Always, Katie: BarBABYdos: Where to Stay (Comparing Rosebank and Courtyard by Marriott)

Monday, April 18, 2016

BarBABYdos: Where to Stay (Comparing Rosebank and Courtyard by Marriott)

When people email me to ask me questions about our experience with Barbados Fertility Centre and our time on the island, booking accommodations is almost always one of the topics they ask about.  So I figure, if so many people are asking about it, it must be blog post time :-)

BFC offers packages in which they will book your airfare and accommodations for you, even further reducing your potential stress level.  Of course, there is a reasonable upcharge for the convenience, and if the financial savings is one of the main reasons you are considering pursuing your fertility treatment in Barbados, you may want to avoid that extra money and book your own flights and hotel.  This is the route we took, and truthfully, it didn't add too much stress.  There are relatively few options for flights (only three airlines currently fly from the US to Barbados), and the Centre has a curated list of hotels in the area that they are happy to provide for you.  

While we obviously don't have experience with all of the hotels on the list, I can tell you about our experiences at two different properties - Rosebank and the Courtyard by Marriott - and give you some pros and cons of each to keep in mind as you make your decision. 

Our first trip, we stayed at Rosebank, an old sugar cane plantation house converted into apartments with a cottage on the property as well.  We stayed in the cottage, actually, for 16 nights.  It had two bedrooms, a bathroom, a kitchen with oodles of dishes and cookware, a sitting room with TV, and a screened-in porch.  I don't want to mention prices here, because the further away we get from July 2014, the more likely it is that prices have changed.  However, I WILL say that Rosebank was among the lowest (if not THE lowest) price-per-night we found.

Rosebank PROS:
  • Very private.  A housekeeper came once a week to do a quick clean and change the linens, but aside from that, we really didn't see other people on the property a whole lot.  
  • Inexpensive.  And when you're looking to book a stay of more than two weeks, that is important!
  • You get to cook your own food. I was really looking forward to this!  Getting local food and cooking it up, experimenting with new things in new ways... we were anticipating lots of fish and tropical fruit. Little did I know, sugar is pretty much the only thing grown in Barbados.  All other food is imported, and pretty pricey ;-) 
  • Suuuuuper-comfy bed!
  • Fairly close to the clinic.  The info from the clinic makes it sound like it's, like, two doors down, but it's probably closer to a quarter mile.  Still a very reasonable walk, unless you're hauling around grapefruit-sized ovaries or aching from egg retrieval.  However, very reasonable cab ride - about $7 (US) each way. (I need to write a separate post about cabs... stay tuned, lol.) 

Rosebank CONS:
Um, how do I put this nicely?  This is not an American hotel.  If you're accustomed (read: spoiled) to the kind of amenities offered in American hotels, Rosebank may not be the place for you.
  • No glass in windows.  Most of the windows are kind of a brick lattice with screens in them, although I think the porch was glass all the way around. This led to:
  • Inefficient air conditioning.  The bedrooms DID have air conditioning, via window a/c units, but we still had to pull in the two big fans from other places in the cottage to get our bedroom cool enough to escape from Barbados in July. The rest of the cottage had no means of temperature control, and it got HOT. (and:)
  • Noise.  We didn't see other people on property, but we heard some.  Landscapers, mostly, but also lots of car horns... not to mention loud rainstorms, noisy bugs, birds, and a couple of monkeys on occasion. (Okay, so the monkeys were pretty cool.)  With no glass separating us from these sounds, they really did add up to a fairly constant din.
  • Inconsistent shower temperature and low pressure.  It was hard to get a good hot shower to ease my aching body, or a good cold shower to cool off from the oppressive heat in the rest of the cottage. And with the low pressure, I had a hard time rinsing my hair or showering sand off my legs and arms.  I never quite felt clean.
  • Bugs.  All the ones we saw were dead, but they were huge and way too close to the dishes we ate off of.
  • The kitchen is not stocked with ANY food (not even spices, or other basics).  We had to do a grocery run almost immediately and were pretty shocked at the prices of groceries... familiar brands, 4-5x the cost you'd see in the States.  It was actually lots cheaper to eat out. It's certainly not Rosebank's fault that groceries on the island are expensive, but consider the staples in a kitchen that you add to food without thinking about, and think about having to go stock them all.  I almost felt like that big grocery run when you first move into a house and don't have any food.

In general, staying at Rosebank felt like the overnight camps I went to as a kid... not camping in tents, but definitely not comfortable enough to consider a vacation to me.  But I admit to being a bit of a princess about this (I don't see the appeal in camping out at all), so if you're not as spoiled as I am, give it a try. :-)

On our second, shorter trip, we stayed at the Courtyard by Marriott, and it was much more what we were looking for in a hotel.  The price-per-night was considerably higher than at Rosebank, but in line with average prices in hotels we've stayed in in the States.  

Courtyard PROS:
  • Comfortable temperatures.  Our room had an epic air conditioning system, and we were able to get it nice and cold!  
  • Restaurant in house.  There was a little restaurant area just off the lobby, and they had a really great, varied menu.  We ate breakfast every morning (I believe this *may* have been included in the special BFC rates, but I can't promise.), and dinner most evenings, and while prices were high compared to American food, they were downright reasonable compared to other places to eat in Barbados. Also, SO delish! And convenient.
  • Great Wi-Fi.  Rosebank's wi-fi came and went pretty badly, but Courtyard's was fast and consistent.  And since we turned off all cellular function on our cell phones to avoid astronomical roaming charges, Wi-Fi meant connections to home. 
  • Quiet.  There were obviously other guests that we would run into while out and about in the hotel, but our room was very peaceful.  Perfect for that post-appointment cocoon, when you just want to hunker down and process your day.
  • Close to clinic.  We didn't walk to the clinic from Courtyard, but the cab fare was the same as from Rosebank, about 7 USD.

Courtyard CONS:
  • Maybe the hardest mattress I've ever slept on.
  • Less "local" feel, if that's important to you.
  • Not the least-expensive option, and for longer trips the price would add up.

I think it's probably fairly obvious from the tone of my reviews which property I would recommend of the two, but I also know that different people have different "must-haves" for accommodations.  I always want my hotel to be a comfortable sanctuary of sorts, someplace I can go and unwind, touch base, clean up after a long day exploring a vacation destination, so keep in mind that's the lens through which I'm viewing these places.  If your accommodation priorities are different than mine, you may see these properties differently.

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