Tuesday,  December 10, 2019  6:47 am

PAX On Location: Step inside 11 of ACV's Antigua properties


PAX On Location: Step inside 11 of ACV's Antigua properties
The infinity pool at the soon-to-be opened Hammock Cove Resort & Spa, Antigua
Christine Hogg

Christine Hogg is the Associate Digital Editor at PAX Global Media. Prior to joining PAX, she obtained her Honours BA in Journalism from the University of Toronto. Upon graduating, she went on to write for several travel publications while travelling the world. Her longest trip was a three-week stint in Europe, and the shortest was a 16-hour adventure in Iceland. Get in touch: christine@paxglobalmedia.com.

From luxury adults-only escapes to affordable family-friendly vacations that don't compromise on quality, Air Canada Vacations' Antigua MegaFam demonstrated that the destination truly has something for everyone.

The MegaFAM (#ACVANUfam), which took place Nov. 19 through Nov. 22, gave agents an opportunity to learn more about the different styles of accommodation available in ACV's 2020 Sun Brochure, through a series of site inspections around the island. PAX conducted site inspections at 11 of ACV's 17 properties in Antigua, which currently range from a 3 to a 5-star.

"Part of Antigua's appeal is being a hidden gem, awaiting further discovery. We are more intimate, unrehearsed, and not as commercialized, with an intrinsic hospitable nature," Tameka Wharton, senior sales and marketing manager, Antigua Barbuda Tourism Authority (ABTA) told PAX. "You could find yourself on a kilometers-long empty beach just for you and those you are traveling with. We are not the 'rows-of high rise buildings lining a packed beach' destination. We are the definition of boutique. Antigua and Barbuda is a place you can go to truly unwind, detach, and reconnect with yourself and nature. For Canadians, we offer a friendly, English-speaking population, who will go the extra mile to give you directions, while you feel safe to explore." 

This winter, Air Canada offers five flights a week to Antigua's V.C. Bird International Airport out of Toronto Pearson International Airport.

From price points to stand-out amenities, we've rounded up the must-know details about each property, including how to sell it to your clients—and just who those clients might be. All of ACV's Antigua properties offer free Wi-Fi.

Take a look at the 11 properties we inspected below!

Royalton Antigua Resort and Spa

Stand-out qualities: Antigua's newest all-inclusive resort (opened May 2019); Chairman's Overwater Bungalows (the only overwater bungalows in Antigua reserved exclusively for adults in an otherwise family-friendly luxury resort); 'Just The Two of Us' wedding elopement package available.
Best for: couples, honeymooners, luxury travellers, families seeking all-inclusive luxury
Rating: 5
Meal plan: AI
Rooms: 294
Restaurants: 5
Spa: yes
Free weddings: yes
Age requirement: N/A

For more information on the property, click here!

Blue Waters Resort and Spa

The Rock Cottages at Blue Waters Resort & Spa

Stand-out qualities: One of Antigua's oldest hotels (first opened in 1960); several pools to choose from, including an exclusive and secluded adults-only pool, family pool, and infinity pool; three miles from the Cedar Valley Golf Club, Antigua's only PGA-rated golf club; special early dining hours for families with small children (6 p.m. instead of the standard 6:30 p.m. start time).
Best for: couples, families with young children, small wedding groups
Rating: 4.5
Meal plan: BP/AI
Rooms: 96
Restaurants: 4
Spa: yes
Free weddings: no
Age requirement: N/A

"Eighty-two per cent of our bookings are adults, or couples sharing together," Anna Wells, sales and marketing director, Blue Waters, told PAX. "The family market is growing and we cater to this with a facility for ages 14 months to three years and a kids club for ages four to 12. We also offer babysitting, as well as children’s menus in all our restaurants."

As far as stand-out qualities? Wells says it comes down to the hospitality.

Inside a suite at the Rock Cottage, Blue Waters Resort & Spa.

"Many of our staff have been with us for many years," Wells said. "Mrs. Bartley who is the ambassador has been with us for 50 years. We named a restaurant after her— ‘Bartley’s’! Carolyn, our mixologist at the beach bar, has also been with us for a very long time and the beach bar is named after her, too."

For more information on the property, click here!

Ocean Point Resort and Spa

Stand-out qualities: Less than 10 minutes from the airport; five minutes from Cedar Valley Golf Course; two beaches to enjoy; Sottovento Beach Club offers a cozy, informal dinner by the sea, led by an in-house executive chef.

