We’ve held off posting any holiday or restaurant blogs whilst we all suffer through the global COVID-19 pandemic, but oddly, after nearly eight weeks of lockdown, working from home, with nowhere to venture for a break or night out – everyone’s new normal – one’s mind starts to reminisce about all the amazing places we’ve had the opportunity to visit and eat in. We were lucky enough to squeeze in a holiday just before the world took a reboot (just…borders were pretty much closing behind us), so we decided to post a few blogs of places we managed to explore.
We kick off our first series of pandemic travel and restaurant blogs with Blue Waters Resort & Spa Hotel, in the Caribbean islands of Antigua & Barbuda.
This was a special birthday treat for Drew so we had done LOADS of research; from the Far East, to the Mediterranean, the Maldives, finally settling on a Caribbean break.
We were looking for a resort that was easily accessible (no island hopping that would cut into our relaxation time), was safe, on the beach, had a good selection of restaurants/bars, ideally all-inclusive, with sunny weather (a given) and boutique in size (for that personal experience).
We came across Blue Waters and realised straight away that it ticked all boxes on our wish list; situated on two secluded beaches, a short taxi journey from VC Bird international airport, with three restaurants serving a mix of local and international cuisine, three bars, three freshwater pools (another seven private pools exclusive for Villa guests) and a great selection of accommodation options.
Accommodation is scattered in blocks across 17 acres of beautiful tropical gardens with the hotel design following a modern chic and classic-colonial style (think fresh white décor and warm woods), so when you’re there you can’t help but know you’re in the Caribbean. We opted for a Deluxe beachfront room (one up from standard) and were pleasantly surprised on the size of both the room and bathroom and the ample cupboard and drawer space. So many modern resort hotels look like you could put them anywhere in the world, with no unique aesthetic to the location, that’s why Elldrew like to find smaller properties that have an individual style.
What everyone goes to a beach resort for is the beach! Blue Waters main beach (we say this as it’s the prettiest and has waiter service), has powder-soft sand, compact but perfectly balanced against the resort, and was the ideal temperature for refreshing dips throughout the day. We spent many hours reading a book whilst listening to the waves gently lap the shore with a cocktail in hand.
The main pools at Blue Waters are also great and use fresh water. A few have an infinity view (in between sun loungers – you can’t have everything right?), set to a perfect temperature, there is even an adults only pool.
We were also really happy with the variety of food on offer across the various restaurants throughout the day. We can honestly say we didn’t have one meal we didn’t enjoy, and as breakfast and afternoon tea is included as a minimum in all bookings, we never went for wanting anything. This place is really the total package for a chilled getaway at a sensible price.
We had eight wonderful nights at Blue Waters Resort & Spa Hotel and we can see why they have won countless awards over the years. It’s not the most modern, it’s not perfect, but it’s polished, chilled and everything just works. We found a little piece of paradise in the Caribbean that has left us wanting for more. We hope that everyone at Blue Waters and all the friends we made during our stay are keeping well and safe through this pandemic.
So, for something a little different then our usual blogs…with so much information on the internet (and you can read reviews on TripAdvisor), we thought we would provide some insights or tips for anyone thinking of heading to Blue Waters for their first time (and drop us a comment if we can help with any other queries), so here goes:
Roads on the island are your first impression of Antigua, but they’re not great, so don’t let this reflect on the hotel.
Once you’ve checked in, the hotel has onsite taxis to service guests, so there should always be a taxi available. You can charge excursions to your room (negotiate prices upfront before your journey), but book in advance to avoid any disappointment. We used them a few times; they were charming, with clean, air-conditioned modern cars.
The main hotel area consists of superior and delux rooms. We had heard rumours that guests in the suites and villas had a bit of a walk to and from the main hotel area. Yes, 10-15 mins maybe, but what’s time when you are on holidays? Paths are well lit at night and the hotel also offers a buggy shuttle service to the Cove restaurant, which is at the edge of the resort near the spa. We often welcomed a slow stroll back to the bar after a 3-course meal at the Cove, so look up, the stars are amazing!
