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Antigua & Barbuda Hotel, Resort & Villa Reviews
Royal Antiguan 06/13/2003
Reviewers Rating: Great
We stayed at the Royal Antiguan late May / early June 2003 on an 'All Inclusive' basis. Overall we had a great, relaxing time there. However, if you're considering staying there, you'd best bear these points in mind:

ALL INCLUSIVE: watch out for hidden extras, e.g. some drinks and all room service items are chargeable, as of course are phone calls. A meal in Barringtons will almost certainly cost you extra. Watch the small print on the tickets you get - e.g. if you don't get your 'included' towels back by 6pm you are liable for a $30 charge PER TOWEL!

ROOM: was clean and comfortable - we paid extra for a view of the sea; I think this is definitely worth having if you want to sit on the balcony and enjoy a few sundowners. Our room had a fridge; our kids room next door didn't; although both were otherwise identical. There is NO TEA OR COFFEE facility in the room. Room service for a pot of tea will cost $5 also there is NO HAIRDRIER provided.

STAFF: were in general very friendly , polite and helpful. It pays to get to know them.

FOOD: was usually very good and varied in the Lagoon self-service cafe. The Andes restaurant was OK but limited menu - we used this mainly for lunch. Barringtons 'gourmet' fare we thought was highly over-rated and not really worth the dress code hassle or additional expense. Also note that they require you to wear proper shoes in "Barringsnobs" even though their dress code doesn't state it anywhere. Note that in the evenings Andes is open when Barringtons isn't, and vice versa.

DRINK: the local beer is good; rum based cocktails are good; the house wines weren't terribly impressive.

BARS: don't be surprised if it takes up to 20 minutes between arriving at the bar and leaving with your drinks. However, I found that most of the friends we made during our stay were as a result of chatting to people who were waiting for service. It isn't the fault of the barstaff - it's just that there were so few of them and the process of having to sign for everything adds to the mayhem. A result of this slowness is that it is almost impossible to get anywhere close to drunk! We were also irritated by the fact that in the evenings only ONE bar is ever open. No outside bar was open in the evening.

ENTERTAINMENT: Dire, dire, and dire. Apart from one night when a reasonably good steel band was on, the rest of the time it was just depressing and appeared amateurish. Some nights there was nothing, others there were dreadful karaoke evenings, and the occasional quiz night that was OK if you like that sort of thing.

ACTIVITIES: some volleyball and beach soccer was organised on several days, but there was absolutely nothing arranged for the kids to do in the evenings at all. No gamesroom provided, and they aren't allowed into the 'casino'.

POOL: nothing special about it except that it is very deep but you can't dive!

BEACH: was wonderful, crystal clear water and soft white sand. The constant approach by beach hawkers is irritating at first but after a few days they tend to leave you alone. Also it is worth chatting to them as their local knowledge is useful, plus they tend to be extremely jovial folk.

SPORTS / EXCURSIONS: the free (all-inclusive) stuff was OK and ostensibly safe BUT we watched someone with a kid on a kayak get blown out to sea by the wind and when we pointed it out to the staff they just laughed and said they were having a good time. It transpired that they weren't and eventually (30 minutes later) the staff realised that we were right and had send out a rescue boat! The powered sports are expensive e.g. US$50 for 30 minutes on a jet-ski. The island circumnavigation trip is a great day out but costs around US$90 per head depending on who you go with. The musch vaunted 'swim with a dolphin' is outrageously expensive US$130 per person and I think is tantamount to animal exploitation - we decided not to partake, especially as from what others told me all that happens is the dolphin 'kisses' you on the nose.

TAXIS: grossly expensive.

CAR HIRE: good value US$55 per day for a 'jeep' which you will need just for the roads. Lack of decent road signs mean a good map is essential - a 1:50000 tourist map can be obtained in St Johns. Note that even this map doesn't have all roads marked, even though they have been around for several years at least.

ST JOHNS: aka 'shanty town' don't expect to be able to saunter around and enjoy the nightlife here! There is one decent eating and drinking establishment 'Hemingways' that we found; otherwise St Johns is a place for the tourist to avoid.

THE ISLAND: much is made of the '365 beaches' well it seems only a handful are actually accessible by road and most of these are attached to hotels which means that you're not welcome to use the beds and in some places can't even PAY for a drink. We were actually told to leave one beach that we ventured on to! However there are some truly beautiful beaches if you venture far enough - Half Moon Bay is wonderful and unspoilt (which means no sun shades or beds are there!).

OVERALL: a stay at the Royal Antiguan is very relaxing as there really isn't much to do!

Paul Gleave

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