The New (Not Quite Finished…) Westin Dawn Beach St. Maarten

The brand new Westin Dawn Beach on St. Maarten opened in December to much controversy on Flyertalk, both because some folks dislike ‘spoiling’ a public beach with a new resort, and because others claimed it had opened too early — rushing things to take advantage of the high season while not nearly ready for prime time.

Since I was going to be in the Carribean anyway, I decided to check it out for myself.


Turns out to be on the verge of becoming a lovely resort, but it certainly wasn’t ready — by a long shot — in the middle of this month.

This is going to be a very beautiful property. Emphasis on going to be. The small strip of beach in front of the hotel has great white sand. The color of the water is beautiful. The views from the balconies are great. And the hotel is “new Westin”… corridors are pretty much what you would expect from a Westin built over the past 18 months (drop me in the Westin Arlington Gateway and the interiors are similar).

But the hotel just isn’t finished, not even close.

The entrance to hotel looked like a war zone, but you only really see the entrance coming and going. No worries. Perfectly functional.

Upon checkin I was given an oceanfront king. No suite, but not sure how many this property has and how many of those are even yet functional. All fine. Bellman helps me with my bags but I wound up carrying them upstairs anyway because the elevators didn’t work. (They were later repaired and then broken again the next day.)

Broken Elevators


Lots of work going on all around, there were beds in the hallways as the staff prepared to bring more rooms online apparently. Some rooms even had checklists on the doors listing what they were missing.

Getting a Room Ready


Wired internet in the rooms don’t work, so they offered free wireless in the lobby. Voicemail in the rooms didn’t work properly. And during my stay housekeeping came in to add the telephone inserts that tell you which buttons do what (and at this point, the hotel had been open for a month).

One morning I got up and wanted to go sit outside at the casual restaurant and drink coffee, but outside seating was closed because construction was working on the area. We were told “maybe tomorrow” it would reopen, but it took two days.

People seem very friendly, but not always on top of things, instead they seem rather resigned to problems. Since I couldn’t sit outside at the restaurant and enjoy my coffee, I rang up room service… I asked for skim milk for my coffee… $5 charge appeared on the bill for skim milk. I called down to ask about it, service express said they’d “investigate” and call me back (over $5??). They called back and said because I asked for skim rather than 2% milk they were charging me. Weird. I’d have been fine with 2%, they certainly didn’t suggest that one was a charge and the other was not. I explained this and they offered to “call back room service and get back to me.” Over $5?? I told her not to bother having another round of phone calls, the runaround was more aggravating than the money.

The gift shop wasn’t open yet. Only one (jewelry) store, a car rental place, and the small business center.

As for the room, the balcony was relaxing, but the furniture didn’t fit so it was difficult to get in and out. And watching workers outside littering coke cans isn’t great either.

The room itself is a nice size. Entryway with mirror on one side and large bathroom on the other (two doors open into the bathroom, toilet and large glass shower on left… Tub on right… Large wooden vanity though only one sink bowl directly ahead)… Small closet and just past that three drawers/minibar underneath the TV, then a desk and some space followed by the balcony. Bed is standard Westin fare and there’s a nice leather and weave lounge chair inside. Outside furniture is two upright wooden chairs with a seat cushion and a wooden table.

The room really wasn’t ready at checkin, although the hotel doesn’t as yet realize it. The shower leaks water substantially onto the floor… The shower head isn’t properly attached to the wall…

The hotel improved just over the course of my three night stay. I wonder whether that’s a function of checking in midweek and they put much of the construction away for the weekend when occupancy is higher. Our last morning the maid checklist showed all but one first floor room was either occupied or to be gotten ready for an arriving guest (one room was out of service). I didn’t look further, but it appears from the workmen that several rooms in the 2100 block are out of service and several 3rd floor rooms as well. But that’s just a guess.

The resort has (4) sources of food… Room service, poolside (there are 3 attendants who did a wonderful job serving all guests as well as offering cold towels), and two restaurants… Ocean is the casual restaurant serving breakfast (off the menu and buffet), lunch, and dinner, and Aqua is the ‘fine dining restaurant’ offering dinner only. I enjoyed an evening meal my first night at Ocean. It wasn’t great but seemed quite good for resort fare.

Salmon at the Casual Restaurant, Ocean


I was going to eat at Aqua, their ‘nicer’ restaurant (which is quite expensive, entrees in the $30s and $40s, appetizers hovering around $20, dessert $15, and the menu set up to recommend five courses in total). But when I was talking to one of the concierges they actually recommended against it — they’ve gotten complaints that the food is rather bland. It’s nicely presented but nothing special, apparently. And St. Maartne does have some wonderful restaurants, so why bother? Perhaps the kind of feedback that actually has a hotel concierge recommending against the property will spur them to improve. (Admittedly, the concierge likely gets a kickback from other options they recommend though not from their own hotel restaurant, so this may be biasing them.)

It was nice to be at the resort (1) midweek into the early weekend and (2) before it’s up to full capacity. I wonder, though, once it’s up to full speed how easy it will be to get chairs out at the pool during weekends over high season… The pool area isn’t that large for a hotel of 300+ rooms. I’d hate for this to become another property where folks get out at 8am to reserve chairs.

For now, one positive is that there are plenty of staff to guests, that the staff are friendly, and that in spite of the hotel’s problems the water is just beautiful.

I used the 50% off award redemption promo here, so 5000 points/night. The Starwood Preferred Guest internal reimbursement rate was originally on my folio, no problem having it taken off. For the curious, SPG is paying $88/night. Fits my theory of between 0.8 and 1.1 cents per usual redemption point (cat 4 would have been 10k points).

Plenty more photos after the jump…

My room as seen from the pool, it’s the end unit on the second floor


View of sunset off my balcony


View of the beach from my balcony



Westin Heavenly Bed


Cliff off to the right of my balcony


View straight down from my balcony


Other parts of the resort need grass, too


French Doors from the Room to the Balcony


Patio furniture






I Didn’t Enter This Room


Bathroom Sink


Sink and Shower


Toilet and Shower




About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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