious sunsets, pink sands and crystal clear waters, the island recovered and rebuilt and is back better than ever. Sonesta Maho Beach Resort, Casino & Spa, located in Maho Village is the largest limitless all-inclusive resort in St. Maarten geared towards families in need of unlimited luxury day and night. The 10-acre, 420-room beachfront property is 5 minutes away from the airport where you can watch the planes take off right from the water.
My husband and toddler joined me as we toured the most talked about property on the island. From the door we were greeted with champagne and smiles and had the smoothest check-in as we are escorted to our exquisite room with a jaw-dropping view. We decided to explore the flawless grounds equipped with a huge Oasis pool with swim-up bar as well as the perfect kids pool and aqua park for my daughter to enjoy.
The resort makes sure there is always something delectable to eat offering five restaurants, a pizzeria, a paninoteca café, and five bars. Our absolute favorite part of our stay was the attentiveness of the staff. From the front desk to the person keeping the grounds immaculate, everyone goes above and beyond to ensure guests have an unforgettable stay. During the day we enjoyed the freshest catch on the island, top shelf drinks and nonstop entertainment by the cheery staff. My husband and I were able to get some alone time watching the sky light up with breathtaking sunsets. I experienced the best massage I’ve ever had from Irene in the soothing and spacious spa. We traveled next door to their adult-only sister resort. Sonesta Ocean Point Resort where we dined on 5-star delectables overlooking the most captivating view. Meanwhile our daughter enjoyed pajama party’s, movie night complete with a 2 story slide at the ultimate Kids Club. Following the perfect vacation, The Source Magazine sat with Cynthia Cantello to discuss the details of how the new and improved Sonesta Maho rebuilt after the storm.
Tell us about what it has taken to rebuild Sonesta following such a devastating hurricane?
The resorts underwent 18 months of renovations and rebuilding with eco-friendly storm resistant materials and staff also received stipends and additional training to better serve our guests, encouraging sustainable tourism in Sint Maarten and its recovery after Hurricane Irma. It was important to note that NO staff were laid off during our rebuilding and this has really encouraged and kept our staff motivated to return.
Sonesta Resorts Sint Maarten made safety a priority implementing the latest architectural innovation and storm resistant materials in the renovation and rebuild, ensuring the future security and wellbeing of its properties, staff and guests. Sonesta Maho Beach Resort, Casino & Spa, which sustained the most damage, was entirely stripped down to its main structural frame and rebuilt utilizing building materials made by China-based, green technology consortium Kimko, implementing their energy-efficient storm and fire resistant panels in the reconstruction. At Sonesta Ocean Point Resort, repairs and improvements were made to increase storm resistance of the building’s exterior envelope and a brand new lobby was instated. Sonesta Resorts Sint Maarten is setting the bar for hospitality safety standards in the Caribbean and beyond as the first property in the Western Hemisphere to use these innovative eco-friendly storm and fire resistant materials.
After months of rebuilding, on February 27th, 2019, Sonesta Maho Beach Resort, Casino & Spa unveiled an entirely new look reflecting a contemporary design and clean, airy aesthetic throughout the resort including public spaces, restaurants and guest rooms keeping its signature Oasis Pool and the kids club intact. Guestrooms showcase a thoughtful new, modern layout creating more comfort and better usage of the interior space including larger bathrooms allowing in natural light. New furniture includes ultra comfortable bedding and European standard mattresses, with wood-based bedframes made from sustainably harvested forests, under the Forest Certification Encouragement Program. In addition, a new category room debuted, The Loft Suites, featuring ocean views, balconies, an elevated bedroom with a king bed and a living room located beneath with sitting area and a pullout sofa, perfect for couples or families.
Sonesta Ocean Point Resort, re-opened on December 15th, 2018, guests are now greeted with a stunning new lobby facade redesigned in a contemporary Caribbean style, providing a chic central meeting spot with ample seating and lounge areas. The newly debuted Casa Blue Tapas Restaurant & Bar located on top of the Azul Restaurant has gorgeous 360-degree views of the sea, serving Caribbean fusion tapas for late lunch and dinner along with full bar service featuring sangrias and flavored mojitos. In addition, the new Candlelit Island Grill, is an intimate al fresco-dining venue offering a truly romantic and unforgettable private dinner under the stars.
Maho Village, the shopping and nightlife promenade located just steps outside the resorts, along with Casino Royale, the largest gaming emporium and theatre on Sint Maarten, received a transformation and a modern new look as well. Casino Royale continues to offer over 21,000 square-feet of gaming experience, a new poker room to debut this fall, free Vegas-style production shows weekly, screenings, free membership with the Player’s Club and the most rewarding program in the Caribbean with large value rebates, hotel stays, fine dining and more.
During the properties’ closures after the hurricane, the Maho Group, owners and operators or Sonesta Resorts Sint Maarten, spearheaded what is now called the Sint Maarten Training Foundation (SMTF), formerly known as Hospitality First, investing in its staff and other island hotel employees, educating and sharpening hospitality skills while the tourism industry recovered. The hospitality industry accounts for almost half of Sint Maarten’s gross domestic product, and many lost their jobs and their only source of income. Maho Group along with Sunwing Group, Price Waterhouse Cooper and Lexwell Attorneys, among others, stepped up to activate Hospitality First, ultimately preventing mass layoffs across the island. The initiative provides a stipend for staff attending courses, safeguarded jobs and benefits with original employers, provided an educational opportunity to unemployed non-hospitality individuals, all while enhancing their careers and skill set, ensuring the livelihood of Sint Maarten’s hospitality workforce; a true humanitarian effort. Today, it’s expanded to reach other industries of the island’s workforce.
