Reviewers Rating: Excellent
Date:July 9th to 15th
HOTEL: The hotel is spread out over a large area, we were centrally located but there are rooms that stretch from Lydia’s Sea Food Restaurant to Bocciolo Italian Restaurant, the superior rooms are located near the Italian restaurant. All blocks of rooms are in buildings that are named after Caribbean countries, our rooms were in the Barbuda building and if you are looking at the hotel map it’s the green roofed building between 21 and 13, the Antigua building is next to that, Grenada is near Lydia’s and St. Croix is near the Bocciolo. All the rooms face the sea, but shrubs and buildings, depending on where you stay, block the lower floors. The higher floors have spectacular views but be prepared for the walk if you choose to stay on the fourth floor. We were on the third floor and at first the walk seemed like it was too much but after the second time up the stairs you get used to it.
For those who are wondering about handicapped access, there are ramps all over the property and there are bathrooms with handicapped access.
There are footpaths that take you all over the hotel and if you follow them you will not get lost, in addition there are signs with all the facilities in that area listed, look out for them. All the weekly activities and restaurant schedules/menus are listed on the notice board, which is on your right as you exit the lobby. There is another notice board upon entering Hemisphere Restaurant, which lists daily activities, and if you are at the fantasy pool they will also announce what’s on for the day. Guest service is also centrally located, near the games room, Olives and cyber room and you can get information on all tours; Mandy and Maureen are very well informed and will advise on tours that meet your specific needs or requirements. There is a Dollar Rental Car agency located at the hotel where you can rent a car. The rest rooms are near the disco and are very, very clean which was surprising considering this was the public restroom, no sand anywhere.
If you want to go next door to Jolly Harbour there is a footpath as you exit the hotel that takes you there. At the Jolly Harbour are shops such as Epicurean Supermarket pharmacy, hairdresser, art galleries, jewelry store, and much more. If you are looking for some entertainment there is the Casino, BBR Sportive, Dogwatch Tavern and Zee Bar.
In general the hotel was pretty quiet, there were around 200 guests. There were a lot of teenagers, very few kids and a conference group staying there. On two days there were a large group of people on a day pass, which entitled them to a room, breakfast, lunch and access to the Coconut Grill, bars and pool. I am not too sure how I feel about the people who came in on a day pass, I was out of the hotel on the days that they were there and I only met them at breakfast. They did hold up the breakfast line, which was the first time we had to wait for anything at the restaurant. When I got back at the hotel they were still there, making a lot of noise at the pool. Other days there were a few people on day pass but they were not rowdy as the large group. In my opinion, maybe the hotel should limit the day passes to small groups or individuals as the larger groups tended to encroach on the guests right to use the facilities. You will know the people on day pass as they wear a fluorescent green wristband as opposed to the purple ones we were given
ROOM: Before I arrived at Jolly Beach I emailed reservations and requested a room near the fantasy pool, as I wanted a central location. We were given two rooms in the Barbuda building, I was in room 3305, which was on the third floor and had a great view of the beach, fantasy pool and gazebo.
The standard room was much bigger than I expected, then again I was alone and did not have to share the space with anyone else so for me it was more than adequate. There were two twin beds, two bedside tables, and a small concrete top with adjoining shelf, which made up a dresser top. There was a mirror over the shelf and a padded bamboo stool so you could sit there and do your hair and make up. The cupboard has sliding doors, five shelves and about 18 to 20 inches of space for hanging clothes and the safety deposit box.
There is a full-length mirror on the wall next to the dresser top, the floor is tiled and the air-condition unit is the new remote controlled unit. A television is mounted on the wall facing the bed and we got several channels including HBO, CNN and CINEMAX. The bathroom has a sliding door, toilet, small sink with a mirror and a triangular shower, which is small. The hotel provides a Conair hairdryer, towels, sample sized Vaseline Intensive lotion, Pantene two in one shampoo conditioner and soap. The porch is ample size with two chairs, a day bed and small table. Housekeeping did an excellent job, the rooms were always spotless, the bathrooms clean and NO mold. I had no complaints whatsoever; I even left her a gift for doing such a great job.