"Guests normally choose Ocean Point because is very affordable, it's adults-only (16+) and it promises a relaxing and quaint atmosphere," said Rossana Ferrari, sales manager, Ocean Point Resort and Spa. "We are a family-run hotel and this makes our guests feel like home in a Caribbean/Mediterranean atmosphere."

There's even a sweet cat, Cutie, who welcomes guests the minute they arrive.

On Thursdays, Ocean Point provides an extra perk for guests, with a quick boat ride over to Prickly Pear Island, which can be seen from the beach. For $25 USD, guests can spend the day snorkelling and enjoying a packed picnic lunch with drinks included.

Ocean Point also brings some Italian flair to the table— head chef William comes from Italy, and translates his homestyle cooking skills into the main buffets pastas, pizzas, and focaccias. The owners of the resort are also Italian, and touches of Italy are seen in the decor.

For travellers who like a more local experience, the restaurants at Ocean Point are open to the public select days of the week.

Best for: adult couples; adults with teenage children; solo travellers
Rating: 3
Meal plan: AI
Rooms: 69
Restaurants: 1
Spa: yes
Free weddings: no
Age requirement: 16+

For more information on the property, click here!

Starfish Halcyon Cove

The main pool at Starfish Halcyon Cove

Stand-out qualities: surrounded by a mile of coral reef makes this a great spot for snorkelling; Warri Pier restaurant (romantic gourmet dining over the sea); faces west (guaranteed sunsets for wedding photos); shared beach with Sandals Grande Antigua (Dickens Bay); day passes available for purchase.
Best for: families with small children, couples, multi-generational travellers
Rating: 3
Meal plan: AI
Rooms: 219
Restaurants: 3
Spa: no
Free weddings: yes
Age requirement: N/A

The gorgeous sandy beach at Starfish Halcyon Cove.

To learn more about the property, click here!

Sandals Grande Antigua Resort and Spa

Stand-out qualities: Situated on the longest white sand beach in Antigua; home to two resorts in one (The Caribbean beachfront Village and the Mediterranean Oceanview Village; both included) unlimited fine dining — only three of them require reservations at dinner only (Kimonos/OK Corral/Eleanor’s) with unlimited fine wines and premium liquors; direct round-trip airport transfers.

"With Club Sandals, everything is taken care of," said Julia Harripaul, general manager, Sandals Grande Antigua. "It's all about spoiling you!"

Best for: Couples, honeymooners
Rating: LI (Luxury Included)
Meal plan: AI
Rooms: 373
Restaurants: 11
Spa: yes
Free weddings: yes
Age requirement: 18+ adults-only

To learn more about the property, click here!

Hawksbill by Rex Resorts

Hawksbill Resort has four private beaches, including Antigua's only nude beach.

Stand-out qualities: Four private beaches (home to Eden Beach, the only naturalist, clothing optional beach in Antigua!); The Great House (a three-bedroom, four-bedroom Caribbean-style house that sleeps six);

Best for: couples, solo travellers. Note that Hawksbill is not suitable for guests with accessibility needs, as there are many stairs and no elevators or ramps.

According to Mario, the resort manager, Hawksbill isn't for everyone, but the property knows its demographic so well that its return rate is a whopping 86 per cent. "Even if we change one tiny thing, our repeat guests never let me hear the end of it, even though they're usually only here for 10 days," Mario laughed.

While inspecting the property, PAX came across a lovely couple from the U.K., who were enjoying their 16th visit! The husband and wife duo said they absolutely love the simplicity and laid-back style that Hawksbill offers, not to mention the four beaches.

Rating: 3
Meal plan: AI
Rooms: 96
Restaurants: 2
Spa: no
Free weddings: yes
Age requirement: 18+ adults-only

Tamarind Tree, an open-air buffet with walkout views to the ocean.

To learn more about the property, click here!

Pineapple Beach Club

Stand-out qualities: Two freshwater pools; quarter-mile arc beach means less waves, making it perfect for included water sports; gratuities included; golf cart shuttle service all over the resort; special Caribbean cocktail mixology classes

The Pineapple Beach Club is also part of ACV's Spotlight Collection, which means your clients can enjoy 4,000 bonus Air Miles per couple, 50 per cent off of two massages, one guaranteed a la carte dinner, and much more!

Additionally, guests who stay at the Grand Pineapple Beach Club can walk over to the Verandah Resort & Spa, which is right next door, as part of a "Stay at One, Plat at Two" deal offered via a day pass.

