This is our resort review of our trip from 9/13/97 to 9/20/97 to Club Orient, which is a naturist resort on St. Martin. Our trip report is under a separate subject as a trip report. Please forgive any duplication of information here from the trip report, as this report would not be complete without a repeat of some items there. Our last clothing optional trip was to Grand Lido, which is a full service all inclusive resort in Jamaica, which just happens to have a nude beach, hot tub and pool. I suppose it is possible that some people come to Club O and don't go nude, but it would be very unusual, one would think, and I don't really see a reason to go Club O if you (or your partner) is not going to be nude. I did see a few couples that one was generally nude and the other not, and no one has a problem with that.
THE RESORT--Club Orient is a full nudist resort where it is expected that one can be nude absolutely anywhere in the resort. However, the accommodations and the services are nothing like what is available at a place like Grand Lido. I was not particularly looking forward to staying at Club O, as I had always thought that it was too rustic for me. It turned out that we both loved Club Orient and will stay there again next September. What we both enjoyed so much was being able to be nude, if we wanted, all day until dinner (or through dinner, if one wanted to eat at Club Orient for dinner). What we also enjoyed was the ambiance of the clientele, who generally would all nod to you as you sat on your patio, and exchange "good mornings", or exchange conversation on the beach or at the happy hour at Papagayo. Club Orient does NOT have TV's, tape players or phones in the rooms, like GL. It does NOT have a pool at all, or any hot tubs. What it does have, however, is that it is on Orient Beach, which we consider the best beach in the world, and it is located on St. Martin, which means that world class shopping, world class cuisine, and casinos are all within about a 25 minute drive.
For those of you that don't know, Club Orient was totally destroyed--down to the ground--by Hurricane Luis in September 1995, and did not reopen for business until November 96. Therefore all units are basically brand new. There is some new construction of some new units still going on at the resort, but it is basically all the way down at the end of the resort close to the guard shack and didn't involve any of the main part of the resort. The only exception is that they are adding an extra patio onto Papagayo's (the restaurant), which will be partially under cover and partially in the sun when completed. It's on the side of the restaurant closest to where they keep the water sports stuff for rent and will have a lovely view when completed. We saw a pile of tile laying by the patio but no work was done on it the week we were there. They are supposedly also building a new spa and massage area, although I wasn't sure just which building it was.
We had made our reservations, as we always do for SXM, through Jim Ruos, that we met through Prodigy. He sells only the hotels on Orient Beach and knows those hotels intimately. Unlike most every other place where we have ever stayed, deposits are NOT 100% refundable, regardless of how far ahead you cancel, so try to make sure you will be going there for sure before you book. There is, I think, a 10% penalty for cancellation.
ACCOMMODATIONS--There are four different classes of accommodations at Club O--garden studio, mini-suite, garden chalet and beach chalet. All accommodations feature kitchenette with refrigerator, oven, coffee maker, toaster, dishes and cooking utensils, queen size or 2 single beds, patio with beach loungers, bathroom, BBQ grills, safes, an additional outside showers (plus a plastic dishpan to wash your feet in), beach towels and daily maid service. Also provided are beach chairs and beach umbrellas, free of charge. NOT provided free are airport transfers and water sports stuff like beach floats, sunfish sailboats, canoes, snorkeling gear, etc., which are available for rent.
We chose a studio, which is the cheapest priced accommodation at Club O and would do so again. We decided to go in September, as we had to use "bump" tickets we had for US Air within one year of the date of the original bump, and because Club O runs a special in September, which is basically pay for 5 nights and get 2 nights free, with additional nights over 7 being half price. In September, the price for the room we had for the week, including all taxes, etc., was $700. The same room in February is $1400 for the week. In September, the mini-suite would have been about $100 more, the garden chalet about $150 more and the beach chalet about $350 more than the studio for the week. We are making plans to return in September again next year. One of the only reasons not to book in September, other than the possibility that some of your favorite restaurants may be closed (or an occasional hurricane!!!), is that the Tiko Tiko, the catamaran that does wonderful nude cruises out of Club Orient, may not be there. It was out of the water for drydock and maintenance when we were there this year and apparently is often gone during September.
