The expectation my wife and I had for our visit to Jumby was very high indeed – at the prices you pay to get there this is entirely natural. The Tripadvisor reports also talked the resort up to a very high level, yet we both left the resort feeling it wasn’t anywhere as good as it thinks it is; it wasn’t anywhere as good as most people are saying; and it is turning in to the sort of resort that may be best avoided by couples and honeymooners. Here’s why…………….
What I’ll be doing in this report is going through all the different aspects of our holiday, judging them fairly as we saw them at the time we went (mid October 2013) and scoring each aspect out of 10. I hope this doesn’t come across as too ego centric but it is VITAL that you read my appraisal before booking as I will give a balanced view of all aspects of the resort based on 20 years of holidays to the Caribbean and 10 years travel on business. You see I feel that many reviews of this resort were from people not experienced enough to judge Jumby fairly. For example most people raved about the service, and it was good. It just wasn’t great and doesn’t even make the top 3 of hotels we’ve been to in the Caribbean, and wouldn’t even scrape into the top 10 of the Indian Ocean resorts we’ve been to. So you get my gist.
ARRIVAL: Jumby prides itself on a slick arrival procedure. Once we had entered the baggage handling area of the airport at Antigua we were met by someone who asked our names. And that was it. We never saw anyone else from Jumby for the next 30 minutes, and were waiting outside next to the Jumby kiosk in the baking heat. It was only when we asked a lady from the next kiosk where was the Jumby rep that things happened. Obviously not a very good start and I never did find out what happened, despite telling the resort manager about this. That said, this was only a blip and we arrived at the ferry terminal looking forward to getting to the island. 2/10.
FERRY: All very good and the journey to Jumby from the airport was only 15 minutes or so. 7/10.
ARRIVAL: Again very good, and were met by guest relations and quickly checked in and taken to our room. Everyone seemed very bright and cheerful but this is no different to any other arrival we’ve had in the past 5 years or so. We were then taken to our suite by golf buggy where we met up with our luggage. So far so good, especially after our airport arrival. 7/10.
ROOMS: We stayed at a courtyard suite, which is an upgraded suite close to the beach. It cost a good deal of extra money to upgrade to this suite but it was absolutely stunning. It was a large open plan area with a high ceiling going straight to the roof trusses. It was styled along the lines of a New England property and painted all white, with bright furnishings, settees, massive bed and brilliant bathroom, both indoors and out. It was the outdoor shower and bath that was a true triumph here. It was private and beautifully appointed and we only ever used the outside shower. Coming from the UK where you can shower outside only if you’re caught in the rain this was great experience and neither of us tired of it. It also had a large screen TV/DVD player and CD player. The TV showed US and Caribbean channels including the major US ones. The TV picture was very unclear but it was set up ok, not that anyone will be watching much TV here of course.
The best parts of the room were the windows/doors overlooking the beach. They were large floor to ceiling doors that opened out on to a courtyard where you had 2 sunbeds and a table and chairs. If you had the pool courtyard suites this would be where your plunge pool would be. But the view was absolutely lovely, and it was brilliant drawing open the huge curtains each morning to be greeted by Caribbean sun, sea, sand and swaying coconut trees. I would never tire of that view and I’ll never tire of thinking about it.
The main downside of the room was one that is always an issue in tropical climates, and that was the aircon. It was a climate control unit here and the design of the suite, i.e. very large, very open and a very high ceiling that meant the aircon was working virtually all the time. And it was a very noisy unit, built into the room back in 2008/9 when these rooms were done, so the unit is outdated but difficult to upgrade to the recently modern and whisper quiet units available. It meant setting the temperature of the climate control higher than you might like so that it turns itself off sooner during the night, which is what we did.
Please make sure you bring earplugs with you if staying here, if this sort of noise bothers you.
All in all though these were excellent rooms, nearly perfect. 9/10.
FOOD/MENUS: Food great, menus rubbish. 4 words that sum up Jumby’s offerings on the catering front. (See my photo of the lunch menu for an example).
