We flew USAirways first class between Charlotte and Providenciales for our first-time visit to the Turks & Caicos Islands September 22 – 29, 2012 and stayed at the Grace Bay Club. The resort was most enjoyable and the weather simply couldn’t have been better from our perspective – though perhaps a tad bit on the very warm side a few days, it wasn’t in the least unpleasant. Generally speaking, for the most part we were extraordinarily lazy spending late mornings and early afternoons on the spectacular beach soaking up rays along with quite a few cocktails and doing the occasional floating on the crystal clear water. Late afternoons were devoted to serious naps and then the evenings were filled with dining, often listening to live music, and finally a few more drinks before retiring. Yes, it was quite an arduous routine. We did go exploring on a few occasions and thoroughly enjoyed those little adventures.
The questions we always get after our trips are “Did you enjoy your trip?”, “Would you go again?” and “How does it compare to the other places you’ve been in the Caribbean?” The answers are “Yes”, “Yes” and “Extremely favorable and, all things considered, certainly one of the best!”. So there you have a tidy little summation of our trip. For those of you who might like a little more detail, read on.
Grace Bay Club:
Absolutely outstanding, with a few inconsequential exceptions. For years we had heard of the legendary GBC and not infrequently made mental notes that we really must get to TCI sometime and see for ourselves what it was all about. We found it’s about luxury, indulgence, and relaxation in a most beautiful setting featuring world class accommodations. Its legendary status is indeed well deserved.
We had reserved what was described as a “luxury one bedroom suite” in the Hotel section because it was designated as an adult only enclave which included the immediately adjacent pool. We needn’t have been concerned about enduring screaming, ill-mannered, badly supervised kids at this time of year because there were none. In fact, we saw only one cute little fellow anywhere at the resort. Speaking of time of year, we were surprised to learn after our arrival that this was the first time since it began operating 14 years ago, that GBC was open in September and October. Our lucky good fortune! We were told there were 80 people staying there at the time.
Our suite was very spacious, so much so it felt like there ought to have been more furniture in the dining/sitting room. There was plenty in the way of furnishings, but just the principal of the matter seemed to dictate the space should have been more “filled”. At the end of the sitting area was a sliding glass door which afforded a lovely view out to the beach area. Just outside the door was a small patio with two padded wood lounges. Everything was tastefully decorated, the seating was large and comfortable, and the bed was just outstanding in terms of how well we slept on it. There was a small built-in kitchenette with sink, two burner stove top, Keurig style individual coffee maker and a small refrigerator. The bathroom was a good size with shower, large jetted tub, two sink vanity with a large mirror and a separate commode room. The towels were oversized and quite plush – very good quality. By the way, our suite number was A109 and we have no idea if it was indicative of the other accommodations, though of course we suspect that would be the case. We make this point simply because there were a couple of “oddities” we encountered that might well be applicable only to this unit. Perhaps minor annoyances might be a better way to characterize what we found to be deficient. The most annoying was a lack of truly hot water in the shower. At best it could be brought to a lukewarm temperature. Our initial thought focused on this perhaps being an overzealous attempt at energy conservation with the water heater being turned down way too low. But that couldn’t have been the case, because if the tap was left running long enough for the kitchen and bathroom sinks there indeed was water one could describe as being reasonably hot. Thus we concluded the valve on the shower was defective. Also, it was obvious someone had been into the control trying to do something to it. Soon after realizing the problem we let it be known and for the next few hours while relaxing on the beach were regaled with engineering progress reports (more information than we needed – just fix the damn thing). After we were assured the problem had been rectified we found it was marginally better, but still disappointing. However, we didn’t say more about the matter and just put up with the lukewarmish showers. Another annoyance was the commode which practically every time required multiple flushes to do its job. That was clearly what seemed to be a well-intentioned water conservation effort gone completely awry and cumulatively wasting far more than what was being “saved”. We don’t think it was the result of any water pressure deficiency at the resort because the public conveniences situated near the Infinity Bar flushed with such forcefulness we thought a warning sign that pets and small children should be kept some distance away might be appropriate. Well, while on the subject of such delicate matters we might mention the toilet paper supplied in the suite was anything but upscale. We’ve encountered much worse, but are accustomed to much better. Let’s just say this stuff was too flimsy – not in the same league as for example a Charmin Ultra Soft variety. Another of the minor annoyances was a dearth of hand towels and washcloths. Each day there were only two of each provided while there were many more of the huge, luxurious bath towels available – more than we could ever use. Go figure. Our only other minor disappointment with the suite was the absence of a radio – we love listening to local music programs and news when we travel. Maybe they assume most people are so “wired” these days with iPads, pods, or whatever that they aren’t interested in listening to radios. Call us old fashion. There were nice flat screen TVs along with DVD players in the sitting area and the bedroom. Here’s a useful tip for anyone staying on the ground floor of the hotel. If there’s no key for the sliding glass door to the patio, insist on having one. It’s much more convenient to reach the pool and beach areas via that door than the main door to the suite.