The studio is listed as 288 square feet, which I think includes the patio. The patio is about 6 feet by 13 feet and has a 5 foot picnic table with two benches and 2 plastic strap chair chaise lounges. The patio is tight and we were constantly moving either the chaise lounges or the picnic table benches around, depending on whether we were sitting on the chaise lounges or the picnic table. The patio was on the side of the room which faced the ocean. The room could be entered from that side via a sliding glass door.
The room itself consisted of a couch, large coffee table and chair, plus queen sized bed and a dresser with 6 small drawers in the main part of the room. Bifold doors covered a large (keyed) safe, and hanging space for about 10 shirts, blouses, etc, with a long shelf above that. The galley kitchenette was a little tight on space, but workable, with small gas stove, coffee maker, toaster and apartment sized refrigerator, which was lockable. I guess the lock on the refrigerator makes sense, as we left our doors unlocked the whole time we were there, except when we actually left to go out to dinner or the casino. When we had checked in, they were going to give us only one key for the front door, till I asked them for another. It turned out that we never used the key, except when we left the resort altogether. Thus, we hadn't needed the second key at all. Guess they knew that better than we did!! G!! The keys were NOT on strings, like at Hedo, for instance, as nobody took their key with them to the beach, OTHER than the safe key, which WAS on a string. Other than what was in the safe, hopefully, there was nothing to steal in the room except food, so the lock on the refrigerator made sense. I suppose that might also have been useful if two single people were sharing the room.
The kitchen provided a very nice selection of dishes, pots and pans and implements. Dishes were service for four (Corelle) of dinner plate, cup and saucer, bread plate and soup bowl. There were 4 on the rocks glasses, 4 wine glasses and 4 tall water glasses. Utensils included a one cup measuring cup, a colander, glass pitcher, glass salad bowl with 4 bowls, wooden salad bowl, OJ squeezer, and large casserole dish with cover. Pots and pans were a spaghetti pot, 2 fry pans, and 2 sauce pans with lids. Other items provided were assorted pancake flippers, ladle, large and small knives, corkscrew, can opener, cheese cutting board, bread basket, serving tray, placemats, ice bucket and ice cube trays, dishwasher soap and dishtowels.
The information we were provided stated that there were clocks and hair dryers provided, but we did not see any. We did not go to the office, however, to check to see if you checked them out from the office. A BBQ grill was provided and we used it a lot. You might want to bring a small radio for noise, which we did, since there is no TV or radio in the room.
The bathroom was about 6 by 10, with a four foot vanity and stall shower (no tub in our unit, although I think there was a tub in the chalets ). Towels were provided, although wash cloths were only provided on one day. A pet peeve of mine was that there was only ONE bar of soap provided, therefore you either had to retrieve it from the shower every day to wash your hands or do without soap. Methinks the next time we go to Club O, I will take along a bar of soap, in case I need one. There were both 110 and 220 outlets in the studio, but none in the bathroom at all, so plug-in razors and hair dryers might have presented a problem.
In the studios, the coffee table was the only place in the room where one could eat inside. We didn't mind eating outside at all, but if you have bad weather for several days, I suppose it could be a problem. Having a regular place to eat inside is about the only difference between the studio and the mini-suites, other than location. There's not a huge difference in price between the studios and the mini-suites, though, so if you think that eating inside is going to make a big difference, you can go for the mini-suites. The studios and the mini-suites are air-conditioned throughout, so you may want to elect for a mini-suite to eat inside in the air conditioning. However, even in the studios, you can eat on the cocktail table, which we did for breakfast one morning.
All the studios are technically listed as "garden studios", but some of them do have at least a partial view of the ocean. It is possible to request a particular numbered room. HOWEVER, please be advised that most of the units are in fact owned by private individuals, which means that IF the owner wants to be at the resort the week that you want to go, you will not get the unit you requested. However, for weeks in September, it is apparently fairly easy to get a preferred unit, as we did. So--what are the best units as far as the studios go? Units 15-20 are close to Papagayo's restaurant, but have no view whatsoever. Units 21-26 are the best, being somewhat close to Papagayo's, and have a decent partial view. We had number 25 and I would request it again. (So, OK, Jim, here's your warning to be expecting a run on unit number 25!! G!) None of the studios are ON the beach, but numbers 21-26 are only about 75 feet off the beach. Numbers 1-14 are behind numbers 15-26 and thus a little further from the beach. The week we were there, the resort was about half empty, even despite the special prices, and numbers 1 through 14 were all empty. Of numbers 1-14, most have no view of the water at all, although number 8 has an OK view, and numbers 9, 10 and 11 have a semi-view. Numbers 27 and 28 face forward toward the ocean, but have no view and numbers 29 through 34 don't face toward the ocean at all, therefore have no view.