The trouble here is that you have great chefs who really know how to cook, but a dire menu that only changes seasonally, 4 times a year. So for virtually all guests you are met with exactly the same lunch and dinner menu throughout your stay. And the menu is hardly extensive either. This is desperately poor and Jumby must rethink this. Every other holiday hotel we’ve stayed at has a menu that changes daily but repeats every 7 or 14 days, so for most tourists you have a different menu every day for your holiday. And for the chefs this is very easy to achieve and plan for.
Jumby would counteract this criticism by saying it offers a free choice as to what food you eat. So you only have to ask the concierge that you would like lobster, or steak, scallops and so on (none of which are on the menu) and the next day it is done for you. We did this most days and it was generally excellent, but it took us 4 days before we realised this was what you could do, and only then it was because we were reminded of this facility by another guest! Yes, upon arrival you are told about this facility but you are also told about 20 other things and our jet lagged and tired brains couldn’t hold much of this in.
7/10 for food, 2/10 for menus.
One aspect of the dining experience which was truly excellent was the beach meal, which you could pre-arrange. Essentially, you had a table and chairs in a private part of the beach surrounded in small flaming sticks. Very romantic! Our meal was truly excellent, the best we had on this holiday, served brilliantly by a young man called Anthony (if only there were more like him!) who got our food in a timely manner thus keeping it warm, was discreet, polite and professional. 10/10 for the beach meal.
SERVICE: This is the heart of my review here and an area where I feel Jumby has become out of touch with the rest of the Caribbean. As you all know, Jumby sits on Long Island so by definition is isolated from Antigua. It’s also isolated from the rest of the Caribbean and I feel this has led to a certain degree of arrogance. Certainly it’s led to a certain degree of ignorance, and by that I mean ignorance of the other resorts in the area. Because other resorts have massively upped their game and can rightly boast better service than Jumby. And I say this from experience. Last year my wife and I spent 2 weeks at Blue Waters where the service was virtually faultless (see my review Oct 28th 2012 or read the current ones) and they also learned your name very quickly; and in 2011 we stayed 2 weeks on Palm Island in the Grenadines which is even more isolated than Jumby but where we found the best staff we’ve ever come across and therefore the best service.
So what went wrong?
Honestly you need to be aware that every day something “Caribbean” is going to happen to you during meal or drink times. They are only ever minor, but when something minor goes wrong at virtually every meal it starts to grate, especially when we remembered previous hotels’ standards! Let me give you 2 examples: one day on Pasture Bay Beach we were having a picnic and had requested yoghurt, which came in a ceramic bowl. But no spoons. We had 2 knives, 2 forks but no spoons, so had to leave the yoghurt to the lizards. One dinner later that week we had ordered steak and fries. We got steak, mash potato and spinach. So we waited for our fries whilst the steak got cold. There are many other examples but I won’t bore you with them, and many of you reading this may be thinking “so what?” If you are then the service here will be level with your expectation, but if not you MUST keep in mind Jumby’s service is not anywhere near perfect and is ridden with minor errors all the time. I honestly feel some of the errors are occurring because staff tend NOT TO WRITE ORDERS down, even when they are fairly lengthy. Is this a management demand? But I hate it when they insist they can remember orders because they rarely do. So come on Jumby, give ALL waiting staff a pen and pad and get them to write everything down because orders at present are being forgotten or misinterpreted. At other times mistakes were made because some staff simply lacked common sense.
Also, and I’m going to come across as a bit churlish here, it slightly grated on me that they tried remembering our names all the time. Why? Because I wanted them to offer me better service. If no one remembers my name I don’t care, but I really DO care when they are all friendly, smiley and call me Mr ….., but then cock up my order!
Clearly then, Jumby waiting staff are not perfect, and maybe I’m being harsh. Maybe you’ll read this and think nothing of it, that it’s all part of the Caribbean experience and it won’t put you off coming. That’s all well and good, and I’d generally agree. Except Jumby was nearly twice the price of my 2 previous holidays and they consistently boast about perfect service. So we can all therefore EXPECT service to be of an exemplary quality. I’m afraid it wasn’t, not in any area.
