All-inclusives: what the star ratings mean – 8 Feb 2007

Ever wondered why an all-inclusive resort in the Caribbean with a kids’ club, three restaurants and bar is given the same star rating as a hotel in Spain with fewer facilities?

Star ratings in the all-inclusive sector are such a minefield that some hotel groups – including Sandals and Beaches Resorts – refuse to let operators rate them.

The problem is that there are no rules for ratings. Some hotels simply rate themselves, while operators rate others according to criteria that don’t always take account of the nuances of the product.

Use our star rating guide to steer your way through this minefield…


Three stars plus

For example:Jolly Beach, Antigua; Tilemachos, Rhodes; Iberostar Saraha Beach, Tunisia; Hotel Caledonia Park, Tenerife

Aimed at the price-conscious customer. The main component of the all-inclusive price is the food and drink – for inclusive activities and facilities, customers would have to go up a rating.

However, long-haul all-inclusives in this category generally offer more facilities – for example Starfish Trelawny in Jamaica has an Italian restaurant, children’s activities, spa and rock climbing wall.

First Choice head of mid-haul product Nicky Macfarlane said: “One of the biggest problems short-haul properties have is limited space.

“A lot of them were built 20 years ago, so now – particularly compared with Caribbean hotels – there isn’t the space to put in many sports areas or restaurants.”

What to expect

  • Local brand drinks.
  • Limited choice of drinks, for example, one type of beer.
  • Buffet dining, limited variety.
  • Fewer facilities. Three-star hotels generally don’t have spas, but customers can expect good pools and extras such as tennis courts.
  • Games room with activities such as table tennis.
  • No mini bar in rooms.
  • Basic evening entertainment such as a disco.

Hotel check: Papillon, Rex Resorts, St Lucia

Papillon, Rex Resorts, St LuciaLocated on Reduit Beach in Rodney Bay, Papillon offers a full selection of beach activities, along with a fitness centre, evening entertainment, cocktail lounge and piano bar. A children’s club (four to 12 years) and 24-hour babysitting are available nearby.

The rooms are functional. Standard rooms come with shower, air-conditioning, ceiling fan, radio, balcony and telephone. Superior rooms include a TV and bath and beachfront rooms have sitting area and fridge.

Cocktails, local beers, house spirits, wines and soft drinks are included, as is a full buffet. Breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner are also included. The food was adequate but uninspired.

Located on one of the best stretches of beach in St Lucia, Papillon represents great value, particularly for families.

Facilities: 140 rooms, three bars and restaurants, large swimming pool, whirlpool bath, tennis courts, kids’ club and non-motorised water sports.
Get there: 90-minute transfer from Hewanorra airport.
Verdict: 4 / 5
Sample price: Virgin Holidays offers seven nights’ all-inclusive at the three-star Papillon by Rex Resorts from £869, including flights from Gatwick or Manchester and transfers, departing June.

Hotel check by Chris Coplans


Four stars plus

For example:Breezes Resorts (Superclubs); Almond Resorts; Iberostar Alcudia Park, Majorca; Club Med La Medina, Marrakesh; Louis Apostolata, Cephalonia

Four-star plus all-inclusives are characterised by the amenities on offer and will include a wider variety of food and drink.

Hotels will often include beach club facilities such as kayaking, windsurfing and tennis. “It’s the market for people who want to do a lot on holiday,” said Thomson general manager for planning Alex Loftus.

According to First Choice’s Macfarlane, this sector can have space issues, with some newer hotels having more space for a variety of facilities than older short-haul hotels.

What to expect

  • Some brand name drinks (usually by the glass) and a wide choice of wine and beer.
  • A choice of restaurants, including à la carte restaurants, or extra charges for à la carte menu options. Some restaurants may specialise in a certain type of cuisine.
  • Free drinks in room, such as tea and coffee, water and perhaps beer.
  • An abundance of food, up to 10 choices in a buffet.
  • Lots of facilities, including water sports. However there may still be charges for motorised water sports.
  • Some free spa facilities such as a sauna, whirlpool bath and steam room.

