Happy New Year! It’s another year and another holiday trip for us.
This morning started early for K. For me, I just never went to bed last night. After ringing in the New Year with a nice dinner, some drinks and playing Big Buck Hunter half the night, I stayed up packing and getting pumped for another relaxing (and this time almost free*) beach trip.
*This trip was almost entirely comped by Sandals for the less-than-wonderful experience we had last year at Sandals Montego Bay. We only paid for flights.
Our flight left this morning from DCA at 6:00. We were on the road by 4:00 to make sure we got parked, on the bus, checked in and through security on time. It was insanely early, so no traffic, and when we got to the airport the security check lines hadn’t even opened yet. We loitered for a bit while we waited (there weren’t even any shops open to browse), then went to the gate and tried to catch a few zees while we waited. I barely made it through take off before I was passed out against the window dreaming sweet dreams of fruity umbrella drinks. We landed in Miami around 8:30, grabbed a quick breakfast and boarded for Antigua. Again, no more than take off and I was out.
Arrival in Antigua:
We finally arrived in Antigua around 2:30pm local time (we lost an hour going there). I had a window seat, so I got to watch as we descended through the big, fluffy white clouds upon the beautiful turquoise waters, sandy white beaches and rolling green topography inland. I could feel myself getting giddy as we inched closer to the runway.
We landed and walked out across the tarmac into the arrival hall and hit passport control. These people weren’t even the slightest bit friendly and seemed to ask more questions than most places we’ve been. We also had to pay a $10 arrival tax. They don’t take cards, and I’m not sure about change. We always make sure to carry the exact amount so we don’t have to find out. After we got our stamps, we collected our bags and walked right through Customs without so much as a look from anyone.
Just through the Customs area, we found a Sandals representative waiting. They escorted us out to the Sandals desk under an awning out front of the airport. Since we’re staying as butler guests, we got plastic leis (Fancy, I know.) and a private taxi to take us to the resort. In Montego Bay we had to wait 45+ minutes while they filled a small bus to take us, so this was a nice surprise. The ride was about 20 minutes across the island. We saw several of the 365 beaches Antigua is famed for, and some colorful villages with brightly painted homes and businesses.
This was the best check-in ever. When we arrived at Sandals, we were met at the taxi and escorted into the lobby where we were served champagne while our bags and check-in were completely taken care of for us. We did wait for a while – probably 15-20 minutes – before our butler, Cecil, finally showed up with good news that we were upgraded from our original room to a Honeymoon Rondoval with private plunge pool. (Not too shabby considering this entire trip was comped because of a super crappy experience in Montego Bay last year.)
Cecil grabbed our bags and took us to our room on the Caribbean side of the resort. (The resort has two sides – the Caribbean, which is a bit older and more Caribbean styled, and the Mediterranean, which is newer, hotel-style suites.) When we walked in, we were both pretty surprised. The rondoval was pretty nice. And we had a bottle of champagne and a fruit and cheese tray waiting for us when we walked in. Now this is something I could get used to. (Especially when I’m not footing the astronomical bill for it!)
The room was actually pretty cool. It was a round hut; one half was the bedroom, the other half was the sink/closet area. Attached off of the sink side of the rondoval was a square-shaped bathroom with a tiny round shower/tub. The roof was thatched, floors tiled – typical Caribbean. We did have a small window AC unit, which was nice enough to cool the entire room and a ceiling fan at the peak of the roof.
There was also a fully stocked mini-bar full of juices, sodas, domestic beers, champagne, wine and hard liquor. The liquor was decent brand name, though not top shelf. Everything in the mini bar was included in the “all-inclusive” price.
The best part, by far, was the private plunge pool on our back patio. The patio was surrounded by a tall privacy fence, which also had thick vegetation planted on the outside perimeter. So even though we could hear people walking close by, we couldn’t see them at all. (And hope they couldn’t see us either!) The outdoor area was pretty big with a full table and chair set for meals, two nice padded loungers and a plunge pool plenty big enough for two people. We also found out the pool isn’t heated and was freezing cold!
Before Cecil left, he let us know that he’d already made dinner reservations for us tonight, and all we needed to do is let him know where we’d like to eat the other nights and he’d take care of the rest. He also left us with a list of excursions on the island, and let us know to choose some and he’d take care of booking everything.
We were also given a cell phone to carry with us throughout the trip so that we could contact our butlers whenever we need to. I don’t really see us using this much, but I guess it’s good for them to get a hold of us, too. In reality, it kind of blows my mind that someone would feel so entitled to call and ask for things, but… different strokes to different folks and all that.
By the time Cecil left us, it was nearly 5:00 – a little too late to put on our suits and head to the beach. Instead, we spent a bit unpacking, exploring and ingesting the contents of the mini-bar and hanging out on the patio by our pool.
At 6:45, Cecil showed up to escort us to dinner at Mario’s – the Italian restaurant. When we showed up, we were the only people in the restaurant. Still, they were fairly slow at seating us and fairly slow at serving us as well. Again, typical Caribbean; “island time” and all that… The inside of the restaurant was pretty grand; wide open, high ceilings and marble walls, floors, etc. Too bad the food wasn’t nearly as impressive as the facade. I had lasagna and K had chicken parm; good, but not great. Same with the tiramisu we had for dessert. The wines we had with dinner, which should have been full-bodied reds tasted very weak and almost watered down. Buuut, again, I reminded myself we’re not paying for this, so I guess it wasn’t so bad.
After dinner, we wandered around the resort a bit. We wound up walking off the resort to a casino nearby. Although drinks weren’t included there, we still had a good time playing slots and cheap table games for a bit before we came back to the resort. We walked the beach for a bit and now it’s time to hit the hay. We have a big day of lounging on the beach and working on our golden tans tomorrow. *sigh*