CARLISLE BAY, Antigua Antigua, part of the two-island nation of
Antigua and Barbuda, delivers the Caribbean’s specialty long,
luminous beaches in abundance. A new island resort, Carlisle Bay,
offers your clients a refined outpost for elegant pampering.
Created by Scotsman Gordon Campbell Gray and opened slightly over a
year ago, Carlisle Bay is a striking, utterly contemporary resort
intended to complement his esteemed boutique hotel, One Aldwych, in
London. Located on the south coast, away from most of the island’s
limited action, Carlisle Bay is a stone’s throw from Antigua’s
long-established Curtain Bluff resort. The two inns serve as
bookends for the village, which sits at the base of Fig Tree Drive,
a road through the island’s most verdant valley.
Carlisle Bay visitors pass a lily pond as they enter the
sprawling Pavilion, with its wooden jalousie shutters and planters
carved from giant tree trunks. The ambiance is sedate and
monochromatic what little color there is comes from splays of
purple orchids but the handshakes are warm and the hand towels
All 88 rooms are suites, and almost all boast unimpeded sea
views from Frette-outfitted beds. An orchid sits on a dark wood
cabinet and a matching credenza supports a tray of improbable
fruit, blood-red cherries the first time I’ve encountered them in
the Caribbean. The fruit appears to be the only dash of color in
the room no floral print bedspreads here.
The design by Campbell Gray and Mary Fox Linton is rigorous, but
as you spend a little time in the suite it becomes more
comfortable. It doesn’t hurt that the room is well stocked with
nifty niceties: Gaggia coffeemaker, proper bedside reading lights,
flat-screen TV, chic New Zealand bath products and a deep bathtub
with a view into the mangrove lagoon that backs the resort. There
is a 17,000-square-foot spa that was in its final stage of
gestation during my visit and a 45-seat screening room that plays
two movies nightly (“Rear Window” and “Private Benjamin” are
typical selections). A small but lavish library is stocked with a
mix of classics and eclectic coffee-table books ranging from the
traditionalism of Ansel Adams to the frisky erotica of Pierre et
Gilles. Outfitted with a well-equipped watersports center, the
beach is pretty and fine for swimming, though it doesn’t boast the
iridescent, tourmaline glow that Antigua’s most beautiful beaches
can brag about. Unfortunately, a river carries silt into the bay at
one end. During my visit I saw more people hanging by the pool than
on the sand.
Perhaps owing to the reputation of One Aldwych, most of the
guests during my visit were British, and there’s a notable reserve
to the interactions. But the largely Antiguan staff is gracious
without being stiff, unlike some upscale resorts where
personalities are neutered in favor of by-the-book protocol.
Another Carlisle Bay strength is above-average resort dining.
One restaurant, East, sits behind Balinese doors, in a hermetically
sealed black room with chairs adorned in blushing pink slipcovers.
East’s Philippine waitress and Thai chef served a pan-Asian menu
that was surprisingly good, and authentic unheard of in the
Caribbean. Indigo on the Beach is the open-air dining room; it
features a grill and many organic menu items.
One negative: The sterile buzz of fans and air conditioners can
be heard throughout the hotel, particularly in the restaurants and
bathrooms, obscuring the natural island sounds of lapping waves and
When not ensconced at the resort, Antigua rewards with low-key
sightseeing and beach combing. Countless taxi drivers have informed
me that the island has 365 beaches, “one for every day of the
year.” While more marketing hype than reality, the slogan does
reflect the bounty of coves and strands that scallop Antigua’s
The island also has an important sea-faring history. Scenic
English Harbour was home to the British Royal Navy during the
Napoleonic Wars and Admiral Nelson’s Dockyard, a regional facility
for ship repairs. It’s the only Georgian-style dockyard left in the
world and now a National Park. The sailing spirit thrives here
today, particularly during Antigua Sailing Week, the region’s
premier yachting event, held in early May.
Carlisle Bay rates start at $950 during high season (from $1,050
over Christmastime), and from $595, May 1 through Dec. 18. Rates
include a full breakfast and an afternoon tea.
The hotel is closed Sept. 1 to Oct. 15.
The hotel adds an 18½ percent tax and service charge, and pays a 10
percent travel agent commission.
Westin Grand Cayman Spared
Location is everything, as the saying goes. But luck ain’t bad
either. The Westin Casuarina Grand Cayman happens to have both. Not
only is the luxury resort located on Grand Cayman’s renowned Seven
Mile Beach, but the hotel was largely spared the destruction of
Hurricane Ivan, which blew through the island in September. Other
area hotels some just down the beach from the Westin were not so
lucky, as a recent on-site inspection proved.
“There are some hotels here that won’t be able to open for at
least a year,” said Dan Szydlowski, the Westin’s general manager.
“And some will probably never open.”
The Westin, however, sustained only minimal damage and is open
for business after just a couple months. Besides a few thinned-out
trees, there is little evidence of the hurricane. What’s more, the
hotel is booked solid, with occupancy around 80 to 90 percent,
according to Szydlowski.
It’s easy to see why. Besides the hotel’s white-sand beach, it
features a meandering pool with swim-up bar, impeccable service
from its staff and two top restaurants. In addition to its
Four-Diamond Casa Havana Restaurant, Ferdinand’s Caribbean Cafe
offers elegant dining in an open-air setting just steps from the