JUMBY BAY- Your Own Private Island Paradise

Being in the travel business I can’t tell you how many times I have clients with the following request: “I want a beautiful remote island with a nonstop flight”.    Ha!  Not exactly the easiest request!   However, getting to Jumby Bay was surprisingly much easier than I had anticipated and once there, it is truly a feeling of your own private island paradise.   Upon landing at Antigua Airport and clearing customs we were transported by private 5 minutes car ride to the private Jumby Bay Boat and then another 10 minute crossing to Jumby Bay Island.   Piece of cake!  We were checking into our room within one hour of landing!As you approach the island by boat you can’t help but notice what looks to be one spectacular looking beach.  Being the beach lover that I am I thought to myself, “ummm, I think I am going to like this place”.   Jumby Bay definitely has the aura of being at a very exclusive and private country club, which it kind of is.   Jumby Bay Island consists of approximately 50 multi million dollar homes and villas with a 40 room hotel managed and operated by Rosewood Hotels.  The hotel room rate includes everything such as meals, wines by the glass, water sports, etc.     There are also villas and homes for rent on the island.The grounds and the scenery are pristine and well maintained.    There are beautiful grass fields, with wild sheep grazing and everything is very nicely landscaped.  There are small paths that run throughout the island, there are no cars, and everyone gets around by golf cart or bicycle.    Each hotel guest is provided with their own beach cruiser bike.  Even my 4 year old had his own little bike with training wheels!   Coming from NYC, riding our bikes was an unusual pleasure.    We thoroughly enjoyed riding to breakfast, or to the beach or simply exploring the island.  It really gave us the feeling of truly getting away from it all.  Of course, if you do not want to ride a bike it is very easy to stroll around or the hotel will gladly fetch you in a golf cart, which we did when going to dinner at night.Overall, the service was excellent.  Any and every request we had was quickly and easily taken care of.   It is obvious service is a very important asset to the hotel and they take it seriously.  I got the impression that many of the staff had been with the hotel for many years, took pride in their work and were good at what they did.  There were those one off situations such as when we asked for mustard when our meal landed on our table only to finally receive the mustard after we had already finished our meal.   However, with the extensive traveling I have done I can’t say that I haven’t experienced that same situation in many high end Caribbean & Mexican luxury hotels.  It’s just not the New York “instant gratification” mentality.   We were satisfied with the quality and diversity of food and restaurants.   I often find I am a bit disappointed in the quality of food when I travel to Caribbean and Mexico however I didn’t find this to be the case.We had reserved a Courtyard Suite which was one of the newly built rooms within the hotel.   I strongly recommend if you can afford a Courtyard suite category or better it is worth the expense.  I did tour all of the room categories (and some villas).   Feel free to email me if you want help deciding what category is best for your needs.   The Rondavel rooms are the original room categories and they tend to be surrounded by more vegetation and landscaping which tends to make them feel not as bright and fresh as the new room categories.  While they were completely renovated a few years ago, they just don’t feel as pristine as the new room categories.   The bathrooms in the newer rooms were exactly what you see on line with the outdoor bathtub and shower.  Very sexy.    The rooms are all very large with high vaulted ceilings and plush furnishings.  The desk area was very well thought out with plug-ins for computers conveniently located directly in the top of the desk.  The outdoor patios in all the rooms are very nicely appointed with teak lounge chairs and dining table and chairs.  A perfect setting for room service to be delivered to enjoy any meal.   And not to mention, some of the rooms also have private plunge pools.   The island is so safe that there are no keys provided for your room!   If you are a family with small children and looking for more than a one bedroom, the hotel creates a two bedroom Rosewood Estate by connecting two one bedrooms, which will provide you with a ton of space however the bedrooms are located very far from one another, so beware.  Again, if you need more help understanding this, drop me a line.Jumby Bay is a perfect destination to quietly sit under a palm tree and do nothing at all or keep yourself busy from morning till night.  The main beach at the property is the epitome of the perfect beach.   The photos on the website of the beach are very accurate.  What you see is what you get….. Which, as some of us know - is sometimes not the case.    Pristine clear blue water, silky white sand.   Amazing!   There is no crowd on this beach.  The hotel has lounge chairs and palappas set along the beach that are spread far enough apart so you feel as if you have your own private beach.   The one downside, which didn’t bother me too much, is that the main Jumby Bay beach has a distant view of the island of Antigua which includes the commercial port of Antigua and airport.  However this reminds me to mention that there are other beaches on the island to explore.    There are plenty of water sports activities available including waterskiing and wakeboarding which is not so commonly included in most hotels.  The water sports guys were great.  They took my husband waterskiing everyday and were very accommodating and easy going and enjoyed entertaining our four year old.   The hotel also has daily complimentary activities including cooking classes, sunset cruise, snorkeling tours, etc.  We took advantage of some of these offerings.  I liked that they were available for us to enjoy and that there wasn’t an additional cost to participate.   The hotel has a very comprehensive kids program.  During our stay our 4 year old was the only child at the hotel and the women who run the kids club could not have been more accommodating entertaining our son for a few hours each morning giving my husband and I some time to enjoy the beach together.All in all I highly recommend Jumby Bay.  It is a great destination for couples, honeymooners and families.  It is an upscale luxury resort and is worth every penny.

