When you’re a middle school teacher, kindness becomes priceless.
Thus, when Colin and I (both public school teachers) walked into The Phoenix Resort in San Pedro on the island of Ambergris Caye for the first day of our Belize Honeymoon, we were nearly moved to tears.
“Welcome!” sang Gabriela at the front desk. “You must be Lillie and Colin.”
“Oh!” I gasped, stunned to be addressed by name, rather than as an anonymous traveler.
“Fresh ginger punch,” said a gentle voice behind us as we were handed two frosty glasses with straws. (Background information: Colin and I are obsessed with ginger and regularly eat chunks of it with all meals.) Happiness!
But the awe had just begun.
Gabriela led us up a spotless outdoor stairway to a second floor terrace and opened a hardwood door using a key dangling from a flip-flop carving.
As she threw the door open, light poured in through the giant glass wall, illuminating the azure infinity pool and palm-lined ocean-front right outside.
Later, the manager, Mark, explained that The Phoenix was constructed to feel like a condo or home rather than a hotel. Sure enough, as we gazed around the granite-topped kitchen (with its full-sized stainless steel refrigerator, dishwasher, stocked cabinets, and purified water tap) we considered trading in our Boston apartment for this one. (Our current Boston kitchen is a three-foot by five-foot nook, and Colin and I are both over six feet tall.)
Our eyes then flew to the living room area.
The plush couches and flat-screen TV framed a classy table so that when seated, we could look out the wall of windows onto the private balcony, the pools, and the Caribbean Sea.
“Ahh!” I wailed, “The problem with this is that I’ll never want to leave this suite!”
“Don’t worry,” said Gabriela, “our staff will help you find great activities to do.”
Indeed, we did emerge sometimes from our luxury suite! We ended up taking the staff’s recommendations for fabulous snorkeling with sharks and rays, tasty restaurants, and (for Colin but not for me because I got scared) Scuba Diving lessons!
“Let me show you the bedrooms,” said Gabriela.
“Bedroom-s, plural?” I squealed.
I nearly fainted when we walked into the Master Bedroom.
Carefully spelled across the giant, cloud-like white bed in fresh flowers of all colors was written: “I <3 U, L + C!”
I have never, ever seen such thoughtful attention to detail.
“Eeeiii!!!!” I screamed. “This is amazing!!!!”
The white curtains billowed softly with the current of the fan and the air conditioning, framing the wall and a half of windows overlooking the sea.
(Note: The Phoenix is so cleverly designed architecturally that it only offers two types of rooms: “Beach View” and “Beachfront.” No “Concrete Wall View” rooms for this place.)
We toured the other bedroom and the two stately bathrooms of the suite.
Each of the washcloths was folded into an artful fan shape, and fresh, bright red flowers peeked jauntily from each towel nook and the clasped hands of the hanging bathrobes.
“This is beautiful,” I sighed. “All teachers deserve this, always!”
Colin nodded vigorously, recalling his past two years with Teach for America in one of the most challenging school districts of Massachusetts.
“I want to write a really detailed article about this so everyone can cyber-travel with us and feel the beauty, also,” I murmured.
We circled back to the kitchen where Gabriela pointed out two hand-written postcards for us next to delectable treats. On the counter next to coconut-lime bars we read:
“Welcome to The Phoenix, Lillie and Colin. Thank you for staying with us. Please let us know what we can do to make it special.
– Gabriela, Pam, Rose, Ted, and Danny”
In the fridge in front of delicious iced beverages it said: “Happy Honeymoon, Lillie and Colin! Thanks for celebrating with us. Enjoy…”
We devoured the coconut-lime bars in record time, then scampered outside to snap photos of the infinity pool and beach before changing into a bathing suit and frolicking in the crystal-clear water.
Have you ever heard the Madonna song, “La Isla Bonita”? Well it turns out it’s about Ambergris Caye.
Remember the tune’s first line, “Last night I dreamed of San Pedro”? That’s where The Phoenix is!
What’s nice about the resort is that it’s quiet and tranquil, but it’s also right in the center of the town of San Pedro, meaning it’s a short walk from all sorts of delightful shops and eateries. Other resorts on the island are much more inconveniently located.
While we ventured out to all those San Pedro shops in subsequent days, that first night at The Phoenix we were still feeling the three flights we took to get to Ambergris Caye plus the two hour time difference, and thus opted to trot downstairs to Red Ginger, the scrumptious, classy restaurant run by The Phoenix.
I walked in thinking I would fall asleep on the table (our Boston bodies thought it was midnight, though it was 10pm) but strode out after dinner smiling and happy from the heavenly ceviche, salad, and pasta paired with the playful friendliness of the waiter.
After three phenomenal nights at The Phoenix, we now wave goodbye to its gracious staff, pack up our bags, and head out on the water taxi to Caye Caulker, the next island over.
We feel relaxed, happy, well taken care of, and grateful for such a glorious start to our Belize Honeymoon.
THANK YOU to The Phoenix for showing us how to take hospitality to the next level. We will take the lessons you taught us back to our classrooms in Boston, where we plan to greet our middle school students next year with the graciousness and honor you modeled.
Readers, what are some exceptional customer service experiences YOU have had?
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We were guests of The Phoenix, but all opinions are our own.