RESTAURANTS: The main restaurant is Hemisphere, which is where you get buffet breakfast, lunch and dinner. I ate at Hemisphere for breakfast every day, but only had dinner and lunch twice. Breakfast had some staple items that you will see everyday; an omelet station, sausages, bacon, bread, croissants, cereal, fruit, pastries, yogurt and each day they would add something new such as pancakes, baked beans, potatoes or French toast. Lunch and Dinner you would get a choice of meats; there was chicken and fish everyday with steak, lamb or pork as the third choice. The salad bar had a good variety and they served lasagna and pasta on the days I ate there in addition to rice, potatoes etc.
There are lots of desserts and you can always ask for ice cream if you get tired of the cakes and sweet pastries. They serve wine with lunch and dinner
Lydia’s is the seafood restaurant, and I ate there for dinner and brunch on Sunday. Dinner was good. I had the lobster, which was served with vegetables, and it’s half of a lobster that was so big I could not finish it. The Sunday Brunch was fantastic; there were a good variety of salads at the antipasti bar and the buffet included chicken, pork, fish and conch. For desert I had the coconut chocolate pie, which was great. There was a live steel band at Brunch on Sunday, very entertaining. This was one of the best meals I had during my stay, the seaside setting and décor added to the ambience.
Olive’s is the Greek restaurant, and if you like Greek food you will love this restaurant. The appetizer platter was interesting, for the main course I had the chicken kebabs (they were called by another name) and for desert we had banana ice cream…interesting. I was glad I ate there for the experience, but it did not merit a second visit.
Bocciolo is hands down the best restaurant. The salad bar was fantastic, I like to have a variety of salads to choose from and this was great. I had the chicken parmigana for the main course, which was very good, and for dessert cheesecake. I think this was the only restaurant that served cheesecake for desert.
For snacks, the Coconut Grill is where you will get your fries, jerk chicken, fish burgers, hamburgers, grilled cheese, hotdogs, grilled fish and any combination of these you desire.
The jerk chicken is HOT but so tasty that you’ll be going back for more. They also serve tea next to Olive’s at 5pm and they always had sandwiches and cookies and/ or scones.
Here are the restaurant schedules:
Bocciolo – Opened for dinner Monday, Tuesday, Friday and Saturday.
Olive’s – Opened for dinner Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday.
Lydia’s – Opened for dinner Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
Opened for lunch on Sundays.
Hemisphere – Opened for breakfast, lunch and dinner everyday.
Bocciolo’s Dress Code
Men are required to wear long trousers and shirt with a collar. No jeans wear, slippers, sandals or tennis shoes permitted. Ladies are encouraged to wear proper attire. Bocciolo is a non-smoking restaurant.
BARS: The poolside bar is open from 10:30am to 5pm and you’ll get all the cocktails, rum and wadadli beer on tap, this is also the swim up bar at the fantasy pool. The entertainment bar, near Hemisphere, is opened from 11 am to 11pm (though I believe they went later than 11pm) and you can get the same variety of drinks as the poolside bar. The drinks are not premium brands; you can get those at the a la carte restaurants for a surcharge and the rum is Cavalier. I did try the famous Hummingbird and hated it, bit I did meet the inventor of this concoction, Charlie at the poolside bar. Be prepared top be served your drinks in plastic cups.
The bars at Lydia’s, Olive’s and Bocciolo serve the best cocktails and I had Baileys at Bocciolo at no extra cost. Lydia’s opens from 11am to 11pm and Olives from 6:30pm to 11pm. The bar at the disco opens from Thursday to Saturday and is open from 11am to 12:30 am or until the disco closes.
There are self serve machines where you can get water, soft drinks and frozen fruit drinks that you can add rum to and make your own daiquiri. The self-serve machine at Hemisphere had bees buzzing around even under the net that they put over the taps. This also happened once at the poolside bar but after that I never saw the bees again, I had no idea where they went to but I was very happy.
ACTVITIES: The entertainment staff did a good job in trying to get people involved in the daily activities. Water aerobics, calypso dance and volleyball were favorite activities. They also had beach cricket, dialect classes, bocce ball and table tennis among other events, though sometimes not enough people participated and the event had to be cancelled. The pool tables at the games room were also popular; you could always find someone shooting pool. Most people made full use of the water sports; they went out kayaking, on water bikes, windsurfing and on the hobie cats. They give lessons if you want to take the hobie cat out on your own; I went out with one of the guys from the water sport department, and we went further than if you were sailing on your own. That day was very windy and I got a thrilling ride, especially when we almost tipped over and went up on one side, exciting!