The mini-suites are arranged in a circle toward the back of the resort, which means that none of them have any view, and they are all much further from the water and from Papagayo's than any of the studios. Location there seemed to make little difference. Of the beach chalets, numbers 47 to 54 are the ones closest to Papagayo's and are much preferred in location to the other beach chalets. They are closer to the water and have totally unobstructed views of the water. The rest of the beach chalets are starting to get a little far from Papagayo's and are a little further off the actual beach. Several of them that are closest to Pedro's, you have to kind of walk across some scrub grass to get to the beach and there is a very small rise (a couple of feet) which partially obstructs your view of the ocean. The chalets have a large tiled front patio, which I considered their best feature, a large living room and full eat-in kitchen, separate bedroom and full bathroom. The major problem with the chalets for me is that they were not air-conditioned, except that most of them have air conditioning in the bedroom (only). The garden chalets basically had very little view of any nature and were pretty far from the water. I considered them not worth the money. Jim and Mary Ruos had number 61 and it had a partial view out toward the water, but I would say it was roughly 3 times as far to the water as our studio was.
CHECK OUT ARRANGEMENTS--One of my pet peeves coming home from vacation is having to leave the beach way early so I can check out of the hotel so I don't have to fly home all salty and sticky. Club O has some good arrangements for checkout. If the resort is not busy and your particular room will not be used real soon, they will let you stay in the room past 11 A.M., which is the normal checkout time. As luck would have it, we had to actually leave the room at 11, as there was a party coming into our room. No problem, though, we packed and put our bags in the trunk of the car and parked it at Papagayos and had a shower in the shower at Papagayos. Alternatively, you can leave your bags at the security guard station and go to the beach and then take a shower at the security guard station also. Good work!
FOOD--OK, so what about food at Club Orient? We cooked there on several occasions, although there is certainly no reason that one has to cook at Orient at all, as there is Papagayo's right on the resort, Pedro's and several other restaurants within easy walking distance, as well as a good percentage of some of the best restaurants in all the Caribbean within easy driving distance. The kitchen has sufficient items to prepare a simple meal, including our one pre-requisite, a grill, which in this case was a small hibachi grill. There was no food of any nature provided in the room, (other than the bottle of wine in the refrigerator--food for the SOUL, I suppose!!) including some items that are not strictly food, but that we found should probably be brought from home, if you are planning on cooking in the room. Please remember that almost everything mentioned here can be purchased in St. Martin with no problem, as Match and Food Center are comparable to many grocery stores in the U.S, plus there is L'Orientique, the store at Club Orient, which has food and wine as well as miscellaneous sundries and souvenirs. However, most of these items would probably be available in larger amounts than you would want to deal with on vacation and most should take up little room in your suitcase. Items which we will probably bring from home next time: Paper plates, napkins, sugar, tea bags, coffee, coffee filters, SMALL packages of ketchup and mustard, travel salt and pepper shakers, Parmalat milk, boxed macaroni and cheese, plus meats. Of course, meats are much more trouble than the other items, and many people would not want to fool with bringing meat. However, we found that the quality of meat in the grocery store did not look particularly good, and meats were much more expensive than here. We have a very small cooler which we packed with 4 steaks and 4 hamburgers, as well as 4 ears of frozen corn, and this worked out wonderfully for us. Except for the one morning we ate at Papagayo's for breakfast, we had croissant on our patio every day for breakfast. We cooked burgers for lunch a couple of times, steak for lunch once and steak for dinner one other time. This ended up saving us some money, but it wasn't really the major reason we did it. We enjoyed doing it, especially as none of it I really considered "cooking", as it was basically grilling out and it also allowed us to be nude all the time.