Hotel check: The Body Holiday (Le Sport)

The Body Holiday, St LuciaThe Body Holiday, as Le Sport now markets itself, is rated by most operators as a four-star-plus property and places a big emphasis on the ‘body experience’.

A daily body treatment at the spa is included, as are fitness classes, yoga, t’ai chi, Caribbean dance and aerobics. On the sport front there is windsurfing, sailing, kayaking, tubing and scuba diving, as well as a championship golf course (green fees included), group golf and tennis classes.

The rooms are large and well appointed. All have good-sized balconies with a sea or garden view, data port, and air conditioning but no TV – this is against the ethos of the Body experience.

The food is superb, and à la carte dining is included (although there are supplements on some dishes). Breakfast and lunch are served buffet-style and there is a wide range of drinks on offer including champagne. Service was attentive bu nicely laid back.

Although The Body Holiday isn’t cheap, what guests get is quality. The hotel is ideal for the active and those who fancy some pampering after their beach activities.

Facilities: 154 rooms and suites, two bars, three restaurants and a deli, three pools, a spa and fitness centre.
Get there: A one hour, 20 minute transfer from Hewanorra Airport.
Verdict: 4 / 5
Sample price: Funway offers seven nights at The Body Holiday from £1,475 per person, twin-share, including flights and transfers, for departures in June.

Hotel check by Chris Coplans


Five stars plus

For example:Grand Lido Spas and Resorts (Superclubs); Royal Hideaway (Occidental); Riu Palace brand; Prima Life Makadi Resort, Egypt; Sandals Whitehouse, Jamaica

This is a lucrative market fuelled by those who want everything on tap.

In the Caribbean, hotel groups such as Sandals target this market in particular. Many luxury all-inclusive hotels such as Jumby Bay in Antigua don’t market themselves as all-inclusive at all, positioning themselves instead in the luxury sector.

Here the star rating is about the extras – quality of building materials, size of rooms, quality of food and drink, and service.

“The distinction between four and five star can be difficult. In most cases the differentiation is on the size of the rooms and the size of the hotels,” said Olympic Holidays commercial director Photis Lambrianides.

What to expect

  • Likely to be ‘super’ or ‘ultra’ all inclusive, and include brand name drinks.
  • Grand buildings and big, well-furbished rooms.
  • Spa (paid for treatments).
  • Variety of restaurants with à la carte dining as well as a buffet.
  • Waiter service.

Hotel check: Jumby Bay

Jumby Bay, nr AntiguaJumby Bay, a Rosewood Resort, is on its own island off the coast of Antigua. Visitors disembark onto a wooden jetty and staff zip them around the resort in golf buggies.

Rooms vary in size, but all are decorated with dark wood and cream fabrics. Beddings is Italian linen, and there’s 24-hour room service, a stereo and a mini bar. No villa or room feels overlooked and there is plenty of green space.

The beaches are stunning and sufficiently long that they never feel crowded, while the swimming pool is surrounded by four-poster cabanas.

The price includes all three meals, afternoon tea, drinks and cocktails by the glass, as well as use of non-motorised water sports equipment. There is an unlimited bar and unlimited house wine with meals.

Guests pay extra for in-room dining, but the food is outstanding. A simple buffet lunch includes a mountain of fresh lobster, salads, meat and fish. There is also a formal restaurant in the resort’s old colonial manor.

Also included in the price are the fitness centre, a sunset cocktail cruise and nightly movies. Guests pay extra for scuba diving, instructed activities such as tennis and Pilates, beauty and massage treatments and excursions.

Facilities: 40 rooms and 11 Harbour Villas. Large lap pool, tennis, putting green, croquet lawn, nanny service, Verandah Restaurant and Estate House Restaurant.
Get there: a seven-minute boat transfer, 10-minute transfer from the airport.
Verdict: 4 /5
Sample price:Caribtours offers a double Ocean View Room for seven nights from £2,351 per person twin-share, including flights with British Airways or Virgin Atlantic, lounge pass and transfers, for departures in June.

Hotel check by Chris Coplans


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