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Review: Fairmont Royal Pavilion hotel and resort, Barbados

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This is our review of the Fairmont Royal Pavilion hotel and resort in Barbados.

As usual when I review hotels from my family holidays, it is not comprehensive. I didn’t get a personal tour and I wasn’t voluntarily giving up my time to check out facilities which we weren’t using. On the upside, I was there for five nights compared to the usual 1-2 night stay when we do a hosted review.

Fairmont is now part of Accor and you can earn and redeem Accor Live Limitless points here. That said, as Accor has revenue based redemptions (1 point = 2 Eurocents) you don’t get a better deal by using them here vs your local ibis.

The Fairmont Royal Pavilion website is here.

Review: Fairmont Royal Pavilion hotel, Barbados

Like the bulk of Barbados resorts, it sits on the West Coast and is about 30 minutes from the airport. There is very little which is walkable from the hotel – some of the other resorts are strollable to places of interest.

The Barbados luxury hotel market is an odd one. You have Sandy Lane and then ‘everyone else’. Sandy Lane is so far ahead – having spent a couple of days there I can confirm that it is ludicrously opulent – that the best anyone else can hope for is 2nd place.

Sandy Lane isn’t cheap. That said, you can make savings. For a start, it does a 50% discount on a second room for your children, with Fairmont doesn’t. Sandy Lane also has 2-bed suites which are decent value compared to paying for two rooms elsewhere.

Barbados is also very seasonal. The temperature rarely varies (the rain does vary, but it comes in sharp bursts and then the sun is back) but in Summer people prefer a 2-hour flight to Spain for 30 degree heat rather than a 9-hour flight to Barbados for 27-30 degrees. Hotel prices adjust accordingly.

The Royal Pavilion believes it has the No 2 spot behind Sandy Lane. Due to lack of investment, I have my doubts. After chatting to a couple of taxi drivers, Coral Reef Club seems to be the preferred choice these days. It’s not clear cut though.

Review: Fairmont Royal Pavilion hotel, Barbados

The picture above is why you should think about staying at Royal Pavilion.

Everything in the picture above is part of the hotel. It has, I think, by far the largest beach frontage of any Barbados hotel except Sandy Lane, shared by just 75 rooms. Technically it even beats Sandy Lane, but as Sandy Lane is in a secluded bay with no other hotels, guests effectively have free reign of it all.

If you look at the pink accommodation blocks, you’ll see the other reason to stay here. Every room at Royal Pavilion has a direct sea view. More importantly, it is unobstructed. The sea view rooms at Sandy Lane are blocked by trees and the rooms are set back. You could throw a stone off your balcony at Royal Pavilion and it would hit the sand.

Here’s the view looking up the beach from our room:

Review: Fairmont Royal Pavilion hotel, Barbados

Here is a PR shot, which is accurate, showing a balcony:

Review: Fairmont Royal Pavilion hotel, Barbados

Here’s the third reason.

The rooms at Royal Pavilion had a full makeover a few years ago and look good:

Review: Fairmont Royal Pavilion hotel, Barbados

It’s not perfect – I’d like a double sink in the bathroom for a start – but the standard is high.

Review: Fairmont Royal Pavilion hotel, Barbados

What rooms are best?

When picking a room …. the top floor has the best sea views and is priced higher than the middle level.

The ground floor rooms have a large patio and outdoor area but the amount of sea you can, erm, see from the room will be more restricted.

Review: Fairmont Royal Pavilion hotel, Barbados

That’s the good stuff, but ….

So far, so good. If you want a hotel with a huge amount of beach and want to stay in a room which is practically in the sea, this is the place for you.

Elsewhere, unfortunately, lack of investment shows.

The rooms are built in the style of a US motel

In truth, Royal Pavilion should be demolished and rebuilt. The two buildings containing the rooms were built out of large concrete blocks. More annoyingly, the rooms have external corridors like an old US motel. As soon as you step out of your room, you are exposed to the elements. For somewhere with as much rain as Barbados, this isn’t ideal. (My wife, to be fair, found this feature charming.)

The air conditioning is noisy

You need aircon in Barbados. Modern airconditioning should be silent. At Royal Pavilion, it is anything but. We ended up having to turn it off when we were trying to sleep, and had to rely on a rotating fan above the bed. It was still uncomfortably warm during the night.

Little money has been spent maintaining the public areas

Whilst a few million was clearly spent updating the rooms, little seems to have been spent externally. The tiled staircases leading up the rooms are cracked and chipped, for example.

I initially wrote it off as something you can’t avoid when you get such extremes of rain and heat, but when we moved to Sandy Lane everything was spotless. When you are charging high room rates in a relatively low wage economy, there is no excuse for skimping on maintenance.