As I said, there is a store at Club Orient store, (L'Orientique) which is a kind of overgrown 7-11, with prices to match. Unfortunately, since Match had not had charcoal other than a 25 pound bag, we had to buy charcoal at Club O, which was outrageous, at $5 per bag. A roll of paper towels at L'Orientique was $2.50, a medium sized box of Ritz crackers was $4, and a variety of steaks was an expensive $10-$25 per steak. Overall, we didn't buy much there, except they had fresh croissants (about $1.00 to $1.50 each) and bread for purchase every morning, which was a great convenience for us, as we had usually gone to Marigot most days to purchase croissant when we stayed at other places before. It was wonderful to be able to send Eric down to the store (au naturel, of course!!) to purchase our morning croissant each day.
Papagayo's is the restaurant at Club Orient and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, all somewhat overpriced, based on the competition. Breakfast is served from 8:30 to 11 A.M., and we had breakfast there once, We each had omelettes--ham and cheese for me and western for Eric--toast and jelly, for $6.50 each. Also available were french toast and pancakes for $4 each, side meats for $2, juices and coffee for $2 each. An OK breakfast for those who don't wish to leave Club Orient, but otherwise unremarkable. We had one lunch at Papagayo. Eric had the Jamaican jerk chicken ($8) (OK, but not nearly as hot as real Jamaican jerk) and I had a chicken salad ($7), which was lovely except for the maraschino cherry and the CANNED (!!!) pineapple on the side. Entrees at dinner varied from fish to steak, but were generally overpriced. We ate dinner there once. Eric had the prime rib ($23.50) and I had the NY strip ($21.00), both including baked potato and vegetable. The beef (ordered medium rare) was cooked correctly and was very good. The meal, including 3 glasses of wine, was $71, including tip. Fairly expensive, considering we didn't have any appetizers or desserts. By the way, at Papagayo, the exchange rate was 5 to 1.
Our favorite restaurant within walking distance of Club O is Pedro's, which is a kind of beach shack restaurant which serves great ribs, BBQ chicken, hamburgers, and now is serving steak. Unfortunately Pedro's has been discovered by the cruise ship passengers and the place is generally jammed on most days. The up side is that when the cruise ship people are in, there is usually a live band there. Thursday was one of the very few days of the week when it didn't appear that there were any cruise ships in, as the beach was fairly empty, as was Pedro's. We headed down to Pedro's au naturel and had a lovely lunch with only about 3 other couples. Kind of like the good old days at Pedro's.
ENTERTAINMENT--During the day, entertainment for us was watching the sand grow, or reading a book, or watching the passing multitudes of people. There are paddle boats, kayaks, sailboards, sailboats, etc., available for rent at the resort. Just down from Club O there are jet skis and parasailing available.
Entertainment in the evening at Club Orient usually consists of a bottle of champagne in the moonlight on the beach--which ain't half bad entertainment, by the way. Otherwise, there is a band at Papagayo on Tuesday during the off season, and on Tuesday and Saturday during high season. There is a bar at Papagayo of course, and there is a half price happy hour every day from 5:30 to 6:30. Drinks were what's known in the business as "heavy hand"--not light on alcohol by any means. On Wednesday night there is a free wine and cheese party at Papagayo, which we know from personal experience is not limited to Club Orient guests only. They serve red and white wine, plus OJ and non-alcoholic punch, plus cheese and pate, from 5:30 to 6:30. It's a very nice little party. Take a tip, though, BRING BUG SPRAY!! We never noticed any bugs any other time other than at happy hour, but there are LOTS of little biting bugs around happy hour that will make your time there miserable if you don't have bug spray.
Just because you're staying at Club O doesn't mean you can't go out most nights, or every night if you want, to one of the many fabulous restaurants in the dining mecca of Grand Case, or to Marigot or Phillipsburg, or to watch some live entertainment or to one of the many casinos to make an additional donation to the local economy. Provided you have a car, which you really must do when you go to St. Martin, if you are bored in the evening there, you aren't looking very hard.
SO WILL WE RETURN?? You BETCHA!!! I think that, from now on, Club
Orient will probably be our number one choice for St. Martin, other than Green Cay
Village, which costs at least twice the money, depending on the season. We loved
being right on the beach and not having to get dressed for breakfast or lunch. We
loved being able to just pop back to our room to get some ice water (or a little stronger
drink!!!!). We savored the companionship and fun of the other guests, both on the
beach and at happy hour. We enjoyed being able to cook out on our grill a couple of
times and relax, as well as save some money to do it. Mostly, we just enjoyed the
relaxation of not having to get into the car to drive to our favorite place in the world,
Carol & Eric in Virginia
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