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The Frenchman’s Reef & Morning Star Marriott Beach Resort on St. Thomas has long been a favorite of travel agents — one of their go-to properties when booking the island. So it was a big deal when this iconic resort underwent an extensive $48 million, five-month renovation.
Would the changes create an entirely different ambience or would it be a matter of bringing the resort up-to-speed with guests’ expectations?
The verdict is in and, after my three-night stay, it’s safe to say that the resort is lighter and more open than it was before.
“We’ve really opened up the resort,” said Jose Gonzalez, general manager at The Frenchman’s Reef & Morning Star Marriott Beach Resort. “We feel like we’re on the edge of a cliff — there’s so much natural light.”
Notably, the amenities and features are hip and up-to-the-minute.
“Three vital areas related to the customer experience have been transformed,” said Alex Fiz, vice president of sales, Caribbean and Latin America region, Marriott International, Inc. “The rooms have been refreshed, and the room experience has been upgraded, with pristine full bedding and air conditioning. The public areas, such as the pool and the spa, have been transformed, and the restaurant facilities have been upgraded.”
The Frenchman’s Reef & Morning Star Marriott Beach Resort occupies a prime position on a peninsula overlooking Charlotte Amalie and the harbor. The resort is made up of three distinct properties. Within steps of each other are the 302-room Frenchman’s Reef Marriott Tower, the 80-room Sea Cliff Wing and the 96-room Morning Star Beach Resort. The major completed renovations have occurred at The Frenchman’s Reef Marriott Tower. Morning Star will be renovated from September to November 2012. Sea Cliff Wing is partially renovated and will be completed in 2013. All three wings are open for business during the renovations.
The renovations at The Frenchman’s Reef Marriott Tower include a full remodeling of all 302 guestrooms; new dining options, including the Aqua Terrace Oceanfront Grill, the Aqua Terra Lounge, the Azul Pool Bar and the Sunset Grill; two new pools and the renovation of the existing pool into an infinity pool; and a new garden wedding gazebo. The original, understated pink exterior has been replaced by a sandy beige hue although, in a nod to the past, designers maintained the pink in a few places throughout the resort.
The existing spa has been transformed from what was previously only two treatment rooms, into the 4,000-square-foot full-service Lazule Sea Spa. The spa has a light and airy feeling, with windows overlooking its own spa pool.
Meeting and event spaces have also been expanded and upgraded. Groups and weddings markets are a huge part of the resort’s business, partly because U.S. citizens can travel to St. Thomas without a passport, unlike other destinations in the Caribbean. The Frenchman’s Reef hosts about 500 weddings a year.
“We can do eight weddings a day,” said Jessica Klein, wedding coordinator for the resort. “A wedding could be expedited at the resort in three to five days if a couple got inspired.”
Klein also noted the popularity of cruise ship weddings and vow renewals. The resort has also performed same-sex weddings.
For clients who plan to spend a lot of time in the room, the sixth, seventh and eighth floors of The Frenchman’s Reef Marriott Tower have the best views. The vast variety of room options suit different demographics. Gonzalez gave some specific room recommendations for a variety of demographics: his mother, a family with kids, his bachelor friend and a couple.
“I would put my mother in a Frenchman’s Reef Tower room on the eighth floor, facing the beach,” said Gonzalez. “For families, I would choose one of the Sunset rooms in Frenchman’s Reef — these are noisy and fun and close to everything, including the complimentary kids’ club. I would put my bachelor friend in a room near the Rum Bar. For my wife and me, for a romantic getaway, I would choose a room in Morning Star. These are the most romantic and all these rooms face the beach.”
Guests have signing privileges at all outlets, which provide plenty of variety for an extended stay. There’s also an all-inclusive option at the hotel, although Havana Blue, room service and the minibar are not included in the all-inclusive option.
The Morning Star Beach Resort is a good choice for clients who are not looking for the big hotel experience. Here you’ll find more of a Caribbean feel, exemplified by the Sandbar by Havana Blue, which is a bar overlooking the beach. The Morning Star resort is also the location of Havana Blue, which is arguably the best restaurant in all of The Frenchman’s Reef & Morning Star Marriott Beach Resort.
As a recent guest, I stayed in The Frenchman’s Reef Marriott Tower. During my stay, I was impressed by the elegant public spaces, the ambience at the new spa, the Palm Beach vibe at the Sandbar by Havana Blue and the cuisine at Havana Blue. But there were also little unexpected touches here and there that made my stay enjoyable, such as a maid singing each morning as she made her rounds cleaning rooms, the splendid nighttime views of the harbor and the town of Charlotte Amalie from the Rum Bar terrace, classic calypso music playing in the lobby and waking up one morning and looking out from my balcony to see a huge cruise ship gliding into the harbor.