Ahhhh yes……….Blue Waters in Antigua. If you are reading this review, then you are quite possibly thinking of dipping your toe in the water, and booking this place for a holiday, or even a wedding. Perhaps just for a break or an anniversary of some description. By now you may have also calculated the cost and wondering if this establishment is worth the money. Some interesting reviews on this site, some disastrous, but in the main most are very positive. Ask yourself the question…..’can anywhere be absolutely 100% perfect?’ My fellow travellers, alas, I do not think so. Mainly because it’s down to personal tastes, disposable income etc , which, when combined can affect what you may think about any resort. Blue Waters is not a cheap holiday, especially when the months roll into the notorious ‘high season’. But is this place worth your time regardless of the time of year you visit?
We have not long returned from Blue Waters, it was a holiday to endorse the many years I have been with my long suffering lady. I will try and keep this entry as balanced as possible. I will apologise in advance for its length, but if I am being given the opportunity to try and paint a picture different from those already submitted, I invite you to read on. By all means, scroll down to the next offering if you start to yawn. Most importantly, I am British, so observers from different countries may find some comments a little out of the ordinary. I will be starting from the point of entering Gatwick Airport; this experience is not detrimental to Blue Waters.
So……Gatwick Airport, we were Virgin customers for this holiday, that’s where they fly from for this all inclusive extravaganza. I understand British Airways have a similar schedule, so there is a sort of choice when booking up. Forget the hype, Gatwick, which has allegedly had an upgrade is still as crowded and in many places quite tatty and so obviously full of aesthetic snags similar to those I encountered last time I had the misfortune of flying from there. I cannot quite put my finger on what it is about this airport that brings on an attack of gastric reflux. The check in was up to the usual Virgin standard, even if the 747 we boarded looked as though they had fitted some not so worn out seats from a scrapped airframe. Cattle Class appears to have now become ‘asylum seeker grade’. I rejected the possibility of upgrading to ‘minimal but slightly better leg room’ Premium Economy, because firstly the holiday had cost me my soul and I suspected that Virgin had made it a pre-requisite, to adapt various un- natural body positions during the 8 hour flight, in an effort to stop blood flow to my vital organs. But Hey! We’re off on holiday…..
Arrival at Antigua was pretty much on time. Now pay attention everyone, I have some good news for those travelling to Antigua with respect to on-going improvements. It would appear there is a new terminal being built. Well sort of……….there is a concrete shell and not a lot else going on apart from observing the occasional puff of cigarette smoke emanating from one of the glassless window apertures. At the moment, that means passengers will continue to endure the notorious Antigua Immigration process. To make this system even more enjoyable, at the moment, any arriving aircraft that is bigger than a Tiger Moth, will park up on a dispersal somewhere in a galaxy far away. It’s a bit of a walk from plane to the terminal, it should give your legs some much needed movement, but the heat and smell of the tropics will sort of take your mind off it. More than likely, Air Traffic Control will also have allowed two or three other large passenger jets to taxi onto the airfield, at the same time you arrive, disembarking their human cargo. Great idea this, having all those people heading towards an immigration portal, that is as much use as a third armpit. Nothing has changed since the last time I endured it many years ago. There is a nice picture on the Immigration Hall wall depicting what the new terminal will look like when it’s finished. I looked over at the new terminal building again to compare………I saw yet another puff of cigarette smoke, this time from a different window aperture. There was some movement at least. Anyway, about an hour or so will be the norm in immigration, unless you are Mr & Mrs Opulent who flew Business Class and were given the privilege of getting off the plane first. Get what you pay for……Yes?
Your luggage will be waiting in the hall, and then you can enjoy Customs. Similar to Immigration, but with a few added smiles. Once through that, you have escaped! Find what is supposed to be the Virgin Stand outside, and then endure being asked several times who you are and where you are going. I likened it to a Cattle Auction, being examined by numerous taxi drivers. The drivers would bid for you, only to be out bid by another driver, or so it seemed. And so the process went on, and on. Shuffled around for 15 minutes, eventually we won the heart of one drivers who appeared to take pity on us and he bundled us into his minibus. We left behind many holiday makers suffering this nightmare; I do hope they managed to find loving homes.
