We stayed at the Verandah Resort and Spa between 26 June and 3 July 08, after having booked via the Elite Resorts website an all-inclusive package for approx $3000 including flights from Boston. We researched the various Caribbean Island resorts carefully and decided to opt for this package as it promised a luxury resort at what seemed a reasonable price, and importantly was listed on the Conde Nast Johansen recommended resort list – with which we have had good experience in the past. Purchasing the package in other ways could have cost us up to $5000 US, all of which led to the feeling we were getting a bargain. We understood that the resort was new – it was opened in October 07- and reviewed all of the trip-advisor and other reviews before booking as well as confirming directly with the resort that no construction would be going on during our stay. We also understood that at the time the resort would be less than half occupied – and this seemed to be the case during our stay. Our experience would suggest that the facilities would be considerably strained by occupancy levels much more than this.
The resort comprises about 400 “suites” – 200 or so semi-detached units scattered around a fairly hilly 30 acre site on the NE Coast of Antigua, with 2 small beaches – one at either end of the property, and centred around a main swimming pool / bar / restaurant complex. The grounds are for the most part well maintained, although there are areas where more work needs to be done – particularly around the newly constructed units and the small beach near reception. There is fairly regular golf-buggy transport on concrete roads around all areas of the resort – although the main beach needs to be reached by a long and steep series of steps. During our week’s stay there was a pretty constant on-shore breeze ranging from the comfortably refreshing to “book- and flip-flop losing” intensity which probably reflects the NE location of the resort.
Check in was smooth and although the architecture at reception – steel paneled roofs and artificial stone cladding – was not to our taste, we were reassured to see the Conde Nast Johansen plaque on the wall. Although we were not offered an information pack or brochure and had to ask for this afterwards, we were offered a local rum punch (which was dispensed direct from a 2 gallon plastic container), and taken by golf buggy through the resort to our suite.
This was immediately disappointing and far from our initial expectation. Each unit consists of a main sleeping / living area with rudimentary kitchen facilities (presumably targeted at the time-share market) in total about 25ft x 15ft, plus a good-sized bathroom and a reasonable verandah – in our case overlooking the next row of units which partially obscured our requested view of the ocean. The standard of construction (more steel paneled roofs and rough woodwork) decorations and finish was poor (leaking waste pipe on one basin, loose showerhead, areas of over-painting etc, and cheap materials were used throughout – including floor tiling which became slippery when wet, and a distinct lack of sound insulation between the 2 semi-detached units. Furnishing was minimal and basic – including one of the hardest beds we have slept on (and we travel regularly – perhaps one or two hotels every week of the year), and the kitchen disturbingly was equipped with some dangerously sharp cutlery – an issue for those traveling with children and perhaps a security concern. One the positive side the solar powered hot water system shared between each semi-detached pair worked well and the air-conditioning was quiet and effective. Our unit was adequately cleaned throughout the 7 days we were there, but suffered for the whole time from the constant presence of ants in the bathroom plus the odd cricket and lizard.
The restaurant facilities were all grouped in a central building near the main pool and comprised three options – buffet based (SeaBreeze), mid-range a la carte (Buccaneers) and “high-end” a la carte (Nicoles) for which a $25 per person surcharge was levied for those on all-inclusive packages. All restaurants shared a common kitchen and as a result of this there was more than a degree of similarity amongst the various offerings in each facility. Staff also seemed to rotate between the restaurants appearing in different uniforms for each one. The a la carte menus changed daily – but in reality just alternated between 2 basic options - and the buffet options in Seabreeze remained pretty much the same during our stay. Of the three, Buccaneers (although it was billed in the brochure as being children-targetted) seemed to offer the best option alongside the noisy and rushed canteen-like atmosphere of Seabreeze and the frankly overpriced Nicoles. Food quality was distinctly variable in both Seabreeze and Buccaneers: highlights included some of the breakfast options in SeaBreeze – especially the egg-station - and the vegetable lasagna in Buccaneers, and low points included a tendency to over-season many dishes, including the breakfast options, with far too much garlic, and the tiny portion sizes in Buccaneers. Prices for non all-inclusive guests (if there were any?) were displayed on the menus in the information areas and seemed to be rather steep (eg $30 US for a small rump steak) – but perhaps this was more intended to encourage the all-inclusive crowd that they were getting a good bargain?
Service quality was also variable – the over-riding impression being of mostly well-intentioned chaos (staff not knowing who was managing each table, forgetting drinks – or bringing them twice - , and not knowing enough about the menu to be able to explain it) although in each restaurant some stars stood out (Lionel in SeaBreeze and one other nice chap whose name we have forgotten). On each evening only 2 of the restaurants were open and it was necessary to book a day in advance apparently even for the buffet option. On a number of occasions a queue built up for breakfast for no apparent reason other than slow seating and table clearing service – plenty of tables were unoccupied -, and one day (the only day we were free to try it) Nicoles was fully booked, even at less than 50% resort occupancy.