Breakfast was slow and expensive

The open air room where breakfast is served – the domed area in the top photo, and see below – lets you enjoy beautiful views of the Caribbean whilst eating. It’s a good job, because you will be there a long time.

Service was shockingly slow. Royal Pavilion only offers a la carte breakfast which puts a lot of pressure on the kitchen, although with just 75 rooms to deal with over a four hour period it is clearly manageable. Food, when it arrives, is likely to be lukewarm at best.

For a family of four, you will be paying £100+ per day. We didn’t pay as Emyr at Bon Vivant gets it included for free on his bookings, but most guests will have paid. Even cheekier was that, as soon as you sit down, two small plates of pastries and two small plates of cut fruit are brought to your table. Only if you check the bill will you see that you’ve been charged £25 for them.

Review: Fairmont Royal Pavilion hotel, Barbados

The main restaurant is good

Oddly, the main restaurant is a lot better. We enjoyed some good meals there with beach-side tables. Service was a little slow but acceptable. It was also reasonably priced, by Barbados standards. At Sandy Lane, for example, the evening buffet costs (inc service) a ludicrous US$185 per person inc children over 10, with drinks extra.

The main hotel bar has music acts 3-4 times per week who were of good quality, although their stage is tucked into an odd corner.

Review: Fairmont Royal Pavilion hotel, Barbados

The beach bar is a wasted opportunity

To the left of the hotel is a beach bar. This is a scruffy, run down place, not dissimiliar to hundreds of other independently run beach bars across the Caribbean. What I didn’t realise for a while is that the hotel actually owns it (and when I looked carefully, it is inside the hotel boundary).

It was just weird. The resort could build a classy beach-side bar but instead chose to build the sort of place where your beer comes from a can pulled out of the fridge, you sit at cheap plastic tables on cheap plastic chairs and there is a TV blaring away at full volume disturbing everyone.

Watersports are free

Credit to the hotel here – a lot of watersports are included in your room rate, even if an instructor is required. My wife and daughter took a Hobi catamaran out, for free, with a very personable staff member called Ryan doing the bulk of the sailing. You can’t argue with that.

There are also private operators in the bay offering other options, including boat tours down the coast which I recommend.

Review: Fairmont Royal Pavilion hotel, Barbados

The swimming pool is good for children

Royal Pavilion has a large swimming pool which is just seconds from the main restaurant and the beach. (One issue at Sandy Lane is that the pool is behind the hotel and you need to walk through reception and cross the driveway to reach it). It is almost eight feet deep at the deep end but starts shallow, allowing all kids to find the depth they are happy with.

Review: Fairmont Royal Pavilion hotel, Barbados

Wi-fi is terrible

Given the room refurb, connectivity shouldn’t be a problem. It is. Whilst you can get a wi-fi signal anywhere, it drops as soon as you stop using your device. Look at something on your phone, put it down for 5 minutes and the connection is gone. It can’t reconnect automatically. We had this issue across both phones and laptops.

Staff are excellent

The Royal Pavilion general manager was always around. He spoke to us every day, and this didn’t seem to be because he knew who I was. His team are also pretty switched on – service around the pool was excellent, and occasional free trays of smoothies or lollipops would turn up. Housekeeping was also excellent. I never knowingly spoke to the Sandy Lane manager when we were there.

Late check-out was not a problem

We spent our last couple of days at Sandy Lane. Royal Pavilion was happy to give us a 3pm late check-out on one of our two rooms (this was an ‘if available’ benefit of our Bon Vivant package) which meant changing hotels was very easy. We threw our things into our cases, checked out, hopped in the Sandy Lane van, did the 10 minute drive down the road and were immediately checked in to our new rooms.

Review: Fairmont Royal Pavilion hotel, Barbados

Conclusion

This is a tricky one. If you are going to Barbados for 7-10 days, I would switch hotels halfway, purely to stop yourself getting bored with the same breakfast and dinner menus. The key properties are all on the same stretch of West Coast so a transfer will usually be quick.

If you are going to try Sandy Lane for a day or so, do it at the end of your trip, not the beginning. The jolt after you leave there will be too much otherwise.

There is a lot to like about Fairmont Royal Pavilion – the astonishing sea views from the rooms, especially on the top floor, the recent room refurbishment, the huge stretch of beach frontage, the free watersports, the good staff and the reasonably priced (by five star standards) food. With just 75 rooms, it doesn’t feel crowded either.

What I didn’t like was the external corridors to the rooms, the noisy aircon and the lack of investment in maintenance in some places. The tediously slow and frequently lukewarm breakfast service was the biggest issue, followed by the constantly dropping wi-fi. You need to weigh up what matters to you.

The Fairmont Royal Pavilion website is here.

Bookings

We used Emyr Thomas at Bon Vivant to book.