None of this is of the Blue Water’s doing. Being a British Citizen I reserve my right to whinge about something. Read on because we are on our way to Blue Waters now.
Arriving at the entrance to Blue Waters, there was a gentleman of large build, stood waiting for us. He opened the minibus door, looked in at us, assisted our egress, shook my hand (quite firmly) and he openly declared ‘Welcome to Blue Waters…..YOU WILL have a great time!’ I thought ‘Whatever you say mate, but I’ll be the judge of that’. If I’m honest, he was a man mountain and there was no way I was going to argue with him. As it happens, he was the Manager. Please carry on reading if you want to know if he was right about his demand that we would have a great time. There were other staff present, equally as welcoming. We were ushered towards the rather plush reception area and encouraged to partake in drinks and a comprehensive, if not relaxed booking in procedure. And then, when we decided we were ready, we toddled off with a pleasant young chap, our cases in his hands, to our accommodation. En route he would pause momentarily to point out places of interest within the grounds. There were many. The bars and the opening times being the main concern of my other half. She appeared satisfied with the hotels licencing hours and choices of alcohol on offer.
Upon approaching our room it was evident that we had been upgraded from Superior to Beach Front Room. Upon entering the room and getting onto the balcony, the view was great and the beach a few metres away. I thanked the chap carrying our bags for the upgrade. He then confirmed we had not been upgraded. This was the Superior Room thingy, not Beach Front! This put me in a bit of a dilemma, should I complain immediately that I had mistakenly conned myself into thinking we had been upgraded? I think I got away with not making myself look like an idiot. Note to anyone worried about views/distance to beachfront…..there is no substantial notable difference between Superior or Beachfront. This bloke got his well deserved tip and off he went, not before pointing out the essentials eg: Free Mini Bar (That means totally free when A/I) and the room safe etc. No sooner had he left but then there was a knock at the door. We were not expecting visitors, never the less, I opened the door. There was yet another member of staff. He was holding an ice bucket which contained a bottle of bubbly and champagne glasses. He walked in, placed it down in our room then wished us a good afternoon, and left promptly. Suspecting he had delivered it to us by mistake I perused the card attached……..our names were on it and best wishes from the staff. I then opened an envelope passed to me at reception when booking in. This, I thought, will no doubt be a list of charges for stuff we have not asked for in the room. Wrong again! It was the offer of a champagne breakfast in our room at our leisure………compliments of Blue Waters. Hmmm, this where the hospitality ends no doubt.
OK, I digress. The room. Fully functioning bathroom, (Ladies there are loads of mirrors, a hairdryer) albeit the decor could do with a little updating in the next few years. Fully kitted out with toiletries, and not the cheap stuff either. Sooooo………this potentially cuts down on the masses of gels/shampoo we tend to take away with us. This stuff is replaced on a daily basis. Bed………comfy. Air Con…..modern and quiet with added ceiling fan if needed. Mini bar……..refilled at your discretion with very comprehensive choice (Remember if A/I no charge unless you want something special). Room Service…..daily and discreet. Balcony…….faces the Caibbean Sea (a few palm trees in the way but pleasing to the eye none the less), appropriate furniture supplied. Ipod Docking Station and modern TV. Free Internet access, which for all intents and purposes is pretty good all over the resort for general use. However if you are sending/receiving large data packages, take a seat in Reception area (Can think of worse places to sit….it’s where you’ll get the strongest signal). If you intend spending a lot of time in a room may I suggest you opt for a Villa. Apparently, these Villas are…….well……Villas really. Go figure.
Upon returning to our room one night, we found that we had had an intruder during our absence. We had left the room in darkness before going to dinner, now there was a table light on. The curtains had been shut, the waste bins emptied and the bedding not how we had left it. This was obviously a very tidy if not conscientious intruder. I felt compelled to pick up the phone immediately to report this matter to the staff……..but only to say thanks for the turn down service! Never had it gratis before, what a lovely touch!
