Antigua and Barbuda Travel Guide
Reading this Wall Street Journal review of the newly renovated Jumby Bay Resort, it was easy to get swept up in all the luxury. Then we came to the part where write Laura Landro says, “I was a little surprised to learn there was no room key.” Ditto, Laura!
Like this writer, we tend to be security freaks when traveling, especially alone. So the idea of not being able to barricade ourselves in our rooms—or our valuables when we’re out—is a little unnerving. Have you ever stayed at a hotel without a room key? Did it freak you out?
Picture a hotel called Sugar Ridge and you might imagine some place on the ridge of a hill bordered by sugar cane … and that's exactly what the new Sugar Ridge hotel in Antigua looks like. Four years after they started building (and no doubt a while after they had serious doubts whether building a hotel was the right thing to do at the moment) the Sugar Ridge is ready to open on December 1.
They're aiming for luxury and affordability, often a tricky combination, and the luxury includes the Sugar Club Spa – the first Aveda spa on Antigua. There are just 60 rooms but there are two restaurants, along with two swimming pools and a shopping arcade. It's also very close to the Jolly Harbor Marina which has an 18-hole golf course.
Win a big award, then close down for a year: probably not the strategy that Rosewood Resorts' Jumby Bay in Antigua had in mind, but perhaps that just shows they were modest enough not to expect to win last year's T+L Best Caribbean Resort award. Shortly after that burst of publicity, Jumby Bay closed up most of their resort to get to work on $28 million worth of renovations, and now these are finally almost done.
As you'd expect, $28 million buys a fair amount of new and improved stuff, and the revamp includes complete overhauls of 12 existing guest suites as well as the addition of 28 brand new suites. The new design style is meant to be a combo of "tropical hideaway" and "romantic British Colonial".
Imagine with us for a moment that someone, somewhere, has just come into a nice pile of cash. We’re talking in the neighborhood of several Gs — not enough to buy a house or condo, mind you, but just enough to make those sad stock options look more than unappealing.
Might we suggest one idea, dear sir or madam, for blowing that wad of cash: a “forget-it-all” vacation at Hermitage Bay Antigua. On Conde Nast Traveler’s 2008 Hot List, the all-inclusive luxury resort is offering beach cottage suites for $1,200 a night for double occupancy (and that’s not even counting the 10 percent government tax and 10 percent service charge). This is apparently a special price, too, so hey, what a deal.
No, not that kind of playful. We're referring to the resort's Playful in Paradise package, which -- for a mere $1084.50 nightly -- allows the soft adventurous to work off a picnic lunch (which is provided) by kayaking to the private island. The exploration continues with a private sailing lesson hosted by the resort's water sports staff, a guided tour of surrounding trails and tropical gardens and some time to zen out with yoga instruction.
We are suckers for a room with a killer view. We find that we are even more likely to forgive some minor hotel inconveniences if we can stare out the window at something pretty--yeah we are that shallow. Let's help out our fellow hotel mavens by uploading rooms with killer views to the HotelChatter/Flickr photo pool, or by sending the photo along to us. We will feature our favorites in this space from time to time. Remember to tell us the name of the hotel and the room number of the hot view.
Think you could handle this view? We'd be more than happy to, and it comes from a hillside cottage suite at the Hermitage Bay resort in Antigua. Great short range view over our own pool, mid-range to the gorgeous beach, and long range over the grassy dunes and the sea--yep, pretty much picture perfect.
The price matches the view, with the hillside cottages commanding the highest rates of the resort--$850 a night in the low season (June to August) and up to $1,800 a night over Christmas and New Year. But at least it's an all-inclusive, which includes house wines and "premium" drinks: but fancier wines off their wine list and "deluxe" drinks cost extra.
Not that we're obsessed with drinking or anything, but this is the kind of view where all you need is a great cocktail on your deckchair and you can while away the evening staring out into the sea.
This is one of the most horrific stories we've heard happening at hotels yet. Two honeymooners from Wales were shot at during a raid on their luxury hotel in Antigua yesterday. The bride was killed and her husband fighting for his life in a hospital's intensive care unit with a bullet wound in the neck.
The couple, Catherine and Benjamin Mullaney, were honeymooning at the Cocos Hotel when robbers burst into their cottage while they slept.
Tourism minister Harold Lovell said investigators will look at whether there were any lapses in security at the hotel, which employs guards. He said other hotel guests have been left traumatised by the murder and some have requested to be relocated. Speaking on Sky News, he said: "The police are still obviously trying to work out the motive, but they think robbery will be the motive."
The island of Antigua has had a spike in crime with 10 murders reported so far this year and a recent spree of shootings reported as well.
As for the Cocos Hotel, it certainly looks like paradise with all cottages promising sea views and beach access. On the hotel's website, Cocos promises: "an exclusive resort for those looking to escape to paradise. Cocos offers complete peace and tranquility, an abandon from the stress of life, where your every need is catered for." Sad.
When you hit the Jumby Bay Blog (don't try and say that after a couple of drinks, by the way), the first impression is good. It looks nice. Plenty of pictures of long white beaches and sparkling blue sea, and a neat looking layout. But start reading and you might be disappointed--we were.
