|Sandals Grande Antigua Resort & Spa is located on the Dickenson Bay beach, whose white sand attracts many visitors.|
Galley Bay Resort & Spa
We hadn’t been to Galley Bay Resort & Spa for more than five years, but we will not wait that long to return next time. Why, you ask? This resort has the best beach of the four we visited on the island, thanks to its generous size and least number of people.
On that first visit, we stayed in one of the hotel’s Gauguin cottages, which are hidden amid the gardens and offer lagoon views and concealed individual plunge pools for private dips. General Manager Alex de Brito told us that six of the 15 cottages were completely renovated this summer, and that the remaining nine will get a face-lift by the end of next summer.
|Curtain Bluff is flanked by water on both sides and sits on a rocky promontory that extends into the sea.|
On this trip, we stayed in an Ocean View Suite located mere feet away from the sound. There are 20 of these, with four one-bedroom rooms located in each building. The top rooms provide better views of the ocean while the lower-level rooms offer easier access to the beach. But we suggest going with higher-level rooms since it is still practically effortless to get to the beach. These are perfect rooms for VIPs whose top priorities are sun and beach. However, the garden views are also quite impressive for those who appreciate some tasteful flora and fauna. This is also a hotel for bird lovers as it is known to attract an array of avian species at all times of the day.
For any special room requests, luxury travel advisors should reach out to Debra Berke ([email protected]), manager of the Travel Agent Concierge Desk for Elite Island Resorts.
Nice Touch: Although there is no beach service, the hotel provides clients with two Galley Bay water bottles per room to be used to fill up a tasty, adult cocktail to go. But if drinking roughly 20 ounces of booze at a time isn’t exactly your client’s thing, there are two bars located on either side of the beach. The bar in front of the Sea Grape restaurant and the bar at Ismay’s restaurant, both serve drinks during the day. Tip: Agents should tell clients about Ismay’s bar since many guests we met at the hotel were unaware that it was open during the day and instead opted to walk to Sea Grape, which is on the other end of the beach.
The multi-level spa has three massage areas, two of which are rustic, open-air treatment “pods.” The pods are rough-hewn, airy massage decks draped with sheer, white curtains for privacy, and both overlook the bird sanctuary and lagoon. In-room treatments can also be provided for guests. Hint: You can take a bit of indulgence home with you, as beauty products used during your treatment are available for purchase.
The best restaurants here are the upscale Ismay’s, which is known for its fresh lobster, and the Gauguin Restaurant, the highlight of which is its extremely quiet surroundings. VIPs at Gauguin are seated outside in front of the ocean. Ismay’s, named after the hotel’s longest-tenured employee, comes with a surcharge. Both the restaurants require reservations, which can be made the morning of, but we suggest a day before to play it safe.
|Galley Bay Resort & Spa has a large beach with minimal crowds.|
Another great option is the open-air Sea Grape, which is the main restaurant. It doesn’t require reservations and has ample seating facing the ocean. You may not see the ocean at night, but hearing the waves crash while you’re dining is pretty soothing. We suggest eating late, as the restaurant tends to clear out around 8:30 to 9 p.m., allowing for more personal service.
Galley Bay has six small cabanas that can be rented each day with the proceeds going to charity. Since a good chunk of the hotel’s guests are Europeans who usually have very late flights, these rooms are not cabanas in the traditional sense, but rather small rooms where VIPs can store their bags and shower in privacy.
Coming Soon: GM de Brito tells Luxury Travel Advisor that by the end of December, the resort will have a brand new gift shop that will also serve as a grocery store, a new Diamonds International shop, a new rum and cigar bar and a new fitness center that will have ocean views, something the current gym does not offer.
The current gift shop will become the office of the owner and general manager, and the current gym will be included as part of the shopping complex that will house the new gift shop.
Advisors looking to further customize their clients’ vacation should reach out to Sherrie Ault ([email protected]), director of sales for Galley Bay.
|Hermitage Bay’s Beachfront Suites come with unobstructed views of the Caribbean Sea.|
This resort provided the best views of all the hotels we visited in Antigua.
The best rooms here are the Hillside Pool Suites and the Beachfront Suites. We saw Hillside Pool Suite No. 32, whose top feature was the view from the pool. Note: We do recommend that guests be in at least moderate physical shape to stay in any of these rooms as they do require some stairs to get to.
|Hermitage Bay has 27 suites that are surrounded by 140 acres of greenery.|
The seven Beachfront Suites, however, are the perfect fit for those who opt for an effortless trip back to their rooms. We were told the best of these is Beachfront Suite No. 9, because it is the last suite on the beach and offers the most privacy. Hillside Suite No. 39 is the best of the Hillside Suites, because it offers the highest view. Again, warn clients of some stairs.
