Our first ever visit to St Lucia in March 2013 with our two adult daughters had been an outstanding success. I had had serious reservations about holidaying in the Caribbean but doubt had been replaced by delight. My wife and I planned a return trip without the girls this time. They seemed to think that as two innocents in our mid-sixties we were likely to struggle on our own. Would we cope with Gatwick Airport, the long-haul flight, the transfer and wouldn’t we get a tad bored? We determined to prove them wrong and went ahead and booked a week’s holiday at Galley Bay Resort, Antigua for the end of October and into early November 2013. Well in truth there were some issues. I panicked when I thought I had lost my mobile phone. I hadn’t of course. My suitcase seemed to have gone missing but my wife found it and admonished me for not tying the luminous green band around it. I learn slowly these days.
We both wanted simply to completely relax after a rather long and difficult period of family bereavements. We chose Galley Bay after reading probably thousands of reviews on Trip-advisor. It seemed a safe bet. Sir Chris Hoy also had chilled there according to a newspaper article I had read. If Chris recommended it, it was surely good enough for us! As departure day approached I was slightly apprehensive. I had noticed that the long range forecast had taken a turn for the worst. The long summer days were to give way to thunder, lightning and intense downpours. A washout might be on the cards. We did in fact have over two days of solid rain. The sun disappeared and the skies were heavy. This could have dampened our spirits but it didn’t and the rest of this review explains why.
Galley Bay was only 20 minutes from the airport so the journey after a nine hour flight was quickly completed. We had been delayed for two hours by the late October storm which had caused havoc in southern England. So we arrived late and tired. We were efficiently processed at reception and plied with glasses of champagne before our golf buggy journey with Stuart, across the lagoon bridge to our superior beachfront apartment. These were in the centre of the complex, near the pool and bars. We had thought that the location might be noisy but not at Galley Bay! The room was fine. It had everything we needed save milk and a kettle for morning tea but both arrived in seconds of contacting guest services.
Service to guests
The service offered by the staff at Galley Bay was outstanding. Yes there were some members of staff who said little but they were young and rather shy. Some people may have found the service slow at times but we were in the Caribbean, it was hot and humid and we were in no hurry. The service at this resort was truly outstanding in all respects. The bar staff, the gardeners, workers in the restaurants, those at reception and the cleaners did a wonderful job. The place was spotless, beautifully kept and sprayed regularly. So there was little need for the insect sprays we had brought with us. Janice was an absolute delight. Fun to talk to and nothing at all was too much trouble for her. She spent ages in a thunderstorm offering her umbrella to guests who would otherwise have got absolutely soaked walking between the Tee-pee Bar and Sea-grape restaurant. Ismay who had worked ay Galley Bay for 50 years and who finally retired that week from her job as ambassador summed it up for us. The island relies on tourism and this resort looks after its staff very well. That is why they are happy and often continue to work there year after year. Ismay spent an hour with us explaining how the resort had developed since the 1950s and even offered to take us on a tour of a Gauguin Cottage. What a lady. I bet she will be back! There are too many others to mention although all deserve to be mentioned. I had trouble with a dodgy safe deposit box but the maintenance man arrived quickly and sorted it out. Chris and Cedric frequently approached guests to ensure that all was perfectly okay with them. So five out of five for service.
Superior Beach front accommodation.
The deluxe beachfront apartments, usually on two floors were bigger and more modern than our accommodation but similarly faced the sea and beach on one side and gardens on the other. They were further away from the pool and bars. We had rejected the Gauguin cottages because they were further from the beach, nearer the lagoon and we did not like the fact that the bathroom was separate and locked but the honeymoon couples unsurprisingly seemed to love the solitude and the integral plunge pool associated with each cottage. We were very happy with our room. Plenty of storage space was available. It was in a rustic but cosy style, the bathroom spotless despite the peeling paint below the door and the bed was particularly comfortable. The noise of the waves and the night insects caused no problems sleep-wise but the lashing of tropical rain on the roof did unsurprisingly interrupt sleep. Champagne had awaited our arrival. We used the bottle water provided and then tap water without any problems. Some reviewers had complained that the fridge was ill-stocked but that did not worry us. The bars and customer services were so close and it was no bother fetching drinks and we spent so little time in the room anyway. Room 3 was by the swimming pool on one side and opened onto the beach on the other. In all, the room itself had 6 sun loungers and there were more available at the pool. So no problem at all in that direction. If however you do come from Europe, remember to bring appropriate adapters to fit the sockets which were quite different from those we had had on St. Lucia. You have to vacate the room by noon on the day of departure. We chose to pay a small fee (which actually was donated to island charities) so we could have a cabana. This was used to store our cases and to have a wash and shower before departure. These cabanas were located by the Gauguin restaurant but we were transported there with our luggage by buggy.
There were lizards and creepy crawlies around which is only to be expected. The young lady in the next apartment screamed in horror when she saw a lizard and large insect above the door but her partner came to the rescue and calm was quickly restored. Expect to see plenty of wildlife from humming birds, cranes, lizards, mongoose, fish, jellyfish, butterflies and an abundance of other insects. Visit the lagoon and gardens to see what I mean. Take a camera with you and go on the Tuesday gardening trip. We were about to leave Ismay’s restaurant at 10 pm when a commotion broke out and we were called over. Security guards had discovered that turtle eggs had hatched. They rushed around carefully picking up the little creatures which seemed disorientated by the lights. Soon a large plastic container was full. It contained probably over sixty turtles which were then taken to the sea. It was a delightful scene to savour. All along the beach small areas were cordoned off because turtle eggs had been laid and hatching was awaited.