At the time, he had access to a ‘four nights for the price of three’ package. All bookings via Emyr will also come with free breakfast, $100 of food and drink credit and late check-in / early check-in ‘if available’.

Emyr’s bookings also have an ‘upgrade on arrival if available’ benefit. If you are coming out of peak season, you might want to gamble on a middle floor booking and hope to get the upgrade to the top floor. We didn’t get upgraded because, with an existing top floor booking, there was nowhere to go – there are no suites. The only other accommodation outside the main blocks is a villa in the grounds.

In terms of cost, it varies considerably due to the time of year. We did five nights, but a four night stay on the ‘four for three’ package we used would have cost around £700 per night inc taxes. This was October half-term pricing though.

Bookings via Emyr also qualify for Accor Live Limitless points as usual. You can contact Emyr via the form here.

PS. What points options are available in Barbados?

Short answer – not many. There is a Hilton in Barbados which a reader reviewed for us here. The snag is that it is a big hotel (350 rooms, so 4x what Royal Pavilion has) and is in a more built-up area close to Bridgetown.

Long answer – it’s getting better. Marriott bought Elegant Resorts in 2019 which brought it seven Barbados hotels. These are currently being refurbished and will be relaunched under Marriott brands at some point. Marriott will then sell the hotels to an investor after locking them in to long-term management contracts. I would be wary of booking before they are rebranded however – take a look at this recent review of Treasure Beach.

Whilst few HfP readers will have Wyndham Rewards points, it is also worth flagging that Wyndham is opening a 450 room hotel in Barbados in May 2022.


Hotel offers update – January 2022:

Want to earn more hotel points?  Click here to see our complete list of promotions from the major hotel chains or use the ‘Hotel Offers’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.

Want to buy hotel points? There is a 100% bonus when you buy Hilton Honors points by 9th February 2022. Click here for more details or to purchase.

Comments (77)

  • James Wyatt says:

    Very fair article. It is away from anything so you rely on buses or your own transport to get around. One excellent upmarket option is The Sandpiper in Holetown, where you can walk to the shops and local restaurants. Very smart hotel

  • Jonathan says:

    Out of curiosity when is peak and off-peak tourist season in Barbados?

    • roberto says:

      Peak early Nov to the end of Feb..
      Pretty even temperatures most of the year but hotter and wetter in July/August

      • Anna says:

        Though I have to say, been visiting the Caribbean for 25 years and we’ve often found the weather quite wet in December and the driest and most pleasant in April/May. Easter is therefore a great time to go if you’re stuck to school holiday dates, though try and miss US Spring Break if possible!

    • Rob says:

      British Winter is peak, as virtually all tourists are British. There are no other flights from Europe although Eurowings was trialling it from Germany. Hotter it gets in Europe, quieter it gets there.

      • John says:

        No Americans?

        • Rob says:

          Some, but never met any. There was a JetBlue leaving when we left and an AA on the tarmac. Probably the target market for the new monster Wyndham opening next year. It is not seen as a luxury destination for Americans, probably because it is fairly easy to reach.

        • BuildBackBetter says:

          I guess they prefer Hawaii

          • CH says:

            Recall that most Americans don’t have passports. Why bother going to a Caribbean island when you can travel domestically to Florida, Hawaii, or Puerto Rico (for somewhere more foreign)? The Caribbean was also for many years marketed as a package holiday destination (that may have changed somewhat in recent years, but that is certainly the perception for many).

      • David S says:

        Agreed our Winter is best and that’s when the wind is blowing (the windies in short) and in summer you can get the doldrums ( same temperature but no wind or breeze so baking hot). Some places have low occupancy in our summer and local restaurants can close as a result

      • Catalan says:

        @Rob. KLM now flies AMS-BGI 3 times weekly

        • Rob says:

          Oooh, didn’t know that. Might be a good way of getting there on Virgin Points given Virgin’s lack of seats.

          • Catalan says:

            @Rob. Yes I’ve been keeping an eye on their points requirements for business class. Very similar to Virgin, with the added bonus of no APD!
            I think the Netherlands have put the UK on their Covid ‘dirty’ list for now though.

        • xcalx says:

          I have been checking that route for my return flight in January. Unfortunately Seat Spy hasn’t updated it’s destination list for KLM to include BGI as yet.

  • Charlie says:

    I stayed in a cheap Airbnb about 5 minutes walk from the Fairmont and always thought their Wi-Fi was very good as I was able to use it for free every day on the beach.

