It was January of 2022 when we were on the cusp of Marriot changing redemption rates for points stays and shifting to a redemption rate that was more akin to booking a stay with cash. Supposedly, only the most desirable resorts were going to see an increase in cost but I didn’t want to risk it so I redeemed exactly 315,000 Bonvoy points + $250 in resort fees for a 5 night stay at The French Leave. The rate for an oceanfront villa was $700 a night before tax or about $3500 for the week. Using $3,150 in points was a savings albeit not a good one. That same room booked today will cost 375,000 points or $3,750.
What does the $50 a day resort fee at French Leave get you?
- Snorkel Gear
- Golf Cart
- Pool / Hot Tub
- Fitness Center
- Kayak / Paddleboard
- 4 bottles of water
- Daily housekeeping
Well worth it for this non-optional charge. One could argue these should be included especially since the resort fee is not something you can forgo.
Let’s jump to what everyone is here for. How can you get the most out of your stay at The French Leave? First, you very likely could book a partial view for a savings and use your Marriot Platinum status or higher to get an upgrade to an ocean view. This is what happened to us. It’s a risk you might want to take and if you have a Marriot Brilliant Card, you have Platinum status without doing anything but holding that card despite its huge annual fee.
Additionally, with Bonvoy Platinum status, we were given a daily breakfast voucher. If you want to hack breakfast at French Leave, this card specifically says $24 value but 2 of the 5 days, it coded for $32 off our breakfast. With the Continental breakfast of $16 which is more than enough to fill up one person, you can get a free breakfast with this voucher for 2 of you. Note, taxes and gratuity are not covered by the daily breakfast voucher. So even when I had $32 exactly charged, I still owed about $12 in gratuity and taxes that were added to the bill. I’d encourage everyone with Marriot status to take full advantage and maximize that $32 a day. The food at the on-site restaurant is very good and any food you find in town will exceed the cost you pay after rebate. Even when we purchased a sunrise sandwich ($22) and Coconut Pancakes ($16) and two Teas ($4 each), the bill came out to around $20 after the coupon savings which is less than we would pay to eat breakfast at Da Perk in town. I will say the smoothies at the food truck by Burrows grocery at $4 each are the best deal in Governors Harbor and taste delicious after a morning at the beach.
Our welcome gift was a cocktail at governors house which everyone gets and a chilled white wine bottle in our room that I also assume everyone will receive. The water bottles (4 in your fridge) are replenished every day so drink up and take them with you to the beach in the morning and you’ll get home with more bottles stocked in the fridge.
The mini-bar / snacks are not too overpriced. I compared prices of the beers and chips and cookies to what these cost in the grocery store and you’re paying a 25% convenience up charge. If you hold the Marriot Brilliant Credit card, you’re getting valuable 6x points back on these convenience items so eat up and save yourself a trip to the grocery store if you want a snack.
We had dinner at the restaurant one evening. There is no discount or perks to hotel guests. The food was good and not expensive compared to other nice restaurants on the island. Making a cocktail at your villa before going out and skipping liquor will help you save money on the dinner bill. The food is really good so you won’t be disappointed but two people will spend roughly $100 a day eating breakfast + dinner at 1648 even with that $32 off voucher for being Platinum status.
You can take the coolers they give you off-site. You can also take the snorkel gear anywhere you want. We rented a car for the week and after loading up the cooler with ice and beer, we put everything in our car and went 40 miles south to a beach for the day with our French Leave robes, cooler and snorkels as well as 4 towels and 4 bottles of their complimentary water. No issues with this (I asked and they laughed).
Speaking of getting around, you can’t take their golf cart on the highway. A woman in unit 9 was seen driving into town on Friday morning and we got a kick out of it. The golf cart says explicitly not to do this. She should have rented a car for $400 for the week. We used Justin Pinder (you can google that) and got a Nissan X-Trail which has real 4×4 (not AWD) with brand new knobby tires. We took it everywhere and got it filthy. The island has a LOT to see. Don’t limit yourself just to the resort. We went to the very top and very bottom of the island and were not disappointed. Day 2 was all south of GHB down to Lighthouse Point and day 4 was all northern part of northern Eleuthera. We went to beaches, checked out a deep blue hole and I jumped into it as well as hitting a few beachside snack shops and bars. You’re missing out if you don’t rent a vehicle. There are plenty of resources out there on what to see on the island. I won’t write all of that here but you can do all of the touristy stuff in 2 days…add another day if you want to go swimming with pigs (charter) and take a ferry to the northern islands and see some of the pink sands. We never left the main island and it was 2 days of activities.