You meet lots of different types of people. Most are British but there are many American and Canadian guests. There a no children but quite a few honeymooners. Most guests however are rather older with many in their 50s and 60s. I notice some disabled guests confined to wheel chairs who were able to negotiate the resort with some ease. We therefore had lots of friendly conversations and met some wonderful people including Karen and Bobby, two deliciously hilarious and great fun Americans. We missed them when they left. The odd guest can be rather superior and awkward. One lady proved to be remarkably like Lady Catherine de Bourgh in Austen's “Pride and Prejudice” and in consequence we gave her a very wide berth. Interestingly, neither the beach nor the pool area were ever crowded. It is amazing the way guests seem to disappear into the environment. Sometimes it was hard to see more than 12 people on the very long beach or in the sea. That is a delight of the resort. It never appears crowded. There are vendors on the beach which is public but they were not really intrusive.
The largest restaurant and centrally located along the beach frontage with excellent views. This restaurant has sometimes had a bad press from reviewers but we found the food and service to be very good. I loved the many egg dishes on offer for breakfast particularly Eggs Manhattan and Creole which had to be ordered. Flavoured pancakes were also available on a daily basis. If you wanted to eat quickly you could get cereals, fruit juices, fruit, bread, pastries toasts and hot food including sausages, bacon, scrambled egg and hash brownies from the buffet. I would offer one particular criticism. Pots of good coffee were available but if you wanted tea you had to settle for a jug of hot water and tea bags on the table. What would coffee lovers say if they were offered coffee bags and a pot of hot water? Please management, do let the tea drinkers have tea pots containing properly brewed tea and so end the discrimination. It was good to see that additional pots were available if requested. Guests going to the buffet should cover over their drinks and food. The cheeky little birds are both intrusive and persistent.
Dinner and lunch in the sea grape were always excellent. House wines were basic but ok. We rather liked the sauvignon blank which went particularly well with fish dishes. The choice of food was good. It was beautifully presented and very tasty. A fusion of Caribbean and Asian cooking, delicious and healthy. The nouvelle- cuisine approach meant some courses looked a tad sparse but they were mouth- watering and by the end of the meal I was always rather full. Younger people might be hungrier but they were perfectly entitled to go through the card if they wished. I frequently had fish. The marlin, tuna, swordfish, grouper and snapper were wonderful. The soups, appetisers and desserts were all very tasty. Do try the various ice creams and sorbets. I loved the lime and the passion fruit sorbets.
If you just wanted beef burgers quickly you would be better off at the Barefoot Grill which was also very good. It does hot dogs, salads, fish of the day and other food all presented in a basket with crisps.
A nicely appointed restaurant nearly a ten minute walking distance away from the centre but you can travel by buggy too. You need to book the same day and it is not always open. The tables are located in Tahitian cabanas for two or more guests. Very romantic on a warm evening but less so if it pours down. The food was tasty and good but in my view little better than the Sea Grape. It covers a large area so the service can be slow. Be patient because you will enjoy the meal in a very pleasing setting.
You have to pay a surcharge for a meal here of $35 dollars each and you need to book a table. The restaurant is at the opposite end of the beach from the Gauguin and takes just under 10 minutes to walk there. It has a formidable reputation but we did not think it was that much better than what we had eaten in the other restaurants. There was more alcohol on offer and more dishes. The food was well presented and tasty but the service was slightly disappointing. Heather was great and quickly intervened when she realised that our “Antiguan Smiles” had never materialised. You are offered an opportunity to choose from an expensive wine list. It would be better if it were pointed out that the free house wines are still available here.
Both the Tee-pee and Sea grape bars are excellent. The cocktails, alcoholic and non-alcoholic, are brilliant and refreshing. Try the Mango Crush and the banana smoothies! Janice, and Sandy are always on hand and Christine sings beautifully whilst serving cocktails.
Afternoon tea is available in the Sea-grape bar but is not up to the standard of a typical English afternoon tea. Bettys in Harrogate and York have nothing to fear!
A great area with plenty of sun loungers and shade if required from canopies and palm trees. The pool is well maintained, clean and very attractive with a smashing waterfall. It is easy to get into and out of, not too deep and the floor although rough is sensibly non-slip. We loved it there but others preferred the beach.
We just wanted to relax with a book so we did not do many of the other activities available. You can take out bikes, try snorkelling, sailing and kayaking.
There is a library and computer suite housing three computers and a printer which is always open and useful for online booking with Virgin Atlantic. Wi-Fi is available in this location and at the pool and bars.
There is a small gift shop
The gardens are beautiful and well managed.
You can order a range of massages.
This is a lovely resort and I recommend it whole-heartedly if you want to relax, have wonderful food and excellent service. I do not hesitate in awarding it five stars. There is no hectic night life but the calypso and other nightly music at Sea grape was rather pleasant. If you want to go clubbing or drink and dance into the early hours this resort is not for you. It was however just what my wife and I were looking for. We loved our visit so much that the two plus days of torrential rain could not dampen our spirits. The island desperately needed the water and it got it. We still went into the pool in the rain. We would never have ventured forth into the North Sea but you can do this here when the temperature is 29C. So we left without much of a tan but with lots of wonderful memories and images. We felt totally relaxed and we intend to return……
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.