It's not just a promotional blog, it's a whack-you-over-the-head promotional blog. Each post so far advertises packages or aspects of Jumby Bay without anywhere near enough attempt to make it interestingly readable.
The list of categories on the left looked interesting, until you start clicking, because every post has been linked to practically every category.
In the interests of fairness, it is very early days at the Jumby Bay Blog, and we hope to see a bit more story-telling and a few less categories attached to each post. As it stands, it's not the kind of hotel blog we'd go back to read again, even if it does look pretty.
[Photo: Jumby Bay Blog]
Summer doesn't seem to be getting any closer for those up in the northern hemisphere, but down at the Blue Waters Antigua the summer is pretty much there all year round. Blue Waters is a small resort with just 77 rooms and suites, and is proud to be one of Antigua's longest established resorts.
Long established can mean in-need-of-repair, but the Blue Waters has been undergoing some renovations and guest reports are very postive. From a base at the Blue Waters, there are plenty of activities within reach, including sailing, snorkeling, golf, kayaking and windsurfing, or you can also hire a jeep and head round the island in a few hours. Apparently though the tennis court hasn't yet experienced the refurbishment and its rough surface might make for a frustrating game.
Meals can be had outdoors in the Palm Restaurant, or for a more upmarket dinner try the Vyvien's A-La-Carte place; there is also the gourmet Cove Restaurant on site, but if you've booked an all-inclusive package you won't be able to eat there.
Winter rates--the winter season runs until April 23, 2008--start at $479 for a double in the basic Superior Hillside room, rising to $1050 for a Cove Suite and if you're traveling with a group, you can grab the Cove Penthouse with three bedrooms for $2132 a night. For various surcharges you can add breakfast or all-inclusive deals that also include access to more of the facilities. Or you can just hang out at the beach.
[Photo: the boss'ess]
Heading for Antigua for an escape into warm weather and got some pretty deep pockets? Well, with a pretty long list of awards, you can't go too far wrong with the Galley Bay Resort. As well as being #1 on the TripAdvisor ratings, Galley Bay was named on Conde Nast's 2007 "World's Best Places to Stay" list (and it was there in 2005, too).
Galley Bay is an all-inclusive resort set in 40 acres of gardens, and although it's not quite an eco-resort, care has been taken to make the buildings blend into nature as well as possible. There are 69 suites and cottages and the majority of them front directly on to the beach. One of the main restaurants, Gauguin, is an intimate spot that gets a few mixed reviews but generally sounds good; you can also eat at the Seagrape Restaurant--dress standards apply.
There seem to be two down-sides to a stay at the Galley Bay, although neither are really the fault of the resort: there are a lot of bugs around (bring your repellent if you want to head outside) and the sea is often too rough for swimming, or certainly too choppy for relaxing. That said, the resort of course has private splash pools for some of the villas. As for the bugs, you'll have to deal with them yourself, but that's part and parcel of getting warm weather, right?
We're not sure if the world needed another huge Sandals resort but someone decided that it did and thus, the new addition to the Sandals Grande Antigua Resort and Spa just opened this past weekend.
Much like the opening for The Cove at Atlantis, Sandals brought out celebs to celebrate its opening weekend. And by celebs we mean Rumer Willis, Kimora Lee Simmons, Shaggy, Teri Polo and Laguna Beach alum Stephen Colletti.
Jen at Ok! Magazine actually has the "play-by-play" on the opening festivities including a brief description of the suite "which is like a palacial suite with a balcony overlooking the entire 'rainy' village", her stint in a beer-guzzling competition and a report that Rumer Willis and Stephen Colleti were in the hot tub til 4am while friendly Sandals butlers refreshed their towels.
As for the new addition, it totally resembles The Cove, complete with some flash media presentation that talks about a "legend" and an "epic of love." The presentation also says the place was so grand and so luxurious it needed a new name--the Mediterranean Village. Um, that's not so grand or epic.
Anyways, in typical Sandals fashion it remains an all-inclusive resort but now it has all-suite accommodations and the Eastern Caribbean's largest pool:
As big as an ocean, this impressive new pool features a majestic tower for viewing sunsets, a colonnaded swim-up bar, and chic pool-side cabanas for lounging in intimate luxury.
Plus Sandal's has exclusive butler service, the first for their resorts, with butlers trained by the Guild of Professional English Butlers. This service is available for those staying in the concierge suites. And of course, this is Sandals. There's so much more to do here aside from make-out in a hot tub. And for that we can't really fault Sandals.
Here at Hotel Chatter, we've seen plenty of crazy stuff, but when we heard about the midnight messages at Jumby Bay in Antigua we wondered what they'd think of next.
The private island retreat (which, needless to say, is our favorite kind) recently debuted it's midnight messages for couples who prefer to unwind before bedtime. Resident message therapists visit guests in the privacy of their suites. The treatment starts at $350 per couple and includes candlelight, therapeutic massage, culinary treats and a hand-drawn bath. Sure, 500-count sheets are nice, but this is pure luxury. And also very conducive for baby-making.
· Baby-Making at Jumby Bay [HotelChatter]