Best for: couples, solo travellers, groups of friends
Rating: 4
Meal plan: AI
Rooms: 180
Restaurants: 3
Spa: yes
Free weddings: yes
Age requirement: 16+ 

To learn more about the property, click here!

Verandah Resort and Spa

The Hillside Suite at Verandah Resort & Spa

Stand-out qualities: two white sand beaches; three freshwater pools; three different suites (hillside, waterview, or waterfront); two-bedroom villas; afternoon tea and snacks included as part of the all-inclusive offering; complimentary non-motorized water activities; separate kids and teens' club on site.

Wi-fi is included at the property, but those who opt to stay in the villas can access their own private network for a fee — $10 for one day; $30 for four days; $42 for one week; $55 for 10 days (USD).

The Rasta Bar at Verandah is right on the beach.

Best for: families, couples, small groups
Rating: 4
Meal plan: AI
Rooms: 186
Restaurants: 4
Spa: yes
Free weddings: yes
Age requirement: N/A

To learn more about the property, click here!

Hammock Cove Resort and Spa

READ MORE: PHOTOS: A five-star, adults-only all-inclusive is coming to Antigua

Opens Dec. 1, 2019

Stand-out qualities: only 41 rooms, meaning the maximum capacity at all times is 82 guests; every room has a private plunge pool and/or terrace; no formal check-in (each guest is assigned a personal ambassador for the duration of the trip); Chairman's Club provides self-serve cocktail bar 24/7 (located above the lobby); all restaurants are gourmet a la carte dining and all-inclusive; infinity pool overlooking the water.

Right off the main bedroom, all bathrooms come with robes, slippers, and a stand-up shower.

Best for: small wedding parties, couples, honeymooners
Rating: 5
Meal plan: AI
Rooms: 42
Restaurants: 2
Spa: yes
Free weddings: yes
Age requirement: 16+

To learn more about the property, click here!

St. James's Club and Villas

St. James's Club and Villas has a designated adults-only pool for Royal guests.

Stand-out qualities: Two white sand beaches (Mamora Bay Beach and Coco Beach); Kids Club (ages four to 12); babysitting services ($); porter service available from 6:30 a.m. through 1 a.m.; six pools on property, including an adults-only by the spa; geographic location means guests are totally surrounded by water, no matter which part of the resort they're staying in.

"All of our pools are open until 10 p.m., which our guests love," explained Deana, GM, during our site visit. 

St. James Club & Villas also has premium luxury offerings, which include the Royal Suites, which are the second highest room category on property, one level below the villas. Guests who stay in the Royal Suite can enjoy private check-in, as well as amenities like two private pools and their own private bar, off limits to other guests at the resort. The Royal Suite section has just 48 rooms, and is strictly adults-only.

Best for: couples, families, groups, multi-generational travellers
Rating: 4
Meal plan: AI
Rooms: 248
Restaurants: 5
Spa: yes
Free weddings: yes
Age requirement: N/A

Inside the Royal Suite at St. James's Club and Villas.

To learn more about the property, click here!

Starfish Jolly Beach Resort and Spa

The main pool at Starfish Jolly Beach Resort and Spa.

Stand-out qualities: Antigua's largest all-inclusive resort; every room has a balcony or terrace; staff can speak English, Spanish, Italian, French, and even German upon request; free Wi-fi in all public areas; beach is packed firmly, making it good for those who enjoy running along the beach.
Best for: budget travellers; young families, business travellers (MICE groups), couples, partiers (think bachelor or bachelorette groups)
Rating: 3
Meal plan: AI
Rooms: 464
Restaurants: 4
Spa: yes
Free weddings: no
Age requirement: N/A

Starfish Jolly Beach has an impressively long beach, packed with local vendors.

"Our most defining point is our beach and our staff," Corgen Warner, reservations and front office manager, Starfish Jolly Beach Resort, told PAX. "We have a great team who work very hard to keep our guests "Jolly" by providing a five-star service, despite this being a three-star resort."

To learn more about the property, click here!

The ACV ANU MegaFam wrapped up on Nov. 22 with a gala beach party dinner, hosted by Sandals Grande Antigua Resort. To see all of the photos from the ANU MegFam, visit our Facebook page!

To see a full list of product offered by ACV to Antigua this year, agents can check out the ACV Sun Brochure, here.

Don't miss a single travel story: subscribe to PAX today!

Indicator...