St Thomas Trip Report – Marriott’s Frenchman’s Cove Review

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Frenchman’Early in 2013 we used the 2-bed portion of our Marriott Grand Chateau (Las Vegas) timeshare to put in an exchange request, through Interval International, for a reservation at Marriott’s Frenchman’s Cove (St Thomas, USVI) for October 2014 – and almost exactly a year before check-in our exchange request was fulfilled.

We were excited to try out a Marriott resort that we had not yet visited and we were interested to see how this Caribbean resort compared to the two Aruba resorts that we know so well.

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October is a slow time of year for resorts in the Caribbean but that suited us just fine. We were traveling as a party of four, without any children, so we were looking forward to some quiet relaxation in the sun – the prospect of diminished crowds just added to our anticipation before the trip.

During the weeks leading up to check-in we became aware of an outbreak of Chikungunya Virus on St Thomas (the virus is transmitted by mosquitos) so we were given cause to reconsider our plans. After talking things over, and educating ourselves about the outbreak via various websites, we decided that we weren’t going to let the virus interfere with our plans – the trip was still on and insect repellant would be our ally!

We arrived on St Thomas late on a Sunday night and took a taxi to the resort. We knew, before we arrived, that taxis are expensive on St Thomas (they charge per person and charge extra for luggage!) but the idea of picking up a car at an airport we didn’t know, attempting to find a resort we’d never been to on a poorly lit, hilly, Caribbean island, after a full day of travel, didn’t really appeal – the cost of the taxi was worth it for an easy life (the cost for 4 adults and 5 bags for a 15 minute journey came to around $60 including tip).

When we got to the resort we only had a short wait before we were served, but the check-in process itself took some time. We had been warned before we arrived that owners at Marriott’s Frenchman’s Cove get priority over exchange visitors when it comes to room allocations (as seems fair) so our hopes of a great view weren’t high. Prior to arrival, we had followed the advice we’d read on various internet forums and not requested a specific building when asked for our room preferences – instead we just asked for a high floor and stressed that view was very important to us. The reason for the long check-in process turned out to be because the front desk was attempting to get permission from a supervisor to change our room to a better one – and we’re always happy to wait for something like that!

The lobby in daylight hours

While we were waiting to be checked in we took advantage of the small “Marketplace Express” available next to the check-in area. This is the smaller of the two Marketplaces at the resort (the larger is found near the pool) but it has the advantage of being open 24 hours. This means that, no matter how late you arrive (and we were quite late!), you can still get a few, albeit expensive, provisions for the morning – or at least until you have a chance to get to the local grocery store.

After a wait of about 20 minutes we were given a room on the 3rd floor of the Jost Van Dyke Building.

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What the resort map doesn’t show is the relief of the land that the resort sits on. The resort is built into a cliff face overlooking the Caribbean Sea and the rows of buildings all sit on different levels. The buildings around the swimming pool all start a few feet above the level of the sea but the Tortola, Virgin Gorda and Jost Van Dyke buildings that surround the cove all sit on considerably higher ground. The St John building which houses the units furthest away from the sea, sits higher still. The benefit of this is that you don’t have to be on a particularly high floor in any of the buildings to get a view of the sea – even units on the second floor in the St John building will probably have a partial view.

The picture below gives a good idea of the various elevations at the resort.

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The far building is the Tortola building, the buildings lower down surround the pool and include the Marketplace, the building to the right is the Virgin Gorda building and the buildings at the top on the right are the St John buildings. The photo was taken from the Jost Van Dyke Building.

In our case we got amazingly lucky. Our villa turned out to be a corner unit at the end of the Jost Van Dyke building and afforded us some beautiful views over the cove and on further towards Charlotte Amalie.

All the units at the resort have been remodelled in the last 18 months and it showed – the furnishings were all up to date and there was little or no visible wear and tear. In addition, all the appliances in the units are currently being replaced for newer and more efficient ones, and we were one of the units to benefit from this update.

All the units at Marriott’s Frenchman’s Cove are 2-bed or 3-bed units which do not lock off (click here for a floor plan). The layout of our 2-bed unit will be very familiar to anyone who is used to staying at Marriott’s Vacation Club resorts – a king bed in the master bedroom and two queen beds in the second bedroom.

Both bedrooms come with en suite facilities with the master bedroom benefitting from a good-sized jacuzzi tub.