We initially stressed about the advance 48-hour reservation policy for dinner, but don’t. You will automatically have a reservation in The Palm for your first evening (this is the main restaurant that is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner). There are only two of the three restaurants open each evening (The Palm rotates with Bartley’s and Cove), so just book each one and then start to rotate or go back to your favourites. Reservations are based on seating times with the 7.30/8pm sittings being the most popular. Restaurants start to empty out from 9pm so do bear that in mind (no fun eating in an empty restaurant).
Food supplements; we never had any of the restaurant food supplements, there is plenty of variety to choose from at each restaurant.
Alcohol; we felt the hotel provided a great selection of spirits, cocktails and wines (especially the mini bar items with authentic rum for a pre-dinner tipple). Wines were nice however we prefer a lighter white grape such as Picpoul de Pinet, Gavi or Pinot Gris so we did pay a supplement to enjoy a refreshing French Provence blush rosé – worth the extra US$15 a bottle.
Signing bill; we had read a few complaints about people having to sign bills when all-inclusive. This is not a Club 18-30 where you get a colourful wrist band so, as the hotel offers a range of packages, you will need to sign for drinks and food, even if it has a zero amount, as the hotel needs to place electronic orders through the system and track stock levels etc.
Tipping; we were unsure about this so asked some returning guests. The general feedback was not to tip each bill but give the entire staff a tip at the end of the holiday. We left money for housekeeping and gave a few spot tips to some staff members that really made our stay memorable.
Really good WiFi throughout the hotel, don’t remember having any problems.
The hotel provides all guests with an eco-friendly reusable water bottle at check-in, with your name on it, and there are cooled water stations all around the hotel to top them up. Elldrew brought the bottle home and have used it throughout lockdown…oh, the tropical memories it conjures!
Most nights in the main Pelican Bar, between 8.30pm – 10.30pm. Prime time for most people coming back from dinner so if you haven’t eaten early you might be hard pressed to find a seat near the action, but there are comfy sofas in the main open plan reception lobby for you to enjoy from a distance.
The very popular poolside lunch spot is Carolyn’s, on a first come basis, so don’t be disappointed if you have to queue for a table. We loved their changing light lunch selection (flat breads were fantastic) but bills do come quickly to accommodate waiting guests.
The sea is perfect for swimming and has soft sand under-foot, but as it’s where the Atlantic and Caribbean meets, most days the water wasn’t fully turquoise and you can’t see the ocean floor – still beautiful all the same but worth mentioning as this is the only thing that Drew constantly complained about (hard life!).
They are amazing so engage with them. We couldn’t believe how quickly they remembered our room number, or that we were all-inclusive, or our favourite tipple. We’ve read about guests wanting to be left alone when on holidays but we believe you get a better experience when you take the time to talk to staff.
This hotel has a lot of repeat guests and everyone is super friendly. Allow time to leave breakfast on your final morning as you’ll be saying so many goodbyes. Pick the brains of the repeat guests for any tips or places of interest to visit if you are thinking of venturing out of the hotel. We found the weekly Manager’s Cocktail drinks an ice breaker but don’t worry, they will talk to you before you talk to them.
The capital, St John’s, is a short drive and is made up of a couple of streets catering to tourists (cruise ships dock here) so if you are planning to go into town you will only need a couple of hours, max. If you are going to do jewellery shopping do ask the hotel concierge as they have discount vouchers for certain stores.
We ate at Hemmingway’s for lunch and the food was lovely, with good service, so we would highly recommend it, even to just get out of the heat.
A very very popular destination to watch the sunset, you will ever love or hate it. Steel pan & reggae music plays with food and alcohol stalls packed on the edge of a cliff. We got some nice sunset shots but it is very crowded and the 45 min journey each way had us wondering why on earth we ever left the comfort of the hotel. Read more here.