Take the beach side sun beds on the main beach. Every few minutes or so a staff member walks up and down the beach offering drinks etc. Great! So you don’t have to leave your sunbed and you can get anything you want brought to you. That really does sound brilliant and if it was a well oiled machine it would be brilliant. But it was not well oiled. So again, each day, we had to put up with mistakes. On occasion, drinks I’d ordered were just forgotten. But the worst error occurred every day and that was a lack of clearing up. We did an experiment one day after drinking coffee and once we’d finished the empty cups and pot weren’t cleared for the whole morning. We had to ask for them to be removed eventually. And that’s bloody annoying as I hate having dirty items hanging about. I also don’t understand why these items weren’t noticed. I can only surmise that for one or two staff members it was because they were too busy interacting with guests (always a good thing) but then forgot to do the basics. Like I said above, if I could chose it would be less touchy feely stuff, just more of the basics please.
That said, I was once a waiter during student days, as was my wife, so we both appreciate how damned tough the job is. But we also know therefore that orders must be written every time (see above) and the most effective way of working is to have sections. So one staff member works a few tables. This would also work on the beach so one staff member works, say, 6 sun bed areas. In that way they would get to know the guests better, and their habits, and therefore be more likely to know when a guest had finished coffee, or anything else, and have the time and confidence to clear up.
My final comment would be simple – I’d like staff to remember my name AND be touchy feely AND to remember the basics. If all three of these aspects were perfected than Jumby could rightfully claim to offer perfect service. But at present only ever 2 of these aspects are fulfilled, so Jumby’s service scores a 6/10 for us.
RESTAURANTS (This is comments on the restaurants as a building, not the food):
3 restaurants on the island. 2 are very nice and one is tired and a bit dated. The main restaurant is the Veranda, which is where you are served breakfast, lunch and dinner. It was a truly lovely place to eat, overlooking the beach and Caribbean. Faultless views with numerous fans in the non air-conditioned space. My only gripe was the chairs which, being wicker, were cooling but uncomfortable on the back and arms.
The second restaurant, the Pool Grill, was next to the main pool. Outdoors again and again it had lovely views. The 3rd restaurant, the Estate House, was mediocre. It was a lovely old house but frankly tired inside.
Overall the Verandah scores 9/10, the Pool Grill 8/10 and the Estate House 6/10.
The biggest issue with the restaurant was that there wasn’t one that was air conditioned. During our week the shade temperatures reached 30C (86F) up to 37C (98.6F) so it was blisteringly hot. Not a problem in itself, this is the Caribbean after all, but we just found problems with the drinks. See next section.
DRINKS: The all inclusive house wines were excellent. No issues here, but we did have issues with the temperature of the drinks. If you like chilled white wine and Prosecco (the sparkling wine) it warms up too soon. The red gets too warm. So the hotel kept the wine in an ice bucket which worked well as long as only small measures were poured. The reds were supposed to be kept on top of an ice tray to keep them at room temperature. However, mostly the reds ended up in an ice bucket and so were served chilled. If you read what I said about the service lacking in many areas this was another annoyance, as chilled red wine is horrible. So whilst excellent in themselves, the drinks were hit and miss as to how they were served. This had the knock on effect on preventing us from buying any wines. Surely an air conditioned restaurant would allow more revenue for the hotel as I know many people would have bought more wines, as well as giving you a haven from the heat of an evening. 4/10.
FUTURE DIRECTION OF THE HOTEL: Say what? What exactly has this got to do with our holiday here?
Honestly, this is the most important part of this review so I urge you to read on, especially if you are going to book but haven’t quite done so. Especially if you are a couple looking for romance or honeymooners.