Eating, we are all different when it comes to food. Take note of other reviewer’s comments on these matters. Personally, the Palm suited on most occasions. Went to Bartley’s for several nights and found the best way of sorting out the ‘same menus every week’ scenario was to methodically work your way through it on each visit. You will not be shocked to find yourself eating the same meal once or twice during your stay as the quality is good. Oh yes, guess what? The staff are more than happy to try and accommodate any reasonable request for a variation in the meals offered. My waistline is testament to eating whilst being at Blue Waters. As for the Cove Restaurant, ate there once and the $50.00 per guest allowance is another nice touch and anything you pay for on top is reasonable. It’s nice there. Food, service and environment are pleasing, but then again so were the other eateries. The standard bottled water is in abundance and free when A/I. Do drink a lot of it, regularly.
The Staff. Readers please take note that we did not encounter anything but politeness and more often than not an eagerness to make our stay as comfortable as humanly possible. I never thought for one moment during our stay, that I would be having an engaging, if not most pleasant conversation with a member of staff tending to the gardens, as I made my way to breakfast, as I did have. I believe the phrase ‘treat others as you would like to be treated’ comes into effect here. Essentially, if you are the sort of person that could upset an empty room, you will have no fun here. The staff will make every effort to try and remember you by name, but be realistic, if you are only staying for a long weekend for example. It takes time for them to acclimatise as well, and if they do have difficulties getting it right, it’s not personal! Also, more importantly, not one of the guests will be singled out for preferential treatment……unless they have paid for something of better quality, hence why you pay more for Rock Cottage etc. If you think I am going to praise any particular members of staff, forget it! I appreciated them all no matter what role they performed.
The Resort. Very tasteful and maintained to a high standard. Beach is well laid out but not generous in size, not an issue as there are a plethora of clean pools with comfortable loungers parasol shades (Towels for sunbathing provided at stations all over the complex , and not short in supply). Blue Waters appears to be a suitable place for those special occasions. The few weddings we saw taking place appeared well organised and I must admit, possibly the best settings I’ve seen in a long time. All non-motorised Water Sports available are more than adequate (The lads running it are very approachable). No Beach Vendors other than those on Jet Skis who would sail by and only speak to those who made eye contact. But even they zipped off toot sweet when offers were declined. The sea was calm, shallow and most days clear. Beach was physically raked every day in an on-going effort to clear what very little natural debris had turned up overnight. Short walks to just about anywhere you need to get to within the resort. No smoking at the bar counters/inside restaurants. However perfectly acceptable pretty much everywhere else, as you will never be more than a few feet from the outside. Security looks good, even better when we were there. Mainly because the FIFA World Cup was being exhibited at Blue Waters (Blue Waters has achieved many awards over the years and I suppose this accolade was well deserved). Guests/Staff all had the chance of seeing it…..there was no inconvenience suffered. Imagine that happening in the UK….everything would grind to a halt! You will no doubt encounter a short power cut at some point. Worry not, Blue Waters has its own generator which cuts in immediately and then, it’s as if nothing has happened. Night time live musical entertainment will serve up a favourable amount of cheese, I like cheese!
The hotel was about 40-50% full during our stay. Yes, that would/could be one of the reasons that the atmosphere was more intimate, than say perhaps when it’s at full capacity. I have no idea how things run when it’s busy, but I’ll stick my neck out and say standards would be maintained. You may have to wait for service a tad longer, remember, it is the Caribbean after all.
The Guests. Well, you are going to meet a varied bunch of people, should you wish to socialise. All from varied backgrounds/occupations/beliefs etc. All having something to talk about well into the night. Most you will have something in common with each other, the human being is a social animal by default. You will find the conversations will flow, just like the alcohol.