I did use the cyber room to check email; it’s $5.00 U.S. for ten minutes and fifty cents for each additional minute thereafter.
ENTERTAINMENT: I think this is the only area where the guests were not satisfied. There was nightly entertainment, but it usually consisted of a steel band or live band not much variety there. I missed the Mr. Jolly Beach contest on Friday night so I can’t say how that went. The disco was opened on Thursday and I went to check it out, there were around twenty people there and that was at midnight. We left after half an hour or so. On Saturday I checked in again and there were even less people. Most people just hung out at the Hemisphere bar after the live entertainment was finished.
POOL: The fantasy pool is huge; I like the swim up bar and the fact that the pool is no more than 4 feet deep. Also, the umbrellas and seats that are built in are a godsend, as the sun gets very hot. The pool is pretty popular, there were always people sunning and swimming, and because of the proximity to the bar there were always people around, however, it never felt crowded. There were a few women who were topless, and it was no big deal really, I didn’t see any breasts that didn’t deserve to be exposed.
BEACH: Spectacular, the water is incredibly turquoise and the sand blindingly white. The beach stretches way past Jolly Harbour and you should take an early morning walk along the entire length. The sand never got hot during the day, and it was not so soft that it as difficult to walk in. The water is a bit cloudy, you will not be able to see your feet but it was still great. There are lots of shells, if you are into collecting them go closer to Lydia’s and near the rocks you will find lots. There are huts and beach chairs on the beach, and coconut trees also provide shade. You can find a deserted spot along the beach or be close to the action around the pool if you so desire. You will always be close to a bar, trust me.
TOURS: I went into St. John’s with the hotel shuttle, it cost 8.00 U.S. and we left at 9 am and returned at 12:30pm. St. John’s was fun as there was a cruise ship in that day and lots of people. We were given a voucher for a gold pineapple pin on the plane and a voucher for a pair of diamond earrings from the hotel, which were both redeemable at Diamonds International. You did not need to make a purchase, just go in and collect your free gifts.
I did the Eco Tour with Eli (adventureantigua.com), which took us almost half way around the island by sea. The tour went like this; we left Jolly Harbour with two stops to meet other guests, on our way around the coast Eli gave running commentary on the Islands that we passed, such as Long Island, and on points of interest on Antigua that we saw from sea. We did a first stop for snorkeling and then went on to Bird Island for lunch after which we hiked up to the top and got an amazing view of the Atlantic Ocean with nothing but endless seas that stretched to Africa. After lunch we visited Hell’s Gate where the more adventurous of us went out and explored the caves while the others stayed on the boat and took photos. We stopped again for snorkeling after which we went to Guiana Island and got a rather interesting and incredulous history of the Island. Our last stop before we were homeward bound was at an Island that shall remain unnamed for shelling, and not only were there millions of shells but also a lot of starfish!
I now understand and can substantiate why Eli gets all good reviews. His tour is unique in that at the end of the tour you leave the boat sober, seriously though it was a learning experience. For first time snorkelers, like me, I got the opportunity to try it and surprised myself that I only panicked a few times, swallowed some water but despite that I really enjoyed it. If you do get a chance to do this tour do not hesitate, at the end of the day you leave slightly less ignorant and a bit more appreciative of the Island than when the day started.
I also did the Jolly Roger party cruise on Saturday night. We left at 7:00 pm and returned at 11:00 pm. It was a great night out, but look out for the rum punch; the rum is 140 proof! Dinner was served onboard and the macaroni and cheese pie was great.
We also hired a taxi that took us around the island, the tour lasted about 6 hours passing through Fig Tree Drive. And we stopped at Nelson’s Dockyard, Shirley’s Heights, The Interpretation Center, Devil’s Bridge, and Betty’s Hope. We also toured St. James Club, Pineapple Beach and made stops at villages along the way. The tour was very flexible and our driver was great, he was very knowledgeable on the history and current events of Antigua.
THE STAFF: Everyone was helpful and very friendly. Ruby at reservations was very nice, great personality. Mandy and Maureen at the tour desk know their stuff. Alburn and all the entertainment staff are great. Charlie and Lanvon at the poolside bar, very friendly.
Christophene at Hemispheres is a nice lady and the staff at Bocciolo were excellent, so too were the staff at Lydia’s.
Overall I had a great time at Jolly Beach, the resort exceeded my expectations and I would have no problem returning or recommending the hotel to anyone.