General Manager of Petit St. Vincent Resort Matthew Semark Talks Private Island Life in the Grenadines
Swim, cocktail, lunch, scuba, cocktail, dinner, repeat.
February 09 2018 11:30 AM EST
February 09 2018 7:32 AM EST
Swim, cocktail, lunch, scuba, cocktail, dinner, repeat.
Petit St Vincent is a private island resort in the West Indies, in the Caribbean island chain of St. Vincent & The Grenadines. The island has just 22 stone-built country-style cottages, cleverly scattered around the contours of the island taking advantage of the stunning views and all offering complete privacy and seclusion.
Matthew Semark has years of experience running luxury resorts around the globe, including many years in Southeast Asia and Africa. Prior to taking the helm at Petit St Vincent mid-2011, he was the general manager at the Karma Resort in Bali, Indonesia, and before that was the general manager at Fundu Lagoon Resort on Pemba Island in Zanzibar, Tanzania. He also worked with the renowned Áman Resort Group for over five years in Indonesia.
The 40-year-old started his hospitality career as a chef, following the culinary college years, and quite a number of kitchen disasters, he was given the opportunity to work on-board a variety of large ships where he learned how to stop burning things, and eventually went shore side working at an assortment of different restaurants, studying under talented mentors learning their tricks.
Matthew is also a certified scuba diving instructor, with over 4,500 dives under his belt, and he will take any opportunity to strip semi-naked and strap a dive tank on his back.
Thankfully, he took some time off from managing this beautiful resort to answer a few questions for us at OutTraveler:
Describe the perfect weekend at Petit St. Vincent:
Turn your phone off as you arrive on the dock via motor yacht (the only way to arrive on our private island resort). Check into your cottage, take a nap, and wander down to the beach for a swim. Enjoy a pre-dinner cocktail at the main bar, followed by dinner at the Main Pavilion Restaurant overlooking the nearby island of Petit Martinique. Breakfast delivered to your cottage in the morning, taken on the deck overlooking the Caribbean. A lazy day of snorkeling off the Atlantic pier, lobster for lunch at the Beach Restaurant, and a late-afternoon spa treatment in the treetop spa. Naps. Maybe a set of tennis. Another pre-dinner drink, this time at Goatie's Bar at the Beach Restaurant, to catch the sunset. A hike up Marni hill to get a 360-degree vantage point of the southern Grenadine islands. Don't turn phone back on until you reach the airport in Barbados.
Tell us the fabulous places to eat and drink that comprise your hotel:
The Beach Restaurant is literally on the beach—shoes not required. The accompanying bar (Goatie's, named after the island's longest-serving employee) is situated perfectly to catch the sunset, and is a great meeting spot for guests and yachties who happen to be sailing by and are in need of a chilled glass of rosé or moreish cocktail or two! The adjacent restaurant serves up delicious grilled lobster (when in season) along with an abundance of other delights, including a Caribbean inspired tapas section, Mediterranean style salads and pasta dishes, lots of local caught fish and gourmet cuts of imported meats that are grilled to order on the permanent barbecue, many of the dishes also include ingredients from our extensive on-island chef gardens.
If you had to give a visitor one keepsake from the destination, what would it be?
We've had guests take home the pre-printed room service order sheets in the cottages. Guests fill them out, roll them up, and place them in the hollowed-out bamboo cylinder that is attached to their driftwood flagpole in front of their cottage. A staff member monitors the flagpoles constantly and retrieves the requests, and brings the necessary items, all in a surprisingly short amount of time. The flagpole system has been in place since the resort opened 50 years ago, and guests remark that it is one of the most charming things about the island. I suppose that's why they will take a few room-service request sheets home, to remember that feeling (or possibly to train their partners with!!).
You must have a large staff of people running the operation, anyone in particular stand out?
Noel Victory (known as "Goatie") helped the original owner build the resort back in the mid-1960s, and he still works part-time with PSV today. Goatie has seen it all, and has some great stories to tell. When the Beach Restaurant and Bar were built in 2011, the owners decided to honor Goatie and name the bar after him.
Can you tell us what are some of the difficulties of running a private island property in a place without a legacy of high-end service?
Due to our ‘off the beaten track’ remoteness, things take a little longer to get here, such as supply deliveries etc. We've learned to manage that, by adjusting ordering schedules, etc., but the notion of ‘island time’ is more than just a saying. It is a reality!
We are determined to remain a sanctuary for our guests and that means we protect their privacy and desire to ‘turn off’ while on holiday, due to such we have consciously decided not to add wireless connections to the cottages or public areas. We realize that might mean that some potential guests will choose not to stay with us, but we hope that there are enough people out there who embrace the idea and even seek it out.
What is the current state of the Caribbean after this year's horrific hurricane? Is it time for us to travel back?
We are very lucky in that our location is well below the ‘hurricane belt,’ so we were unaffected by the storms last year. We know that other areas weren't so lucky, and are still struggling to rebuild. It is definitely time to travel back, especially so to help support the local economies in their recovery.
What is the current attitude in the Grenadines concerning LGBT travelers? It's still illegal to be gay, so what would you say to prospective LGBT travels.
Petit St Vincent has always been a unique little oasis in the West Indies, thanks to its status as a privately owned island and its remote setting. A large portion of our business is repeat guests who come back each year, and that includes over 30 same-sex couples, as well as many other first timers—some male, some female, some with kids, and others without. In terms of staff members, we have found that a number of our gay staff consciously applied for a position here at PSV due to the welcoming, non-discriminate nature of our entire team. With over 115 acres and only 22 guest cottages, PSV is the perfect tranquil escape offering the utmost in privacy.
Don't leave the Grenadines without experiencing these three things...
- Sailing to the Tobago Cays, the protected marine park in PSV's backyard
- Snorkeling/diving the crystal clear waters and checking out our coral restoration project!
- Rum punch! Every island has a slightly different version, but we're pretty sure ours is the best!
Want to find out more about what a holiday in the Grenadines is like? Be sure to read our feature on this unique Caribbean destination over at OutTraveler.com.