The main bar – also in the same building as the restaurants – was open from 10am until late and offered a reasonable selection of all-inclusive drinks options although excluded from this wine or beer by the bottle – which needed to be purchased separately. The local beer was an acquired taste (although many seemed to acquire it during their stay) and it was necessary to specify eg Gordons Gin (rather than a local wholesale equivalent) if you wanted this with your tonic.
The “champagne” was not champagne – but a pretty acidic sparkling german wine, although the local rum punches were popular and interesting. Again service was variable – ranging from the outright surly and un-helpful to others who genuinely seemed not to be able to do enough for you. Table service was a rare surprise – and it was difficult to understand when this was and was not going to be available - and on most days we had to join the line at the bar to order a drink – again not what we were expecting in this “luxury resort”. Every evening some entertainment was offered – which ranged from the frankly dire local pub band to a really popular and professional steel band on one evening.
The beach bar – where we went for lunch on most days - was much smaller but benefited from a more consistent and professional level of service as well as basic lunch options, although it regularly became overcrowded at around 1pm (requiring us to sit on a wall half-way down the steps to the beach on one day), and leaving us wondering how it would cope with 400 units occupied.
The main pool area featured perhaps 100 sun-beds and 6 thatched parasols – leading to the inevitable early morning (7.30 am seemed to be necessary) “booking” of prime spots with beach towels etc before other guests could reach them. More shade is needed and the only alternative offered is a large roofed area attached to the pool-house. During busy times the pool felt crowded – it is not large – and would potentially be overwhelmed by twice as many guests. There was an additional adults only pool but this was i) tiny and ii) a golf-buggy drive away from all other facilities. The main-pool seemed to be well maintained and clean but only heated naturally by the sun, although on our last day suffered a technical failure and was closed in the morning.
The main beach facility – the so-called watersports beach – was accessed by a long flight of stone steps and featured a fairly short area of white sand beach and a reef- protected, calm, shallow and safe bay area with clear blue sea. Again not enough parasols were provided for the numbers of sunbeds which were closely packed together, although other partially effective shade was provided by triangular fabric “sails” stretched horizontally between 3 wooden posts, and some natural trees. The watersports available including a couple of Hobie catamarans and some plastic pedalos and kayaks as well as various childrens’ options .There was a rescue boat and a life-guard on duty all day, as well as a security guard and the inevitable “souvenir” sellers. The ocean was warm and bather-friendly and we saw many fish close to the shore as well as diving pelicans. On one occasion a small group of local, non-resort residents joined the far end of the beach (having walked past the steel-girder barrier intended presumably to ensure privacy) to play football and drink the crate of beer they had brought with them. Our security guard observed all of this carefully and did nothing – even when perhaps 10 more people (and several more crates of beer) had joined them – and half the resort’s guests had vacated the beach as the football match expanded. Less irritating was a visit from a local family of donkeys and some occasional goats. All of this would be easily addressed by simple fencing – or a more effective security guard.
We tried the Spa on the last morning – after having been approached at the pool by one of the Spa staff trying to drum up a little business. After considering facials ($120) or an hour massage ($125) we went for the 30 minute massage at $50 each including a 25% discount. We were the only 2 guests / patients at the time and chose to have our massage together. The treatment was comepetent and the facilities (although in the same unit as the restaurants) were clean and relatively tranquil, and the staff friendly and professional.
The resort shop was situated a good distance away from our suite and the main facilities and adjacent to the main reception. After having requested a small bottle of conditioner from guest services (when we found this wasn’t in the room) we were greeted by one of the staff at our unit with 2 bottles of shampoo (which we didn’t need) because the resort has no complementary conditioner (incidentally it has no pens either). We were able to buy conditioner here but were surprised that a tiny bottle of conditioner (35ml) together with a bag of snacks and 2 AA batteries cost $18 US – which seemed excessive, although the most over-priced we saw was a rather average looking bikini for $115 US.
Overall our over-riding impression was more CenterParcs than 5-star luxury. We enjoyed the weather and most of the facilities as well as interaction with the more helpful of the staff, but left feeling that we had been misled into staying there, by over ambitious promotion and some website reviews which in retrospect we frankly couldn’t recognize as referring to the same place, and seriously questioning Conde-Nast’s endorsement of the resort.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- The Verandah Resort & Spa is a world-class all-inclusive resort overlooking the crystal blue Caribbean waters of Antigua. Perfect for couples, friends, families, honeymoons, and weddings. Guests love the resort's friendly, romantic atmosphere, with lots of activities for adults, teens, and children--not to mention our Two White Sand Beaches!The Verandah's four restaurants, four bars, four swimming, including the largest freeform freshwater swimming pool in Antigua. Activities include hobie cat sailing, kayaking, swimming, snorkeling, pedal boats, supervised Kids Club, 18-hole miniature golf course, and much more.Indulge at our Spa Tranquility, featuring a wide array of massage and beauty treatments, or enjoy a workout in our air-conditioned fitness center.We look forward to having you as our guest, and thank for your choosing The Verandah Resort & Spa, Antigua. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Verandah Hotel Saint Philip
- Verandah Resort And Spa
- Verandah Hotel St Johns
- Verandah Resort All Inclusive
- The Verandah Resort & Spa Antigua/Saint Philip