My companion and I stayed at North Beach for 4 nights Feb 1 2013 -Feb 5 2013. We were there at the same time as the Guardian journalist writing a promotion for the property and the Antiguan photographers doing the photo shoot for this resort. We were the only paying guests at the property. We chose to stay there having read the glowing tripadvisor reviews and ignoring the one bad review which has subsequently turned out to be exactly as we found the resort.
North Beach is indeed a stunning 'away from it all' location. The sea and the sand and the natural environment are idyllic. It is indeed peaceful. Relaxing? I guess that depends whether you are paying or not.
We have stayed in many Caribbean resorts and on a significant number of small islands worldwide - including lesser known, remote South Pacific islands. We understand the challenges of supply and demand for remote areas. We know that it is all down to organisation, planning, knowing your client needs and the motivation and care to get it as right as possible given these challenges.
North Beach failed miserably in all these respects and in particular the motivation to deliver a product that matched its advertising and its price.
We do not complain readily. We were, however, strongly encouraged to do so on this occasion by both the photographer doing the promotional shoot and the British Journalist writing the article. Clearly, it was difficult for them to express any form of reservation given they were there by invitation.
As a result of our disappointment I wrote to the Antiguan Tourist Board who are now looking into the health and safety issues, the accommodation issues and the value for money issues.
Below is a copy of my letter of complaint. If you intend to stay at the resort then please read on so that you can make an informed choice about whether the 'ups' are worth the 'downs'.
Letter to Antiguan Tourist Board
Dear Sir, I am writing to express my disappointment and concerns about North Beach Barbuda. I spent four nights at the resort, arriving Friday 1 February and departing Tuesday, 5 February, 2013. I am currently staying at Hawksbill Resort in Antigua until 22 February.
My concerns and those of my travelling companion, relate to three main areas:-
- heath and safety
- quality of service and accommodation
- value for money.
I raised all the concerns below with the owner and at his request left a 4 page list of problems which he needed to address. He told me that he would rectify the issues and invite me back to see the improvements!
Health and Safety
We arrived in Barbuda at approximately 5.45pm, following a delayed SVG flight. We were met by Reuben the owner of the hotel. We were taken to the dock in a minibus which was quite dirty inside and wedged in between the seats behind where we were sitting was a 5 gallon drum of diesel.
We boarded the boat and by the time we arrived at the hotel it was dark. We were not given a key to our cottage. On entering the accommodation we stepped onto a slippery and squishy surface. Upon investigation we found this to be plastic sheeting with a mock floorboard patterning that had been laid on top of old coir matting. It had been nailed to the matting and had split by the entrance to the cottage, by the bathroom door and a various other points in the large room. It proved to be a slip and trip hazard throughout our stay.
There was no handle on the outside of the plywood bathroom door. The shower control was loose. There was no toilet brush or cleaning equipment.
The room was not cleaned for 3 days.
The table cloths in the Pavilion where meals were served were not changed during our 5 day stay.
The room's mini fridge was placed on a small, plastic poolside stool.
The generator was turned off during the day so there was no fresh water available. We were not advised of this in advance and consequently had no hot shower water before dinner.
Quality of Accommodation and Service
The accommodation was spacious but did not have the basic amenities. For example, there was a short rail for hanging clothes (no wardrobe) but no clothes hangers were provided. There were 2 sets of drawers - dirty inside with remains of sand. One drawer contained a reel of boat rope, a bag of screws, the assembly details for the windows and other DIY items. Another drawer contained discarded European plastic travel cards.
The bathroom had a toilet roll and used shower cap and 3 tiny bars of soap and a mirror.
The bed linen was polyester not cotton and I had to request a change of linen on day 4.
We were not advised of the meal times. We had been led to believe this was an all inclusive hotel. Dinner consisted of a main course only. We had to request ice cream and fruit which we did receive on the second night. There was no choice for lunch - again one course only which consisted of a fish roll, or burger, or salad.
Drinks were difficult to come by. We asked for gin and tonic. This was provided on the first night but tonic was not available for the 2nd day. We had to ask if there was any wine to accompany the meal. When we did it was provided.
Cutlery was wrapped in paper napkins on the first 2 days. However, when opened we noted that the napkins had been cut in half. By the 3rd day the napkins had run our and were replaced by kitchen roll. We were served lobster twice - on both occasions it was overcooked and dry. In general all the food was luke warm.
A journalist from a well known British newspaper was staying with her partner and 2 year old son to do a feature on the hotel and they received similar service. Their cottage was also not cleaned for 3 days and I understand they did not have hot water for the duration of their stay.
Value for money
The first thing to note is that the setting of this hotel is stunning. The natural environment is amazing and we saw turtles hatch and the mating frigate birds and we enjoyed the snorkelling.
However, the hotel website is misleading. We were not offered any trips. We were only taken to the bird sanctuary because the journalist and the photographer were going and they insisted Reuben ask us if we would like to join the group.
Of the three accommodations occupied during our stay we were led to believe we were the only paying guests.
There were many other issues I could mention in this email, but I have restricted myself to the main ones and those that had the most impact on the overall quality of the experience.
Perhaps the most shocking issue of all is the cost of this holiday. We paid 500 USD per night plus government tax. This did not include the SVG flights.
We realise that there are supply issues to Barbuda and understand that water needs to be conserved. We are regular visitors to Antigua - at least once a year and sometimes twice. Had we been paying 200-300 USD per night our expectations of the standard of food and service would have been less ambitious. Although the health and safety issues would still have been a concern.
The owner did not seem to grasp this point. He blamed his 2 staff for not doing their jobs. He said the rooms were not cleaned in order to respect the privacy of guests. I pointed out to him that I had stayed on another Caribbean island that respected privacy. That hotel provided bathroom cleaning equipment and a set of clean bed linen and towels should guests wish to remain undisturbed. Such facilities were not provided at North Beach so it was a totally reasonable assumption on my part that the room would be cleaned daily.
500 USD a night for a hotel with no cleaning service, poor and restricted amounts of food and drink, health and safety issues and an owner who only provides a service if it is constantly requested, does not in my view represent value for money in any shape or form.
In conclusion, North Beach is just not up to the standard of Antiguan service and hospitality that we have come to rely on and that your literature states you aspire to. I felt it only fair to bring this to your attention in the hope that other potential guest will not be as disappointed and let down as we have been.
In the meantime we continue to enjoy our stay at Hawksbill, which provides an excellent service a convivial atmosphere and most definitely gives first rate Antiguan value for money. We have stayed here every year for the last 8 years and hopefully will return for many more years in the future.
I look forward to hearing your view on the issues I have reluctantly drawn to your attention.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- If you dream of having your own secluded Caribbean hideaway, sharing it with family, or another couple, North Beach is for you! Set on a spectacular slice of land located at the northern tip of Barbuda, accessible only by small boat, all-inclusive North Beach allows you to enjoy your own private enclave. ... more less
- Also Known As:
- North Beach Hotel Barbuda
- North Beach Barbuda, Caribbean