Our first week in the resort was bliss. Quiet, private and romantic. Forget the niggles I’ve already talked about, let’s just focus on the positive for a few short moments. By the second week UK half term had started and the families started to arrive. I’m talking babies (why do couples bring BABIES to the Caribbean? Nuts!!) to teenagers. And our second week here proved to be a minor disaster, as we were forced to move to where the kids weren’t. One day we were by the pool but had to move as the kids moved in and proceeded to play, shout, throw balls and so on. Another day our lilos went missing from our beach sun beds as the kids had purloined ours, and many others. So we had to go to the other end of the beach to find any. I noticed on both these occasions the parents were no where to be seen. Shame on them. Is the word “parent” a substitution for the word “selfish”? At Jumby this week it clearly was.
I can’t tell you how many days were ruined by this behaviour. And this is my other issue here – I felt our complaints went unheeded. Sure, management assured us they had spoken to the parents but the following day nothing had changed. So if they had spoken to the parents what was said? My guess is that managers are so afraid to upset any guests they’d rather not face the issue head on and so skirt around it. Result? They don’t come across clearly enough so the issue continues. I have to say that we were spoken to by management who assured us they had spoken to the parents and further assured us the issue would be resolved. I’m afraid to say the issue was not resolved so I’m wondering what was said? Was anything said? I don’t know what to believe here but what I KNOW is that for our last 2 days nothing changed here, and this brings me to my sub heading about the direction of the hotel.
In the past it has been advertised as a romantic hideaway. It’s family friendly but why would anyone bring their family as it’s very boring for kids.
What is different is that in previous years it was mostly couples who had the funds to be able to afford Jumby. But that’s changing. Nowadays there are many families who can also afford paying for these places, and so they do. Jumby also regularly offers free child places also. And even though Jumby is unsuitable for many kids the families still come. And now Jumby has built a kiddies club, so it has officially recognised that families will make up a fair proportion of future visitors.
Now you might say, great, a kiddies club. The kids will be away from the main resort and so leave the adults to themselves. And that would be true. Except it was the teenagers who created most of the havoc and they are not served by a kiddies club, so Jumby has not solved the problem of potential disruption but has opened its door in an official way to attracting more of them. And it is this change that worries me as I believe this direction will slowly but surely alienate more and more couples who will go elsewhere. It may take some time to manifest, but it will happen, especially as when you pay top dollar you don’t want a Butlins/Disney type atmosphere.
It is for these reasons I offer a warning to couples and honeymooners who are thinking of going to Jumby. Please think about this very carefully, and your attitude to kids. If you’ve read what I’ve said above and you think it no big deal, you’re on safe ground. If you think this is a definite issue but you are still determined to go then Google UK and US school holidays and avoid them like the plague. If you are uncertain about going, especially in view of what I’ve said, avoiding school holidays is a must, but I would go further with my advice. I would avoid Jumby until it had a place for teenagers and a separate pool for kids.
The hotel has plans for all these things, but these are years away. As I said at the start of this review, Jumby has become arrogant and has therefore not planned ahead in the same way as other hotels without Jumby’s reputation. No wonder then that other hotels are doing better than Jumby when it comes to looking after the family market WITHOUT disrupting their core, couples/honeymooners market.
Like at said at the beginning of this section, the future direction of Jumby greatly worries me 4/10.
CHAMBER MAIDS: For us the best service came from the chambermaids who genuinely offered 5 star service, without missing a beat. When we needed extra stuff it came on the dot. If we left a note for extra wine/tea/soap etc it was there the next day without fail. They were always polite. And the turn down service in the evening was excellent also. All the staff involved in this deserve congratulation and whoever’s in charge is very, very good at their job. 10/10.
THE ISLAND: The island is really why you come here, and it doesn’t disappoint. It really is beautiful and very well kept. Grass is cut, beaches are tended, and the gardens are fabulous. They are a big attraction for Hummingbirds, several of which we saw every day. The island has only 2 beaches available for tourists (any other beaches are inaccessible due to the private houses that take up most of the coast line) but these are the only 2 you’d want to access anyway, so you are definitely not short changed.