If you want a fully tranquil and almost solo experience at French Leave, arrive on Sunday and leave Wednesday. It was a ghost town. They were about 30% occupancy for our arrival on Sunday and by Thursday, 2-3 units were being occupied in addition to that every day. I imagine everyone leaves on Sunday and then the next crowd arrives 3-4 days later. I was amazed how many people did not take advantage of Marriott’s 5th night free that all members can use. If you’re going to book a 3 night stay, you’re one night away from getting the 5th free. 6 days are better than 4 and it means your stay is roughly 20% cheaper by staying just one more night. I didn’t see anyone staying the entire week with us.
Busiest times overall were pretty predictable
- I was 1st to receive a breakfast check (indicated by the ID number 01) by eating breakfast at 8AM
- A couple would 4 days in a row do yoga on the docks at 8:30AM
- Folks would start to visit the French Leave beach around 10:30-11AM
- The pool had activity from 2-6PM daily with 4-6 people in the pool area and most coming in just to take photos of the sunset
- There was an early dinner rush for sunset at the restaurant with some couples arriving early to sit by the docks ahead of their reservation and enjoy the harbor views
- Dinner patrons were on-site until 9PM every night but it was always quiet with 1-2 tables by then having polite conversation
- Grounds crews were busy from 9AM-5PM daily trimming hedges, doing grass, cleaning pools, performing housekeeping and making repairs. Power washing appears to be done every week on Monday and the manager confirmed when I asked him if power washing could be done during waking hours. My villa 19 by the restaurants had power washing until 11PM on Sunday and started at 6AM on Monday. I did complain about this since I couldn’t sleep
There are 6 classes of suites at The French Leave that I determined:
- Partial View Villas (8 of these)
- Ocean front (no kitchenette and closed off balcony, 3 of these)
- Ocean Front Premium (these have balcony steps down to the grounds and a kitchenette, 2 of these)
- Two bedroom Premium (just one unit 9 or 10 that was a 2 bedroom and had a nice back porch overlooking the docks)
- Royal Island House, a very special unit with 5 seperate entrances. 4 doors to go private bedrooms each with a fridge, coffee bar and bathroom / sitting area and one entrance direct to the shared family room which has a full kitchen and living room / dining table. All 5 units have direct access to a shared private pool and all units are connected with doors that lock on both sides. The Royal house is one rate and booked as one block and sleeps 16 people.
We stayed in the Ocean Front without a Kitchen and the Royal Island House. The difference between these two is night and day. The beds are the same and the bathrooms are similar but the Royal Island House, if you’re a large group is WORTH IT. Okay so your’e going from about $4000 a week to $20000 a week to be in the Royal house but you’re also going from 4 person occupancy to 16-18 people. If you have that many people, you’ll enjoy a family room with a full working kitchen and your own private pool. Also, the Royal Island pool is heated to 90F degrees where the shared pool is heated to 80-85F.
The Ocean Front Villa was great. It has a king size bed, fold out couch, coffee bar and small 4 person dining table along with a small fridge and a decent sized bathroom with walk in shower.
Royal Isle doubles the size of the Ocean Front Villa, adds a full kitchen, dining room and sitting room then adds 4 more villas all under one roof. No comparison. As someone who, thanks to my family’s genetics, looks like a broke redneck who didn’t graduate high school, my wife and I got a lot of probing questions being the youngest at French Leave and staying in the big house. I learned a thousand new ways to ask someone how they’re rich without directly asking them.
We ended up getting upgraded to Royal Isle after staying one night in our already upgraded Oceanfront Villa. There’s no hack here. Just pure dumb luck. 30% occupancy paired with maybe my fantastic smile (LOL) and maybe we were first to arrive that week and no one was going to book the house? I’m not sure but it was a GREAT upgrade and I wouldn’t recommend anyone here ask for that upgrade. You’ll most likely be told no. I got home from the beach after Internet was out in our unit for 24 hours to a “we have a surprise for you” from the general manager who escorted me over to the big house. Booking this would have costed over 20 grand…money we certainly don’t have. That’s 4+ years of our household vacation budget. Remember, I’m here on points!
Now for the nitpicks / negatives. Note, these ARE nitpicks. French Leave is a very new resort and there are cracks and so I wanted to raise them here. Maybe management will read them or they’ll be a heads up to guests. French Leave, I believe, is a great value resort. It is an aspirational booking with points and very accessible. That’s why we booked it. We didn’t want to go to South America or Maldives and get the most out of our half a million Bonvoy points balance and not spend over a day traveling to and from the location. This is a great resort for that kind of getaway of luxury but there ARE cracks.
- Toilet paper is cheap. The restaurant bathrooms have nicer toilet paper than the $3,000 a day royal isle house.
