From J.M., New York, NY
We chose to return to Carlisle Bay in Antigua for the winter holiday (our last visit was Spring ‘08) for a variety of reasons: we liked the intimate layout of the resort, the rooms are perfect for a family with two children (a separate room for the kids is situated in the back), the flights are direct to Antigua and the price was not outrageous like some of the other resorts during Christmas holidays (and the minimum nights was relaxed). In addition, there is a laid-back luxury to the resort which appealed to us. For my husband, the tennis courts were among the best he has seen in the Caribbean. And the kids club is very good for children under seven (although my six-year-old daughter preferred to hang with her new friends at the pool or beach). The screening room, which runs kids movies during the day, near the pool, is a great asset but an unknown moldy smell kept many at bay. The resort set up/layout and amenities couldn’t be more ideal for families with kids.
However, for those seeking a Four Seasons or Ritz-Carlton type of experience, this is not the place to go. Service was inconsistent (and in some cases, like at the pool, non -existent) and you don’t get the “pampered” experience. But the crowd here (60% Brits, 40% New Yorkers and Canadians) isn’t looking for that…they are looking for convenience and relaxation in a beautiful setting. (And it’s a more relaxed crowd in general – no need to dress up here.) The new GM is British (the last GM went over to the new Jumby Bay), and there were some staff on loan from One Aldwych, a sister property in London. They were the best, particularly Roberto the bartender. Our biggest complaint was the lack of service at the pool. It didn’t exist. You had to go to the bar to order your food or request towels on the lounge chairs to be changed from the previous guests. I hope they fix this. I have every confidence after meeting the new GM, though, that kinks will be worked out. He seemed very interested in getting customer feedback and testing what works and does not. (A $50 lunch time tapas fiesta outside on the beach was a thumbs up, the $250 five-course New Years Eve dinner was over priced, too long and average food).
Tips: We booked rather late so we were unable to get a downstairs suite, which is a huge difference, especially with kids. If you are going to come here, I would only do so with a bottom level suite. You literally open the doors of your suite to a crescent beach with a really calm and swimmable ocean. Kids go back and forth all day to different rooms, making it feel a bit like a bungalow colony (in a good way). If you are upstairs, you lose this ability, and it’s just a completely difference experience. The bottom suites sell out quickly. Many families we met were booking for next holiday to get the same suites.
Also, when you book the hotel, they mention a complimentary “children’s tea hour” at the pool from 5-6 p.m. This is really a children’s buffet (food is inconsistent, though), and almost everyone came here each day to feed their kids. You can request something special if there is nothing appealing – and it is all free.
Note: Rooms are wireless, but if you have issues, there is a library with two PCs with free internet access. When we were there, it was tough to access the computer as teenagers were often on it using it for Facebook and Twitter, which got a bit frustrating. I believe/hope PCs will be available soon at the teen center to avoid this in the future.
We didn’t venture out much outside the property during our stay. We were content to stay put. We went to OJ’s (Crabb Hill Beach; 268-460-0184), a beach-side casual restaurant (lots of mosquitos, so beware) one night, but otherwise either ate at the restaurants or ordered in our room. Room service food is often better than in the restaurants! The food at the two on-site restaurants is pretty good but could use more variety day-to-day as it could get staid after a few days. Other guests mention Abracadabra (_Dockyard Drive, English Harbour; 268-460-2701), an Italian restaurant that is a twenty-minute drive away, as being really good.
Read about another member’s multigenerational trip to Carlisle Bay
Read about the reopening of Jumby Bay
Read about visiting Parrot Cay with kids