After a crazy year working in travel, Antigua was the perfect place to get away from it all, while experiencing first-hand what it's like to head on holiday at the moment. Met by smiling faces, splendid sunshine, first-class luxury hotels and some of the most stunning scenery I've ever set my eyes on, this trip well and truly reignited my passion for luxury travel to the Caribbean - there is just nowhere like it.
Pre-Travel, Flight and Arrival
Before you travel to Antigua, you have to take a COVID-19 PCR test within 7 days before departure. Around 24 hours after our super quick private test that was over within minutes, my partner and I received our negative certificate that showed we were fit to fly - it was time to get excited! Upon arrival at Heathrow, we were met kerbside by our wonderful rep (a service that is included for all our clients) and whisked past the madness, through security and to our luxurious Plaza Premium Lounge for a pre-flight snack and a crisp glass of wine. Of course, we had our masks on throughout (apart from eating or drinking), social distancing was observed, and sanitiser was everywhere! Upon boarding the plane, we were handed a COVID-friendly amenity kit complete with hand sanitiser and additional masks. This was useful as they advise that you should change your mask every four hours while flying, though of course you can take it off whenever eating or drinking.
After a delicious meal and a few movies, we landed in sunny Antigua. Upon arrival, we had to show our negative test certificate (something I would keep tight hold of with your passports!) and went through a thermal heat test before immigration. All that was no trouble at all, and we were soon met by our incredible on-island Resort Manger Rosalind, who first joined us back in the year 2000! We have our very own Elegant Resorts office in Antigua, run by Rosalind, ensuring our superlative service can be enjoyed throughout your escape. On-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, she is there to provide a sense of security and assist with whatever you may need during your stay - from car hire to a last-minute dinner reservation to insider tips on how best to explore the island. Options include private yachting experiences, fishing adventures and shopping trips to St. Johns. As wonderful as ever, Rosalind escorted us to our luxury vehicle (which had of course been fully sanitised), and it was time to begin our Antiguan adventure. Rosalind was also in touch throughout our stay, reminding us of our transfer times, checking if we needed anything and just being an all-round star.
Hotel One: Hermitage Bay
Our first hotel was Hermitage Bay, a seriously secluded, all-inclusive beachside resort built into the hillside. Here, we were greeted by a very happy bell man who sanitised our suitcases and whisked them away, while we were escorted to the bar for a welcome drink. We received the warmest, friendliest welcome from resident bar man Levique, who was such a character and became a genuine friend throughout our stay. He served up delicious cocktails and we removed our masks to breathe in that unbeatable Caribbean air - bliss. After settling into our beautiful Beachfront Suite - think a deck with double day bed, huge bathtub and uninterrupted sea views - we fell right into the Antiguan pace of life here. This hotel is an ideal retreat for couples who want to escape the craziness of everyday life. Our days were spent reading on the beach, paddle boarding along the coast or making the most of the complimentary boat tour. We also took part in the Chef's cookery school where we learned to cook delicious stir-fried scallop alongside the other guests. There is also a spa with a stunning view offering an impressive menu of treatments, while Pilates, yoga and meditation embrace the serenity of the resort. The food here was also exquisite and we couldn't wait to see what was served each night on the ever-changing, locally sourced and intricately detailed menu - the local Wahoo fish was my definite favourite!
Hotel Highlight: Exceptional service and a genuine warmth from everyone we met
Hotel Two: Curtain Bluff
A true Caribbean experience awaited at our next hotel, Curtain Bluff, located on a stunning headland with a beach at either side. The style here is charming and colonially inspired, the resort built around a restored stone sugar mill, while the vibe is wonderfully homely and familial. With daily afternoon tea and weekly cocktail parties, it's easy to see why they receive a huge number of guests returning each year (or more!). I also noticed just how popular the property seemed with multi-generational families, seeing plenty of grandparents, parents and little ones all enjoying a holiday together. When we could tear ourselves away from our beautiful suite on the beachfront (from which the view was genuinely breathtaking), we spent time lounging in the comfortable cabanas on the beach or floating on a lilo in the pool. While the food was amazing throughout, we loved the convenient bento boxes that you can order as you lie in the sun. By the time we left, I had perfected my box combo - coconut shrimp, fish tacos and Caesar salad... delicious!
Hotel Highlight: The view from our suite was the best I've ever seen from a room in the Caribbean!
Hotel Three: Jumby Bay Island
A short drive from Curtain Bluff took us to Jumby Bay's ferry port, where we boarded the ultra-luxurious and super-quick boat over to the private island. We travelled with around three other couples, though were socially distanced at all times, and when we arrived, we were each met by a separate staff member and taken to the bar for a welcome drink and to complete our check-in. A few minutes later, we were whisked off in a golf buggy and taken to our Junior Suite. Upon arrival at our suite, the door was sealed to prove that the room had been sanitised and that we were the first two people to enter. This hotel totally took my breath away and, having travelled to the Indian Ocean repeatedly over the last few years, it matched many of my favourite hotels there - in terms of setting, beach facilities, service and serious style. Absolutely no expense is spared with the all-inclusive offering here and truly everything is included - from Whispering Angel rosé to Taittinger Champagne. The food was also fabulous, and we had some dining experiences that we'll remember for a long time. The ultra-cool White Party on the beach invited us to feast on Antiguan lobster, garlic shrimp and more barbecued deliciousness, while an extra-special surprise awaited me during our private dinner at the Estate House. I returned from the bathroom to find an engagement ring atop a glass of Perrier Jouet Champagne. Of course, I said yes!
Hotel Highlight: The beach was seriously like one from the Maldives and it is the best suite I've ever stayed in.
Hotel Four: Blue Waters Resort & Spa
Our fourth and final hotel was the Cove Suites at Blue Waters Resort & Spa, a stylish and secluded resort on Soldier's Bay. These stunning suites offer an elevated level of luxury at an already excellent resort. They were well and truly built with privacy-seekers in mind, boasting beachy décor and captivating views of the Caribbean Sea. We spent time either beside our private pool we shared with just seven other suites, or the adults-only pool in the resort. I know I've praised a lot of the restaurants I visited during our stay but I have to say the meals we had here were some of the best. Following sundowner cocktails at Veronica's Bar, we enjoyed the top meal of the holiday at the Cove Restaurant. After a red snapper amouse bouche and a starter of mussels (which were a world away from those I've had at home), I had the best steak I've ever eaten! The family that own the hotel are also in the meat industry and their expertise was evident in the succulent 22-day aged fillet, fat hand cut chips and to-die-for peppercorn sauce. Oh, and there is always room for dessert, so we finished the meal with the Cove's classic crepe Suzette which was theatrically flambeed in front of us. I'd also like to mention the General Manager here, Kevin Phillips. Formerly in charge of food and beverage at Sandy Lane, he knows just how to run a hotel that wows.
Hotel Highlight: The meal we had at the clifftop Cove Restaurant was the best of the trip. I'll never forget that steak!
Back at Antigua airport, we were whisked like celebrities through the queues at immigration and security, again something we can arrange and would certainly recommend for clients. We were genuinely gutted to leave the island to return to the cold weather and hard-to-take headlines at home. It was so nice to relax and take my mind off the worries of the world, and well worth the additional measures and pre-travel test. I always felt super safe in the hotels with the increased cleaning - from tables to cutlery to suitcases - social distancing and mask-wearing in public places, while still enjoying the same luxury holiday feeling we know and love.