The grounds at Grace Bay Club are splendidly maintained and we would love to see them when the bougainvillea is in full bloom – that must be something to behold. There are a number of large pools which are carefully attended and we particularly enjoyed visiting “Pauline’s” swim-up bar on the Villas side of the resort and enjoying her conversation after a tough afternoon of lounging on the beach. Ah yes, that beach! Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful (do you get the notion we liked it?)! It’s just stunningly beautiful and day after day we felt mesmerized by the tranquil ambiance. We found ourselves repeatedly searching our memories of dozens of trips to the Caribbean, Bahamas and Mexico trying to recollect if we had ever encountered such an exquisitely beautiful setting. We finally concluded that yes we had seen comparable elements elsewhere but never all in one place as totally magnificent as Grace Bay. Travel guides often inappropriately describe various beaches as being “white powder”, but it is highly appropriate in this case. The only thing we remember being truly comparable was Zoni Beach on Culebra many years ago before there was any development there. That’s where Ed managed to bury a 4 wheel drive jeep which necessitated finding and recruiting a hoard of non-English speaking Puerto Ricans to lift it out and move it to a firmer footing. But, we digress. Whatever superlatives you might imagine for the beach and turquoise water most likely would be accurate. The beach lounges with thick pads, fitted towel-like covers and further augmented with nice, large towels were accompanied by wonderful umbrellas, tables, buckets of ice, sand chairs and the all-important red flag which upon being placed upright in the sand would cause a beach attendant to swiftly appear ready to meet your every need. Did we mention just how downright decadent all this was? The pool and beach attendants were obviously carefully selected for their communication and customer-oriented skills, as was found to be the case with all the staff at Grace Bay Club – very professional and much appreciated. Andre, who is in charge of the pool and beach staff, is a delightful person. You’ll recognize him by the sunglasses, huge smile and totally entertaining personality. His manager, Denny, with whom we enjoyed chatting told us that their high standards often meant difficulty in finding just the right people to fill positions and that, in fact, he had ones open now. Just saying …
While on the subject of staff it’s imperative we devote some words to the personal concierge concept at Grace Bay Club. You may have surmised by now that we’ve traveled quite a bit both for work and leisure reasons, and in that respect we must say we’ve not encountered anything quite like these concierges. There are teams of two assigned for each suite and they are at your beck and call for advice, complaints, reservations and any number of other things. You’re provided with a cellphone preprogrammed with their names and one button dialing to reach them. They check with you periodically through the day both in person and by phone to see if you’re enjoying yourselves and to ask if you would like reservations made. They’re very friendly – gregarious and fun would be an appropriate characterization, especially for our two – Julio and Berg. We found them so attentive we finally had to ask them to stop calling us. We explained that Ed’s mother is in very poor health and every time the phone rang it jarred us as we thought it might be a call we feared we might receive. They were quite understanding and conscientiously respected our request, which we greatly appreciated.
One of the amenities available to guests is the Business Lounge where there are two up-to-date good quality computer systems available. That was quite useful when it came time to do our online check-in and boarding pass printing for the return flight. Another amenity is a Boutique, but frankly we found it pretty pathetic – not very interesting to us, but others could easily have a different reaction. Sandra elected to forgo the Spa because it would have detracted from her serious floatie time. We did meet an enchanting young lady at the Manager’s cocktail party who worked at the Spa. She told us they were in the process of creating a larger facility which is now housed on the ground floor of the Hotel. The Fitness Center looked to be very well equipped, but we devoted our exertion activities to raising the red flag on the beach. The much promoted Infinity Bar turned out to be a disappointment because it was more an interesting object d’art than a practical, fun bar. It seemed we were constantly hearing guests complain that they expected to see water somehow incorporated and were disillusioned that wasn’t the case. We will also note the seating is very uncomfortable. The Lounge, an open air seating area adjoining the Infinity Bar, appeared to be far more comfortable and inviting. We loved the large hanging basket lights and fire pits – most appealing.
Several of the evenings we enjoyed quality entertainment in the vicinity of the Infinity Bar and on the beach. We used the word “quality” because it was much better than what one would customarily find at a Caribbean resort. There was a one-man performance one evening where we heard an outstanding improvisation of No Woman, No Cry. It was enough to bring happy tears to our eyes as our minds flashed back to many days spent in Negril. Very, very well done. But the most exciting fun of all was the Junkanoo troupe the resort brought onto the beach to entertain at a party for a group of travel agents from the UK. It’s been a very long time since we last experienced that sort of thing on our visits to Nassau and Grand Bahama – love it! Even though the performance was ostensibly for the private party, the troupe was insistently encouraging everyone in sight to join them. And, of course, there was Ms. Sandra right in the midst of it all doing her best carnival parade steps. Too much fun!
We’ll address a few more aspects of our stay at Grace Bay Club in a subsequent topic dealing with our dining experiences on Provo.
We hope we haven’t overwhelmed you with too much uninteresting information, but we do like to present a reasonably complete overview. In closing this section we want to emphatically emphasize we hugely enjoyed our stay at Grace Bay Club and trust you will keep any of our less than favorable remarks in perspective. There’s no doubt we would not hesitate to return.