Curtain Bluff is one of the Caribbean’s venerable small resorts,
a secluded, high-end all-inclusive that has been under the same
private ownership for 45 years. Located on a palm tree-covered
outcropping on the south end of Antigua, it is a 30-minute drive
across the island from St. John’s, the island’s capital and busiest
city, and a world away from the thumping all-inclusives peppering
the region. And with only 72 rooms dispersed along the bluff all
with stunning ocean views the resort has a homey, less-cluttered
vibe, with no music blasting from speakers or squealing spring
In recent years, Curtain Bluff has been given a $10 million
overhaul, including updates of all the rooms and the construction
of a wine cellar, billed as one of the largest in the Caribbean.
Our Junior Suite was in the main three-story building. Completely
demolished two years ago and rebuilt, the building also includes
two massive penthouse suites, each with a hot tub and a private
deck. This summer the makeover continues, with the construction of
a spa. And for the first time, Curtain Bluff is adding air
conditioning to guestrooms.
During the heat of the day, we decided to take advantage of
Curtain Bluff’s unique all-inclusive plan. In addition to the
standard meal packages, Curtain Bluff includes a wide range of
activities in the room rate, including deep-sea fishing, diving and
water skiing even basic wedding services.
“This place isn’t normal,” said Rob Sherman, Curtain Bluff’s
managing director. “We don’t have a board of directors. We don’t
have to watch our margins.”
Despite tough times around the Caribbean, Curtain Bluff has seen a
steady increase in occupancy in recent years, said Sherman, who is
actively reaching out to travels agents. Curtain Bluff offers 10
percent commission on total packages. In 2002, it joined Virtuoso
and works with such wholesalers as Classic Custom Vacations and
With the odd cricket bat lying around, Curtain Bluff maintains the
aura of a cool place for England’s moneyed crowd. At dinner, women
are required to wear skirts or dresses and men must wear collared
shirts, long pants and shoes although nobody seemed to mind when I
showed up in sandals.
Curtain Bluff focuses on a relaxed, no-hassle, healthy
environment. Meals were simple and tasty, always with a few options
for carb watchers. There was no 24-hour buffet, but the staff
gladly offered to bring a sandwich to our room in the late
Most of our time was spent close to home, in part because it’s not
easy to get around on Antigua. Hiring a driver for a roundtrip from
Curtain Bluff to St. John’s was $60 (on the upside, everyone takes
dollars). Renting a car was an option, but it didn’t seem like much
fun, considering the narrow roads and the challenges of driving on
the left side of the street.
Instead, we focused on taking advantage of Curtain Bluff’s
luxurious hammocks and facilities, including a well-appointed (and
air conditioned) weight room; a full-service racquet club with four
tennis courts and a squash court; and a dive center.
One afternoon, we snorkeled around Antigua’s famous reef. Another
day was spent leisurely kayaking around the bay. But most of our
time was spent lounging on the beach, reading taking advantage of
Curtain Bluff’s extensive library. By happy hour we were sipping
rum drinks on the resort’s wide patio, cooled by the sea
“We’re not glitzy,” Sherman said, as we killed time on the patio,
“less is more.”
Outside the duty-free shops of St. John’s, Antigua’s only real
tourist attraction is English Harbor, a tribute to the days when
Admiral Nelson’s fleet ruled the seas. The secluded bay on the
south side of the island was Nelson’s home base in the Caribbean,
where the fleet could relax, protected from hurricanes and
marauders by the surrounding hills.
Today, Nelson’s Dockyards feature a collection of the fleet’s
old buildings, restored for small museums, restaurants and shops.
For sailors, the harbor offers an array of moorings and services.
And the best views of the island are from Shirley Heights, a
lookout above the harbor.
The Admiral’s Inn is a cozy hotel on the docks, with an inviting
pub and small rooms (268-460-1027, www.admiralsantigua.com; pays 10
Antigua and Barbuda
Department of Tourism