The main beach, Jumby Bay Beach, is a long beach with lovely powder sand and shallow water. It’s a joy to walk upon and look at to. It’s not a joy to swim in because it has a lot of weeds under foot, which are soft, which caused a few people to exclaim in horror! Silly really as it was only soft weeds and no danger to anyone, but you know what some people are like. I loved this beach.
The 2nd beach is Pasture Bay. This was stunning, secluded, private and a proper Caribbean beach. At any time of the day you could walk on it and there would be no one else there so it felt like a true hideaway. In view of my comments above you will appreciate this felt like our favourite area. Don’t expect service here as unlike Jumby Bay Beach because there is none. There are no toilets either and you cannot access the water to swim as the entire beach has rocks all the way along the shoreline. This prevented the beach from being perfect and meant you couldn’t swim to cool off, which put a lot of people off. But I for one was grateful for that as it virtually guaranteed privacy.
It also allowed you to have a picnic here in privacy, which was a highlight for us. Basically you order one from the concierge and choose your food and drink. On a pre-arranged date it is brought to you at Pasture Bay Beach and you are set up on a table with white tablecloth and chairs, and left to your own devices. There are 3 stations for the picnic, but you cannot see your neighbor so you feel you have the beach to yourself. On one of our picnics however we were entirely alone and we spent 4 hours relaxing, photographing and generally playing at being well-fed and watered Robinson Crusoes!
The island itself scores 8/10 for us, but the picnic and Pasture Bay Beach gets a 9/10.
MOSQUITOES/SAND FLIES: I always like to have a separate heading for these critters as it can ruin a holiday if you’re not well informed about this aspect.
This was the very best experience I’ve had with these bugs in the last 10 years. Surprisingly, but wonderfully, Jumby does NOT have sand flies! So you can have romantic walks, barefoot on the beach with little to worry you. And they fog at least 3 times a week and it obviously works because I just didn’t see the mozzies as often as I usually do, and trust me I’ve got a sixth sense about these blighters, spotting them often before they’ve spotted me! So I had just 3 bites on me for the whole 2 weeks I was there. This compares to over 100 at my unluckiest to 20 – 30 normally. But there is a caveat here that you must abide by – namely VIGILENCE! I’m so experienced now with prevention of bites that I ensure at night time (the worst time usually) that my legs are covered and my exposed bits of arm and neck are sprayed. This is why I don’t mind the dress code of long trousers/pants with shoes and socks. Ok, it might be warm but that beats being nibbled at by blood suckers. So, WOMEN BEWARE, as the only bad receivers of the blood sucking Culicidae were the exposed legs of the female guests. The unwritten rule of dressing for the evening for our female friends is dresses or skirts with sandals, ensuring as much tanned leg is exposed. All very nice for us chaps, but all very nice for the mozzie brigade also. Please therefore ensure your exposed legs are sprayed, it’s the only way to keep them off, unless you want to dress like a man? Thought not. 10/10.
GETTING AROUND: The main form of transport here (besides walking) is by bike. Each room has 2 bikes parked outside (see photo). Jumby is 330 acres so is quite large, and if you want to see the whole island it takes about an hour to walk the perimeter, and in the heat of the day is quite a challenge. We decided on the bikes to do this and had an excellent time riding around the concrete roads and tracks, it really was an excellent way to see the island. However, it was quite hilly and allied with the heat made it a challenge for most. Keep this in mind if you’re planning to cycle.