The dining and living areas are a very good size and include a dining table that can comfortably seat six people, as well as a sofa bed and two armchairs.

The size of the balconies varies depending on the location of the unit and ours, being a corner unit, benefitted from the extra space. The second bedroom has its own small balcony, but it’s the main balcony, off the living area, which catches the eye. This was a great place to relax in the evening after a day out enjoying the island.

On the first morning of our stay we set out to explore the resort.

The resort itself is nicely maintained (although we did see a few small cracks appearing in some of the exterior walls – almost certainly as a result of the fact that the resort is built into a hillside which encourages and exacerbates small moments in the buildings). We got a better understanding of the various levels the resort is built on when we headed to the beach – to get there we had to take the elevator down 3 levels, cross a service road in front of our building and then take some stairs to the sand (we could have taken a longer way round and used an elevator had we needed to).

The beach at Frenchman’s Cove is small but we found it more than adequate. There is a layer of rocks and sea urchins a few feet into the sea but, if you use the entry point near the jetty (where it appears the resort has cleared a path), then this shouldn’t impinge on your fun. With it being low season, we never felt the beach got particularly crowded but we found it a good idea to get to the beach earlier rather than later if we wanted to get an umbrella – sun loungers were easy to come by, shade not so much!

Insider Tip – Don’t leave your sun lounger unattended for too long unless you don’t mind giving up your space to an unexpected guest!

The pool area sits just behind the beach and includes a restaurant/bar and the full sized Marketplace. The pool didn’t get crowded until late morning/early afternoon and even then it never got unbearably busy. The pool is described as an infinity pool and, technically, it probably is – but it’s not in any way dramatic like some infinity pools we’ve come across (the one at the sister resort next door is more of a traditional infinity pool). Nevertheless, we still managed to get a picture of it looking pretty inviting!

Here’s a picture taken from higher up which gives a better view of the whole pool:

The seating area next to the bar/restaurant and The Marketplace) wasn’t particularly large, but we never had any trouble getting seats when we needed them.

The Marketplace was well stocked and the staff were always very friendly (almost certainly as the result of good Marriott training, as their demeanour was a marked improvement on that of a good number of islanders that we met). You could probably do a good job of stocking up your villa from the choice the Marketplace provides, but it’s much more economical to go into town (if you have a car) and do your shopping at one of the regular grocery stores.

The Market place also had a good selection of masks, snorkels and fins to rent (at reasonable rates) so that should suit those looking to pack light.

As at most Marriott Vacation Club resorts, guests are provided with outdoor grilling areas which are dotted around the resort. The grills at Marriott’s Frenchman’s Cove are pretty standard for Marriott and the only issue we had with these is that the lighting around them wasn’t particularly bright which made things a bit more challenging after sundown.

Overall we found the resort to be a great place to base ourselves as we explored St Thomas and St John. Our tactic of using insect repellant on a regular basis protected us from any sandflies and kept the mosquito bites down to an acceptable number (If you’re going to travel to the Caribbean, sandflies and mosquitos are two things that you just have to expect). Two weeks after returning home we’re all well past the incubation period for the Chikungunya virus so it looks like we successfully avoided that. It should be noted that we didn’t see or hear of anyone at the resort who had contracted the virus, so hopefully the local authorities and the CDC are getting it under control.

Having spent a week at Marriott’s Frenchman’s Cove we’d definitely recommend it for anyone looking to get a vacation rental in St Thomas or anyone looking to exchange their existing timeshare unit for a change of scenery.

We’d also definitely recommend travelling in the “off season” if at all possible as it was really nice not to have to share our vacation with too many people. We saw some amazing, pristine beaches on our trip (more on this in future posts) and part of what made them so amazing was that we were often on them with only a handful of other people.

St Thomas and the other US Virgin Islands are truly beautiful places to visit and, while we concentrated on Marriott’s Frenchman’s Cove in this post, we’ll be following this up with further posts on our travels on St Thomas (Tips For Visitors To St Thomas) and on St John (Ssh…Keep It A Secret), as well as a comparison between Frenchman’s Cove and the two Marriott resorts in Aruba.

For more, new, photos of Marriott’s Frenchman’s Cove (taken on this trip) visit the Traveling For Miles Facebook Page. You can also “Like” us on Facebook if you’d like to be one of the first to see the latest resort photos as we post them from our travels.


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