> Destinations > Antigua and Barbuda > Trip Reports > Trip Report
11/27 - 12/3/2002
My wife and I left from Dulles airport in Virginia and went through San Juan, Puerto Rico for our flight to Antigua. All flights, which were on American Airlines, were perfect, with breakfast served on the leg to San Juan. This was our first trip to Antigua, having spent previous vacations in Puerto Rico, Bahamas and Aruba.
We arrived in Antigua around 2:30 P.M. We were sitting in the back of the plane and much to our surprise, they opened the back door so we were out of the plane within minutes (you exit the planes in Antigua via steps down). While we read some stories of long delays through customs, we went through it within 5 minutes with no problems. Everyone very friendly and welcomed us to the island.
We had arranged our trip through American Airlines, which included transportation between the airport and hotel. We met our contact that also was the contact for many other tours. While we got through our part pretty fast, there was a long delay until they put us into a taxi. After about 45 minutes we were finally put into a taxi with another couple to go to our hotel. The ride to the St James took about 30 minutes. The taxi driver was very nice and answered questions about the island and its people.
When we arrived at the hotel, we went to the registration desk to sign in. Before we were able to that, we were offered a rum punch drink. When we finished that drink, we were offered a second. A customer service representative approached us to make reservations for dinner. We thought this was a nice touch, in light of the fact that we found out that dinner reservations normally had to be made at 7PM the night before to ensure choice of restaurant and time.
We specifically asked for a beachfront room on the 2nd floor. When we got to the room, it turned out to be on the 1st floor. This room was not the greatest with the room a little warm and the screen door coming off its track when we went to look at the balcony.
When we called the desk, they quickly changed our room to one on the 2nd floor. This room was very nice -quite large, air conditioning working, a fan on the ceiling, a nice king size bed, TV with basic cable stations and a large bathroom with a combination tub-shower with a large counter for our stuff. The only time during our stay that I thought the service was lacking was when we were moved to the 2nd floor, we would still be waiting for a bellman to move our bags if we had not moved them ourselves. Other than this one instance, we thought that the service at the hotel was excellent -probably the best that we have ever experienced at a resort hotel.
Once we settled in, we went to dinner at the Rainbow Garden. We were on an all- inclusive plan that includes all meals and drinks served by the glass. The menu included 2 choices of soups, 3 or 4 appetizers, a few salads, between 4-6 main entrees, a choice of deserts and coffee/tea.
The food was very good; the service was terrific, with the staff being very friendly and efficient.
The next morning, we had breakfast at Coco's which was right near our room. Those who are under the Beach Club plan usually use this restaurant (one of four on the property), however, anyone can use it. The breakfast was a buffet, --the usual scrambled eggs, potatoes, baked beans, juices, fruits, bread, dry cereal and meats. There was also an omelet station. Service here was also excellent -the staff remembering our first names after the first visit together with our coffee desires.
After breakfast, we went to the beach -what was nice was that there was no "fighting" for lounge chairs -we had plenty to chose from even after 10AM (compared to Aruba where we had to get a chair by 7 AM or we didn't get one). We spent our time at the beach on the ocean side rather than the bay side -nice breeze to cool you. A few times during the day, a drink server would come by on a cart and offer just about any drink you wanted.
For lunch we went to Coco's -there was a large buffet including meats, fish and chicken but also you can order off the menu. We usually had a hamburger with fries -very tasty, and some drinks.
For dinner on Thanksgiving, we ate at the Rainbow Garden again -they added turkey as one of the entrees -very good.
One night, we went to the Docksider restaurant -a little more formal than the rainbow room -similar menu as the Rainbow Garden but also choice of lobster or filet of beef. We opted for the latter which cost us an additional $12 dollars each. Both meals were very good.
On Saturday, we relaxed on the beach and had dinner at Picolo Mondo. This is their top restaurant -again similar menus but also specials that cost additional. This time my wife had shrimp in garlic butter on noodles -she thought it was the best meal had during our stay. The restaurant was quite far from our room so we arranged for a cart to take us both ways.
There are 4 restaurants -2 open for breakfast and 3 open for dinner. Picolo and Docksider are not open every night. Reservations for dinner (choice of restaurant and time for dinner) have to be made at the customer service desk beginning at 7PM the night before. Most dinners are served ala carte but there are nights when only buffets are offered. While the menus in each are similar, there are some differences in quality as you go to the "better" restaurants. Food in each is very good, with plenty to eat at each meal. Service is excellent and efficient. Drinks flow continuously -almost to the point that the servers seem sad if you don't order one.
There are 2 beaches -one on the ocean side facing east with a strong breeze and areas of shade, the other facing a calm bay where water sports are available. Both are nice with areas of shade and plenty of chairs. Beach towels are obtained at various locations in exchange for towel cards received at check-in. When towels are returned, cards are given back for future use.
Very small -- slot machines, one roulette table (American version), one craps table, a few blackjack tables and a table with a local version of caribbean stud poker. There was a small staff of dealers and there were only a few players. Not all the tables open each night.
The hotel is spread over 100 acres -very large, which requires lots of walking. If you desire, very nice staff will take you on golf carts wherever you want to go. There are 8 tennis courts; each lighted for night play. There are pools in each section, with bars at different locations. For those who don't know the drink, order a "Miami vice". It is a combination of a frozen strawberry daiquiri and a frozen pina colada. It is one delicious drink when the two flavors mix.
The hotel is a beautiful place and is great if you need a vacation where you want to just relax and be low key. There is very little entertainment.
Problems (all considered minor)
On 3 nights out of 6, electric power was lost for short periods of time. This caused the air conditioning to go off and required the alarm clock to be reset.
The water pressure occasionally would be weak and the water at times would not be very hot when taking a shower.
The room lights left a lot to be desired -quite dark and insufficient to read by. Room keys were the old type, attached to a a piece of wood with large numbers of your room. This would not be good if you lost your key, especially if you were unaware it was missing.
The hotel has open-air restaurants and allows cats to enter -some people even encourage this by feeding the cats. This was a turnoff, especially to those who have a fear of cats or feel that it is inappropriate in a place where we are eating.
Thanks to Urie for this trip report ...