The spa here has a total of three treatment rooms, two of which are for couples. Note: Yoga, Pilates and meditation classes are all complimentary. Hint: We were told the hotel attracts younger couples in the summer and the more mature ones around January, February and March.
|Hermitage Bay’s Hillside Pool Suites afford sweeping views from the pool area.|
Luxury travel advisors looking to make special requests for VIPs should reach out to Stephanie Mack ([email protected]), sales and marketing executive for Hermitage Bay.
|Curtain Bluff has 72 rooms and is a good fit for both couples and multigenerational guests.|
This hotel was the best at combining the adults and family-friendly atmosphere, making it a good fit for both couples and multigenerational guests. There are 72 rooms here. One of the coolest features of this resort is its wine cellar, something pretty unique for Antigua hotels.
The best rooms here are the two presidential suites, the “Grace Bay Suite” and the “Morris Bay Suite,” which occupy the third floor of the first building on the beach and have separate living rooms and bedrooms with a large patio and a Jacuzzi. Tip: These rooms come with a king bed but can also accommodate a roll-away cot. Book these at least two months out as the hotel gets about 75 percent repeat clients who know what they like in terms of room inventory.
There are 18 Deluxe Rooms but six are Executive Deluxe Rooms, meaning they can interconnect, making them a perfect fit for multigenerational families. Note: The hotel also offers babysitting services and has a Kids Club available five days a week from 9 a.m to 4 p.m.
|Curtain Bluff’s Junior Suites are spread through three-story villas.|
The spa has four treatment rooms, including one for couples. All treatments should be booked a day before, while during high season bookings should be made two days in advance.
Luxury travel advisors looking to make special requests for clients should reach out to the hotel’s travel agent liaison, Karen Bull ([email protected]), sales manager for IslandLuxe - Places of Personality.
|Sandals Grande Antigua’s Mediterranean One Bedroom Butler Villa Suite with Private Pool Sanctuary comes with a plunge pool and a whirlpool.|
Sandals Grande Antigua Resort & Spa
We were on hand, roughly 10 years ago, when Sandals Grande Antigua invited media on a hard-hat construction tour of its new Mediterranean Village, and again during the grand opening of that tower a few months later.
Now, a decade later, the hotel looks just as fresh as ever. Fun Fact: The Caribbean side of the hotel represented Sandals Resorts International’s maiden expansion outside of Antigua when it first opened in 1991. There are about 180 rooms on the Mediterranean and 193 rooms on the Caribbean side.
We recommend any Club Level or Butler Level room. Note: All Butler Level and Club Level rooms gain access to Club Sandals. The best part about Club Sandals is that you have your own private concierge. The Club Sandals Lounge is accessible 24 hours with the Club Sandals Concierge, available between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m., to assist with reservations for spas, excursions, restaurants and just about anything. This is also where Club Level VIPs and those with butler rooms check in. Nice Touch: Preferred Club Sandals Lounge check-in includes a chilled towel and glass of champagne.
The hotel’s Red Lane Spa has 10 treatment rooms, four of which are for couples. Hint: Spa employees and butlers are the only Sandals staffers who are allowed to accept tips. We were told spa employees are usually tipped about 20 percent.
As far as dining goes, Eleanor’s, which serves Caribbean cuisine, and Kimonos, which is known for Japanese cushiness, are among the hotel’s most popular options. Reservations for both should be made a day in advance. Hint: We were told the Caribbean side of the hotel will be home to a Butch’s Chophouse, a steakhouse currently found at Sandals Barbados and Sandals LaSource Grenada. It is expected to open next year.
Advisors seeking special requests should connect with Ezra Knowles ([email protected]), sales manager of Sandals Grande Antigua Resort & Spa.
Keep An Eye On Barbuda
Keep Antigua’s sister island, Barbuda, on your radar, which could soon be witnessing some much-buzzed-about development. Actor Robert De Niro and investor James Packer plan to turn Barbuda’s K-Club hotel into a luxury resort that would represent a $250 million investment. The plans were officially approved in early March in a referendum by a vote of 206-175.
The Appeal: Barbuda is a haven for unpopulated beaches, snorkeling, scuba diving and fishing. We recommend the Barbuda Express boat ride to the island to get a full-day sample of its offerings.
Arrangements can be made from most Antigua hotels. It leaves around 9 a.m. and returns by 6 p.m., stopping at several sites in Antigua and Barbuda. Advisors should visit www.barbudaexpress.com and e-mail [email protected]
Looking for a good driver to recommend to VIPs? John Henry is the first person the tourist board calls when they have a VIP needing special treatment and we didn’t have a single complaint with his service. He can be reached at 1-268-461-8179 or 1-268-727-6953. We were also impressed by driver Al Williams, who works for the tourist board, as well. He can be reached at [email protected].