Did anyone cause me to think all is not well at Blue Waters? Well there was this one chap who spoke to the staff regularly wherever he was sat or stood. He appeared to have a lot to say to them, did not seem angry but pointing to things and the staff seemed quite aware of when he was around. I thought to myself ‘Who does this bloke think he is, the owner?’ Turns out that he was, in fact the owner of Blue Waters, on one of his regular visits from the UK. This chap ate and drank in the same restaurants as his guests, took an active interest in the running of the hotel and, looked as though he was not scared of getting his hands dirty. When he left, one would have thought standards may have dropped, in fact they did not, in any way
Wildlife. Yes, there is quite a bit of it. Small reptiles that may pay an early morning visit to the balcony to say hello, they tend to leave once you start to become inquisitive of them. Birds in abundance, small and not so small. Due to the Palm Restaurant being open air, birds do fly in and out during daylight hours, on the off chance of finding a morsel of food to steal. Staff have placed a high rise restaurant in a tree nearby for these residents, and it is restocked at appropriate meal times with food and water to ‘persuade’ our feathered friends from interfering with guests food. On the whole, this process works well with just the odd bird being a bit greedy and wanting something extra. Mosquitos………oh yeah! Regular as clockwork, once the big yellow thing goes down on the horizon out they come. And if you are particularly prone to attracting these parasites, like me, they will find you, and they will get very friendly. Use DEET my friends, and do not be scared to use it liberally. It is effective, not 100%, but enough to stop the associated itching on a grand scale. And so to the cats! Saw two of them during our stay, friendly little chaps, quite talkative and appeared well looked after. No jumping onto tables and the like, but they will sit patiently by your tables, disappearing momentarily to see if anyone will take pity on them. Some guests did, I had no issues with that, but some people may. These moggies will put in a guest appearance at the Cove Restaurant, a testament no doubt that it’s a good place to eat.
Problems. Yes, I am sure you will encounter something that bothers you. We are all adults, most things you can sort yourself, but if you can’t, let me assure you the staff will……and to your satisfaction I suspect. I had a few ‘niggles’, nothing of Blue Waters doing, I managed to sort it out by myself. Just do not be worried about asking for help.
Now the real important subject. Weather! Yeah, I know you have been checking on line weather predictions and seeing that it rains in Antigua. You may or may not be too surprised to hear there is cloud as well. For full on sun, go early to middle of year, for lots of sun and the occasional heavy short shower not forgetting a little more cloud, go either side of that period. The temperature drop all year round is not even worthy of discussion. It’s not unusual for one part of the island to have a drop of water whilst the other parts are bathed in UV with clear skies. We were there low season and got the weather I expected. A bit of moisture and occasional cloud cover was a welcome respite from what was, most of the time, intense sunshine. Just like anywhere else in the world, Antigua needs rainfall to exist.
The two weeks passed so quickly. Which meant departing the wonderful island of Antigua. Yep……you guessed it! The airport is as frustrating when going home. Emigration is just as tedious as Immigration. But the Virgin Flight was on time, albeit the seats fitted on this plane were even older than the inbound aircraft’s. And so the onset of gastric reflux returned courtesy of Virgin Airlines. The Jet Stream assisted our passage giving a return flight time of a little over 7 hours. Transpires the Ground Services at Gatwick were not prepared for our arrival. The fiasco that ensued is not worthy of description. Does Mr Branson have any interest in this airline now? Clearly not, as there used to be some reasonable standards with Virgin Airlines. Shame.
So there you have it. Is Blue Waters worth it? Yeah, I truly believe it is. Let me quote my other half who I posed this question to at this time of writing. Her reply was ‘I have never been to a place before where I have felt like crying when I had to leave. I refuse to believe that we will never return, we have to go back!’
At this time, bank balance says ‘No’
If you are wondering why I have not rated Blue Waters with full marks, well this is because I have not experienced the Full Monty, which the hotel offers, but at a price. I do not have the means yet to enjoy the next level of hospitality at Blue Waters, but when, or if I am able to afford it, I most definitely will. But in the meantime readers, have no doubts, taking the not so expensive accommodation option is a decision you will not regret. For those able to take the ‘more comfortable’ packages…………fair play!
Before I forget, I did say I would confirm whether or not the Manager’s confident prediction of us having a ‘Great Time’ came to fruition…….read on.
Whilst we waited in the Blue Waters reception area for our ride to the airport, the Manager strolled in. He approached, offered his hand and once again provided a firm handshake. ‘Did you have a great time?’ he asked. ‘Yes……’ I replied, ‘We did indeed have a great time’. He then exhibited that ‘told you so’ demeanor. I do so hate it sometimes when other people are right, but on this occasion I am more than prepared to accept it.....no matter how big he is! LOL
Not sure if my ramblings have helped any of you to make your minds up about Blue Waters, but if you are an insomniac, this review just may have cured you. As always, the offer is there, drop me a line if you have ANY questions.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.