- WiFi is very slow on Eleuthera. No fault of the resorts but some units had WiFi issues including ours. I’d like to see that improved
- TVs are nearly microscopic. 42” TVs in 2022 is pretty lame. We enjoy a movie at night from 9-11 with our drinks once the bugs come out and thank goodness I travel with an Amazon Fire Stick 4K Max (my tip to those who are in hotels frequently is to get one of these) but I wish the TVs were larger
- Staff is very friendly but there was some lack of follow through. Not from the front of house management but from staff you see around the grounds. The pool wasn’t cleaned for 4 days even though every morning the very nice pool tech told me he’d have it cleaned that day.
- All of the patio furniture upholstery site-wide was torn
- Lights were out in important safety areas like along the water and on some steps. these lights are to prevent trip hazards and were out
- Our Golf Cart left us stranded and the crew at the maintenance shack was happy to replace it but all of the golf carts are showing age and tires have no treads on most of them. They handled okay in sand but again, they’re making $4000 a week on these villas at minimum and there are 22 of them
- The hot tub didn’t work. It was colder than our pool at Royal Isle house and the jets didn’t work
- The free ice machine was only putting out salt water for 2 days..salt water ice. I was advised not to mix drinks with it. This is an island, things aren’t perfect but it’s a crack
- The Royal Isle House has a full kitchen and utensils, pots, pans, dishes but doesn’t have any drinking glasses. A crap load of coffee cups but no water glasses for making drinks
- Lots of bird poo on the yacht dock. Could use some pressure washing
- Door handles are pretty finicky. Unit 19 we were in had a failed entry door handle and Royal Isle House was difficult to open without a lot of pressure on the handles
- Igloo coolers were end of life. The latches wouldn’t close on ours and I’d personally expect something more like Yeti coolers for a $4,000 a week villa
- The road to the beach’s hound probably be paved. It’s not easy to do at the moment because of the construction going on back there for more units being built for TFL staff (lots of trucks in and out) but it’s quite a 1 mile experience riding a golf cart out to the beach. I liked it but some may not.
- Most of the staff we met had two jobs. Just an observation. Maybe Bahamians are total hustlers (like me) or TFL isn’t paying a living wage. I’m not sure but I will say staff were always very friendly. I appreciated the GM’s style as well. He ran daily 9AM all hands stand ups for staff to review issues of the day (kitchen / wait staff were excluded) and I never saw anyone on staff twiddling their thumbs looking for something to do. It was a well run operation as far as staffing goes. Everyone had a job to do…maybe they need more people even?
- There seems to have been some drainage work done post-paving of the main drag between the partial & ocean view villas but this left some pretty big pot holes that should be filled in
- The sugar in the coffee bar in both 19 and the Royal Isle house was so old it had turned to syrup or maybe no AC on and it melted?
- The AC in unit 19 froze our OJ and Limes after one night
These are the WORST and most infantile nitpicks I can think of about French Leave. Honestly, really nitpicking here.
What was great?
Everything else. The location, staff, the guests, the villas, the amenities. You can stay 5 full days at The French Leave, eat at the restaurant 3 meals a day and make some mixed drinks at home using the mini bar. You can only patronize TFL and never have to walk into town (or in some cases, Kayak). For the quality and style of TFL’s amenities, everything is well priced. Budget an extra $100-$150 a day on your stay and just never leave the resort. You can spend all day sleeping in, seeing the sunrise from the french leave beach, a dip in the tub mid-day with an afternoon nap under an umbrella and enjoy sunset from the restaurant. It’s really doable and you’re spending something like 400K points today to book and an extra $750 on amenities at the hotel to wine and dine all week. You could also do what we did and rent a car for $400 and spend $150 on groceries and $200 on meals / booze for the entire week + $70 in gas to get you all around the island for 6 days so instead of spending your $750 at French Leave, you’ll spend about $1000 but see the entire island and get some more variety in what you eat and drink.
If you look at Marriot Properties in Bahamas, you have Atlantis, Courtyard in Nassau (which I stayed for 2 nights and it’s not great but necessary if you’re waiting for a flight to Eleuthera) and finally the French Leave. TFL is the best Marriot property and you can get to ELH or GHB airports from Florida on American Airlines, then rent your car and spend a week exploring the island. It will be cheaper than a cruise and you’ll get way more tranquil blue waters than a cruise offers anyway. I would argue the French Leave is not kid friendly. It is and totally doable. We appreciated being there without children and you may as well. A Bahama Mama cocktail in our private pool with the sunset every day became a tradition on the first day and it made for a great honeymoon.
Will I return to the French Leave? Probably not. The island is long but small. We saw everything we wanted to see and our last day we were ready to leave. Next, we’ll do Mexico on points now that we’re still way over a million points balance between Marriot and Amex and Mexico is a LOT cheaper and has food that is more our style (cheap tacos and margaritas).