What does it mean to St Maarten to return tourism to this beautiful island?
Maho Group, the owners and operators of Sonesta Resorts Sint Maarten and Casino Royale, is the largest employer on the island second to the government, so spearheading initiatives like the Sint Maarten Training Foundation was imperative to the future of sustainable tourism in Sint Maarten. The company understood the urgency to open the resorts as soon as possible to contribute to the economic growth, livelihood of the staff and overall recovery of the island. Maho Group is proud to be part of a larger hospitality community on the island that have all contributed to the island’s come back.
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On Sept 6, 2017, our world and that of many in Sint Maarten and other Caribbean islands were turned upside down by the devastation caused by Hurricane Irma. Two years later, as we reflect back on this day, and as we continue to move forward in our recovery, we are also very much aware of the havoc that Hurricane Dorian, another monster of the same intensity as Irma (category 5+ with winds in excess of 180MPH or 280Km/h) has wreaked in the lives of our Bahamian neighbors. The Maho Group, parent company of Sonesta Resorts and Casino Royale as well as our fellow Sint Maartners know how desperate we were in need of basic supplies like clean water, tarps to cover roofs, food, fuel, and such immediately after Irma, and in our view, @samaritanspurse was the best, fastest and most efficient relief organization to come to our aid, stayed for months and spearheaded our reconstruction effort. We have since worked alongside Samaritain’s Purse, especially this week in helping deploy aid to our Bahamian friends. We are also very much aware that we are here today due to the continued support of our followers, travel partners, community and guests, so it’s with much gratitude that we ask you today to please join us in paying it forward. Please help and make a donation to Samaritan’s Purse, so that they can continue their relief efforts and help our #caribbean friends in The Bahamas and other territories affected by Hurricane Dorian. Please click link in @samaritanspurse profile and use the first field “where it is most needed” to contribute to whatever you can. Together, we can help our Caribbean family get stronger! 🏝💪♥️ 📸 @chrisgarnersx 2019 Sonesta Resorts @mahobeachresort @oceanpointresort @casino_royale_sxm 📸 2: @samaritanspurse Sept 2017 arriving in #sintmaarten #sxm #stmaarten #caribbean #flashbackfriday #fbf #hurricaneirma #hurricanedorian #payitforward
What separates Sonesta Resorts Sint Maarten from other hotels and what is your team most proud about?
We’re most proud of our incredible staff and their dedication to our guests. Our new entertainment program, Signature Series, Beach House and Teen Zone are among the latest additions to our all-inclusive features, and its unique offerings really set us apart from the competition. Examples such as the renowned Maho Village Carnival Parade on Friday nights, spectacular Showteam Masterclass gets guests excited to witness unique aerial and cirque performance art, Brazilian capoeira, bachata and salsa dance and more, right in a resort setting. We’ve already received fantastic feedback from our guests!
We love the state of the art Kids Club, perfect for the kids and the parents—-what are some of the kids club activities children can partake in?
As the largest and most engaging all-inclusive family resort in Sint Maarten, Sonesta Maho Beach Resort invites guests of all ages to join Iggy Iguana, Penelope Pelican, Maarten Roots and the entire Beach House team to discover supervised activities day and night that focus on fun and creativity for the entire family. This entertaining, family-oriented concept include walkabout events; junior fitness; a dedicated children-only Beach House Kids Club designed for ages 3 to 12; character experiences with the Beach House Crew and the main event – the interactive kids show, Beach House Live!
The Beach House Kids Club features 1,000 square-feet of indoor space and a 2,500 square-foot outdoor area with a playground. The Beach House Kids Club strives to make each day unique and always engaging for kids encouraging creativity and group interaction with daily and nightly themed sessions and character experiences, offering 24-hour babysitting services upon request. Adjacent is the 4,000 square-foot Aqua Park with a kid’s pool (1.6 feet deep) featuring three aquatic themed slides and a spacious pool deck with loungers and umbrellas creating the perfect environment for families to share quality time and fun under the sun.
Designed exclusively for young adults ages 13 and over, the brand new, high-tech Teen Zone is a state-of-the- art, media-equipped crash pad for teens. Packed with the latest entertainment and games, including air hockey, football, table tennis/ping-pong, cinema-style TV media room with PlayStation, Wii, Xbox, and crazy golf, Teen Zone also features a Social Suite for the cool crowd where teens can snap, tag and share all of their experiences virtually.
From sports events to spa treatments, there’s no end to the activities and options available to our young adults. Everything about the Teen Zone is focused on social interaction, ensuring everyone gets to connect and have a great time.
What can we expect to see from Sonesta Maho in the future?
The team is very committed to making continued improvements in every area of operation and elevating the guest experience. With the appointment of a new VP of Operations and key members of the Executive Food & Beverage team, in addition to a new staff training and incentive programs, the resorts are poised to offer guests the great Caribbean vacation experience it has long been known for.
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The highest appreciation is not to utter them but to live by them…In memory of many, in honor of all, Sonesta Resorts Sint Maarten and Casino Royale SXM remembers those who have served. #memorialday #freedom #memorialdayweekend #stmaarten #sxm #america #caribbean 📸 @rtghphotography
Sonesta Resorts Sint Maarten understands that the food and beverage experience is paramount, and the company is making huge strides to meet the high standards today’s modern traveler has come to expect. With the overhaul of the executive food and beverage team, a roll out of new culinary offerings is in place, elevating the all-inclusive dining experience with a focus on quality, freshness, variety and authentic international and local flavors that cater to every guests’ preference.
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