  • Njb says:

    We had a stay here in August 2016, before they joined Accor and before refurbishment. Paid $400 a night for three of us in the ground floor room with direct access to beach. I did prefer this as the beach was so close, you had decking with your own sunbeds too. Booking this room also gave us our own butler service with evening canapes and fast track at the airport. There was a free evening drinks reception and daily afternoon tea too. They also offered daily feed the turtles swims.
    Otherwise reading your review not a lot seems to have changed. The beach bar was scruffy, Ryan was the watersports man, breakfast service was slow and overrun with birds taking food.
    Just down the beach was a good friendly beach bar Ju Jus and a bit further down Lone Star. We used to walk down there in the evenjng dodging the crabs. Two nights in a row we saw baby turtles hatching and a mother laying eggs – was incredible.
    Lots of people staying there seemed to have expensive restaurant plans for their stay. The Cliff etc. Eating out was very costly.
    The location of the room and the turtle hatching was something really memorable but other than that it sounds like there is still work to do on a hotel that has got much more expensive.

    • Rob says:

      Cliff is being rebuilt and may not open for a couple of years. A lot of high end restaurants closed during covid due to lack of tourists. Ju Jus still there.

      Afternoon tea suspended due to covid.

  • Tessa says:

    What hotels in Barbados are good for a family with 2 teenagers and 4 star budget?

    • elguiri says:

      We stayed at Coconut Court a few years back and really enjoyed it. Not sure how many stars but was right on beach and a short walk to the famous Oistins Friday Night Fish Fry which is well worth doing.

    • Sarah says:

      I mentioned it in a more recent comment, but maybe look at Glitter Bay apartments next door to the Fairmont (they’re all privately owned so you’ll need to book through an agent or the likes of Airbnb, VRBO or booking.com). It’s right on the beach, there’s a restaurant during the day with drinks service on the beach, and you have the benefit of having the space and kitchen of an apartment. I spent 5 weeks there and loved it – booked mine through Blue Sky Luxury in Barbados. The building is perpendicular to the beach, so those closest to it tend to be more expensive, but have better views – room numbers are in a three number format – eg 103 or 412 – 103 would be 3rd block from the beach on the ground floor, 412 would be 12th block from the beach on the 4th floor.

  • BuildBackBetter says:

    Are there any reasons why Barbados would be a better option than SE Asia (say Thailand) for beach resorts?
    Of course, Thailand’s a longer flight, but arguably better beaches, better food options, value for money and more options for sightseeing or day trips.

    • Rob says:

      When BA starts flying direct to Thai beach resorts, perhaps not. For a short break, which is what you’re doing here, an 8 hour direct flight wins. A lot of people also like the Britishness of the place (most hotels serve free afternoon tea etc).

      • David S says:

        Do you think BA will do this or provide an add-on to BKK flights. We have booked BKK flight for late Jan so hoping they do something

    • Njb says:

      Worked for us as we combined it with a US stay – a few nights in New York , Jet Blue flight for 5 nights in Barbados, then flying Jet Blue again to Fort Lauderdale for a few nights befire flying home. Jetblue prices were very reasonable.

    • Peter K says:

      I’m not sure that better is the correct word. A different vibe, surely?

  • Thomas. says:

    Coral Reef Club is the best hotel on the island. Privately owned… They own Sandpiper too which is nice but just lacks the open spaces of CR..

  • xcalx says:

    “To the left of the hotel is a beach bar. This is a scruffy, run down place, not dissimiliar to hundreds of other independently run beach bars across the Caribbean. What I didn’t realise for a while is that the hotel actually owns it (and when I looked carefully, it is inside the hotel boundary).

    It was just weird. The resort could build a classy beach-side bar but instead chose to build the sort of place where your beer comes from a can pulled out of the fridge, you sit at cheap plastic tables on cheap plastic chairs and there is a TV blaring away at full volume disturbing everyone.”

    Replace the TV with some reggae music and that’s the type of place that would draw me in.

    • Rob says:

      Barbados has a few hundred of them, come on over. Just sits a bit oddly in the grounds of a $1000 per night hotel.

      • xcalx says:

        I am there from early December using an expiring Marriott travel package week at the Courtyard then on a cruise for 4 weeks with an Island every day bar one visiting Trinidad, Tobago, St Vincent, Grenada, Martinique, St Lucia, Dominica, Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao the first three being new Islands for me.

        “Barbados has a few hundred of them, come on over. Just sits a bit oddly in the grounds of a $1000 per night hotel.”

        Maybe it was a failed attempt to bring a bit of the true Caribbean to a clientele that would probably not venture outside the hotel grounds to experience that type of establishment

        • Rob says:

          There’s one directly to the right of the hotel – it’s actually a shorter walk from most of the rooms than the official one!

    • Njb says:

      Problem for me was the scruffy bar had the hotel prices!

    • Lady London says:

      Macao used to have some places similar just no beach 🙂

    • John says:

      Where are you talking about? The little shack in front of the car park at Folkestone?

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