> Destinations > Antigua and Barbuda > Trip Reports > Trip Report
My partner and I visited Galley Bay during the last 2 weeks of April. We've visited St Lucia once before and Barbados three times, but this was our first ever trip to Antigua - thanks to this forum (and others) our expectations were pretty high.
Flew from Gatwick with Virgin in Upper Class. Great flight, good food 'n' booze, and nearly an hour early into V C Bird Airport. Quite quick through immigration and customs, and soon stood outside in 90 degree heat (shock to the system) waiting for our taxi transfer, which arrived after about 15 minutes - at least it gave us time for a cigarette!
Driving toward the hotel, via St. Johns, we got our first real glimpse of Antigua. Clearly quite a poor island, especially compared to Barbados, but somehow all the more charming for it. Anyone who sees goats, sheep, donkeys and even the occasional cow wandering over the road as off-putting is missing the point. Go to Cancun instead.
Arriving at Galley Bay was quite an experience. The reception is on the opposite side of a large lagoon from the hotel, giving a great view across the water to the peaked roofs of the resort peaking out from amongst the palm trees. "Welcome to paradise", we were told as we stepped up to reception - cheesy, but when you're on holiday you just have to go with it.
Check-in was quick and efficient and soon we were being whisked over the lagoon road by golf cart. Would we like a welcome drink before being taken to our room? After almost a nanosecond we opted for the drink, stepped past reception towards the bar and were immediately hit by That View. Wow. Blue sky, aquamarine Caribbean Sea and golden sand running right up to the decking in front of the bar. We were introduced to the perma-happy Lisa who, having bar tending duties that day, quickly acquainted us with the first rum punch of our holiday. Followed by a very welcome re-acquaintance. And then one for the road.
Suddenly feeling the effects of a long flight or perhaps the heat, we once again boarded our golf cart to be transported to our accommodation - a premium beach front suite, No. 65 to be precise. It was stunning, spacious, spotlessly clean and blissfully air-conditioned. The bathroom, complete with double sink, double shower and Olympic sized bath, was only a shade too small to play a game of squash in. A very comfortable king-sized bed dominated the living area, with a step down to a sitting room with TV, wet bar and well stocked fridge (beer, water, Sprite, Coke). Sliding glass doors led us out the patio, complete with loungers and shower, after which all that was left between us and the sea was about 10 yards of soft, golden sand.
Quick point here as to being upstairs or downstairs in the two-storey accommodation. Yes, the floors do transfer quite a bit of noise when people are moving around above you but for my money this is greatly outweighed by having your own direct access to the beach every morning. Also handy for nipping back to the room for a beer, Coke or answering the call of Mother Nature.
The following day and each day thereafter, sun beds were plentiful on the beach, which appeared to be cleaned and raked by cleaning and raking fairies every night (never saw them once!). Yes, the sea can be a bit choppy at times, but the pool is always calm and very clean. Probably a 3-5 minute walk to the bars/restaurant from the room, just enough to get up a good thirst
The Tepee Bar was a great spot on an early evening to watch the sun go down, although we never saw that damned elusive green flash! Cocktails were well made and (very) strong, beer on offer was Wadadli on draught or Wadadli and Red Stripe in bottles. If it was a little busy service could get down to normal 'Caribbean' speed, but normally it was pretty quick and always came with a big smile.
The lounge bar, attached to the Sea Grape restaurant, we rarely used, but it was still a nice spot with the same range of drinks. One quick tip, and you can't really criticise the management too much for wanting to save a few pennies, but if you ask, for instance, for a gin and tonic, you'll get 'no-name' gin with your tonic. Specify Tanqueray or Bombay Sapphire and, most of the time, that's what you'll get.
Food? Let's just say there are two pairs of trousers I could get into before my holiday which are now proving a little too much of a challenge. The main restaurant, Sea Grape, does cereal, fruit, muffins, croissants, eggs, toast, eggs, bacon, eggs, eggs, sausage, ham, eggs, pancakes and eggs for breakfast. Oh, and they'll even do you a steak. With eggs. Lunch is varied, three courses, same a la carte menu each day but with daily changing specials (soup, sandwich, pasta, fish etc.). Dinner, again a la carte, changes every single day - we never saw the same menu twice in 2 weeks - plus daily specials. And Mike, the maitre d', makes sure that each meal is 'always a pleasure'. Now, I'm famed in certain parts for my abject food snobbery and, almost exclusively, I was mightily impressed. The odd soup may be a bit bland, the deserts sometimes a little unimaginative, the weekly barbeque is very average, but all in all great food. House wines by the glass are passable, be prepared to splash the cash if you want a fancier bottle to yourself.
The second restaurant, The Gaugin, is truly superb. Very good lunches and even better for dinner; The menu is the same every day (grilled steak, chicken, lamb chops, fish) and you need to book in the morning to get one of the 7 or 8 individual beach-hut style tables dotted amongst the palms. Really great food in an unbelievably gorgeous setting, better than anything you could ever expect of an All Inclusive. And if you're very lucky indeed, you might just be serenaded at your table by The Mighty Bottle - toe-curlingly embarrassing, but an essential element of the. The Gaugin Experience. Word of advice, don't video him (as we did) it only encourages him!
Night life is relatively quiet - the only music you'll here is provided by a group or steel band during dinner - but this seems to give people a chance to chat, shoot the breeze and put the world to rights of an evening. There's a really good mix of ages, from twenty-something honeymooners to golden oldie retirees. My partner and I are on the 'younger' side (she 29, me 33) and were perfectly happy with this kind of pub-style atmosphere rather than endless Macarena and Karaoke.
Just to vary things, as we're not natural All Inclusive beasts, we went out for a few meals around the island. Hemingway's in St. Johns is well worthy of a mention as is HQ2 at English Harbour. Also, if you feel the need to avoid dressing up and just want to veg one night, order pizza from Big Banana to be delivered to the hotel, take it back to your room with a few beers and watch a movie. The hotel take the cash off you and pay the delivery chap, and they'll even heat it up in the kitchen for you if it's a bit cool on arrival!
In and around the resort, the tennis courts looked nice (from a safe distance); bicycles, table tennis and a small but adequate gym were also available. Trips wise we would highly recommend Eli's Ecotour and Wadadli catamaran circumnavigation. And bite the bullet and hire a jeep for a couple of days - scary as hell but the best way to see the island.
A few honourable mentions have to go to the staff who, given the chance, are a friendly and interesting bunch. Notably, the afore mentioned Mike and Lisa, as well as the beautiful Nola, both Kerriannes and the ultra cool Kenny. Some others may seem a little quiet at first, but get chatting and you will be rewarded.
Very hard to leave after two weeks, but Virgin's Check-in, Chill-out service helps. The airport was small and hot, but you're not there long, and soon we were on our way back to Blighty, champagne in hand.
Criticisms? Few and far between really. The dress code is a great idea, keeps out the football shirt crowd very nicely, but doesn't really need to be extended to the Tepee Bar quite so strictly, especially if you don't intend to eat in the restaurant. I was lectured by one particularly zealous duty manager for wearing dress shorts with my collared shirt whilst waiting at the bar to have my pizza delivered. A bit too 'jobs-worth'? Perhaps. Also, later on a night the odd local, friend of a manager or policeman would sometimes arrive at the bar demanding drinks, often quite rudely, and the staff, would jump as if their lives depended on it, occasionally to the detriment of paying guests.
None of this, however, can take even the teeniest bit of enjoyment from the overall Galley Bay experience. An eye-achingly beautiful resort, immaculately clean, well serviced with happy staff and damn fine food. A truly special place - we'll be back.
Thanks to Mark for this trip report ...