Carlisle Bay – A Fabulous Family Find

I was always aware Carlisle Bay was known to be a good property for families, however, having just experienced a 4 night stay at the property with my husband and 4 year old son, I can undoubtedly say the hotel couldn’t be any more PERFECT for families, especially those traveling with small children, and yes, infants.  Carlisle Bay offers a casual easy- going elegance.  From the mini Frette bathrobes for kids to the nightly complimentary kids buffet, the resort was a big hit for our recent family getaway.  If you are a family looking for a new destination, read on, this review is all about FAMILY.The hotel’s décor is a cross between South Beach and Asian flair.   Overall, the property has a contemporary feel set in a lush tropical environment.  The public areas are all open design with dark teak wood and oversized white slip covered sofas and chairs complemented with modern rattan furnishings.Sleeping rooms are simple and bright.   Contemporary, clean design with contrasting white bedding and sofas complemented with dark wood furnishings.    All of the rooms at the resort have a large verandah or patio with a full sized teak day bed and dining table and chairs which is great for enjoying breakfast in your room or a late afternoon sunset cocktail.   All of the rooms have a living area with a large white sofa, coffee table, oversized lounge chair and large plasma TV.    The bathrooms are a good size with double sinks separate bathtub and shower stall and ample closet space.  You will also find a well stocked minibar and espresso and cappuccino machine with complimentary coffee and milk.There are basically two different room layouts within the property (except for the few large suites).  There are “The Beach Suites” which are identical in layout and are either a lower unit (Terrace) or 2nd floor unit (Balcony) and the Garden and Ocean Suites which are also identical in layout except for the view.I would have to consider The Beach Terrace & Balcony Suites probably one of the most logical hotel room layouts for families I have encountered.  Kudos to the architects of Carlisle Bay for this simple, yet effective, design.  The room is a long rectangle shape with large open sleeping and sitting area facing the water and a small separate “kids” bedroom with two twin beds toward the rear of the room, separated by the bathroom.   The addition of this small separate sleeping area eliminates the need for having to obtain connecting rooms and gives mom and dad the privacy to enjoy evenings when the kids go to sleep!  This hotel room is not much larger than many of the standard resort sized rooms, however, having the separate bedroom for kids, is a huge plus.  All of these rooms are beachfront and I mean beachfront.  Step off your patio and within 15 steps your toes are touching the sea.  We were in a ground floor unit and traveling with our 4 year old this room allowed us to truly relax and enjoy every minute of our time at Carlisle Bay.  We were able to wake up and take pleasure in a cappuccino on our patio while our 4 year old couldn’t wait to play in the sand and surf.    Whether we were taking up a game of Scrabble on our patio or lounging in the sand we never had to be concerned with the calmest waves lapping the shoreline.  Almost all of the families were located in this area of the resort, which is no coincidence, I later learned.  Or next door neighbors were a new mom and dad enjoying their first trip with their 4 month old.  Again, a perfect set up since baby spent most of the day sleeping in the room which was just steps away from mom and dad who were lounging on the beach.The Beach and Garden Suites are loft like square shaped rooms with the bedroom area raised with a step up from the living/sitting area.  The bathroom is located directly behind the bedroom.  All of these rooms have a large patio or verandah.  These rooms are perfect for couples and are located further down the beach from the above mentioned rooms.These rooms are slightly more set back from the beach (compared to the above mentioned rooms) however, to be honest; instead of 15 steps from the water maybe you are 30 steps from the water!   Most other hotels would consider these rooms beachfront!The hotel is a small boutique property.  We found it so simple to move between our room, the restaurants, the gym, the kids club, the pool, the water sports area.  Everything was incredibly manageable and convenient and never more than a 2 minute walks to get anywhere.  We found this a huge upside.   If you had to run back to your room for any reason, it was so easy.The hotel has a very nice complimentary kids club with planned activities daily.  The Kids Club has a kiddie pool, jungle gym, bikes and trikes, indoor playarea, etc.  One of our favorite kid amenities was the complimentary kid’s supper buffet served daily between 5:00pm and 6:30pm.  This was an enjoyable time of the day when the kids and parents congregated in the restaurant near the pool.  Kids would enjoy dinner with their new friends while parents sipped on a cocktail or beer and socialized.  I thought it was a very nice added touch the hotel offers.  I later learned from the hotel manager (when I was complimenting the hotel on this added perk) that offering the kids buffet helps to keep the restaurants “more adult like” in the evenings.   What a great idea!  And speaking of restaurants, the hotel has 3 separate restaurants.  One being the main restaurant which is located directly on the beach and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.  There is an Italian themed restaurant near the pool which has a pizza oven and serves salads, antipasti, pasta, etc.  There is also a more formal dinner restaurant which is an Asian Indian theme.  We did enjoy room service a couple of nights and thought the service, presentation and varieties of offerings were good.   All in all, the food was very good, a solid offering.  The quality and options were very satisfactory and of course, a kids menu was always offered (except in the formal dining restaurant).The hotel has many beach toys available for use by the guests including , boogie boards, floating loungers, sand toys, kayaks, sail boats, ping pong tables, etc.  There are tennis courts and a very well equipped gym.  We never felt the need to venture outside of the property however I did notice that within just a few miles of the hotel is a rain forest zip line canopy tour.With nonstop service to Antigua from many cities, Carlisle Bay is now top on my list of family friendly hotels.