The bicycles were “free form” too, in that you didn’t actually “own” your bike at any time. So if you cycled to the restaurant and came out to find “your” bike gone it was tough. You just had to choose someone else’s, and so on. However, there are some flaws in this so I need to proffer some advice so you get the best out of this. If you are like us and plan to cycle every day (as we did, we also did some hill training on these bikes as a substitute for the gym) you will tend to get used to the bike you have. We also adjusted the seats, kept the tyre pressure high etc. And before anyone says all the bikes are the same they are not. The handle bars vary, the seat positions vary, some are quite new, some are old, some squeak, some had a chain guard whilst others didn’t and so on. So you do get used to your bike. In the last few days of our holiday our bikes were taken from the restaurant area, never to be seen again, and the only other 2 available were 2 older versions and not comfortable at all. For most reading this it’ll be no big deal and nothing to get het up about. But I was a bit annoyed and I wished I’d taken a small chain and padlock so I could lock my bike to my wife’s to ensure we kept to the same bikes. This may be not joining in with the island’s intended laid back policy, but I’d rather feel I had access to “our” bikes throughout the holiday with no risk of them disappearing. It would also prevent one or two instances where we cycled to the restaurant for lunch, came out 2 hours later to find our bikes had gone and there were no others to take! So we had to walk back to our suite, which, in my wife’s heels was not easy. Yes we could have got a lift from a buggy but these were often not readily available.
So my advice, for anyone who intends using the bikes every day, is to bring a means of securing them. Trust me, it’ll be worth it. 7/10.
NO ROOM KEYS NEEDED: That’s right, there are no room keys on Jumby. At first we were both a bit worried, as we travel with expensive items. True, there’s a safe in the room but in ours it was attached inside a desk drawer, and safes are only as secure as their attachment. In this case not very!
But we really enjoyed this aspect. You could just leave your room and not have to worry about who has the key, carrying the damned thing or, in the case of electronic key cards wiping them clean against your mobile/cell phone and being unable to get back in your room. You can obviously lock your room from the inside so sleeping securely is no issue. 10/10.
GYM/FITNESS ROOM: This was ok. It had a few CV machines but they were tired. 2 cross trainers had material that had come loose from the arms and it was just flapping in the wind. (see photos). It was unsightly and unhygienic. We told concierge about it in our first week but it was never repaired. Goodness me, all it needed was some glue/adhesive or just some gaffer/duck tape as a quick measure.
The weights machines again were just ok. They looked quite old to me.
That said, we had quite good workouts here and the gym was never very busy, so a reasonable effort but some updating needed and definitely quicker repairs! 5/10.
EXCURSIONS: The hotel offers daily, complimentary boat trips which was excellent. One of these trips, snorkeling to nearby Bird Island was popular but mostly rubbish. It took place on the smallest boat in their fleet and was very overcrowded when I saw it leave the dock. Plus Bird Island is not a great snorkeling spot, but then again few places are unless you venture much further from Jumby.
An excellent trip was a catamaran sunset cruise. The boat was large and the cruise great.
Another trip was the circumnavigation of the island, again on the smaller boat but usually less crowded that the snorkeling one. It allows you to look at the coastal houses which are worth looking at.
Snorkeling is a 4/10, the sunset cruise a 9/10 and the circumnavigation an 8/10.
CONCLUSION: I’ve waxed lyrical about many of the upsides as well as downsides of Jumby, because that was our experience when we went. I’ve written in detail about them because at the prices you pay for this holiday it is vital all Tripadvisor readers are aware of what’s in store. If you are going to pay thousands for a few days I feel you are OWED this information, so you can make an informed choice. In this way your expectation will be realistic and you may have a better holiday as a result. It may well be that nothing I’ve said will bother you. It may well be that some or all of what I’ve said bothers you greatly and you may go elsewhere and save yourselves a lot of money. Really, it doesn’t matter – at least now you can be far more informed compared to many reports that lack detail, and I fervently hope this is what this report has achieved.
I guess my final scribblings must be to remind everyone who’s read thus far that we thought Jumby as an overall experience was excellent. We will have many memories of a holiday that will stay with us for a lifetime. But we won’t think of Jumby with huge fondness.
When I did my report about Palm Island in 2011 I had the Tripadvisor headline “Whisper it, is this the best resort in the Caribbean?” Prior to coming to Jumby I was hoping to usurp that experience and state that Jumby was the best. Well, it isn’t, not by a long shot. It is great, but no where near the best the Caribbean has to offer.
We won’t be returning.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.