Inspection Report – West Indies 2023
A regular to the islands over the last decade or so, Tour Manager Nick Joyce embarked on Not Out Travel’s inspection tour of the four-islands England will visit during their upcoming series. Taking place over ten days in late September, he visited every location on the tour to ensure the arrangements gave our party the best possible experience of the islands.
‘Exploring the West Indies is a delightful experience, where the essence of sun, sea, and sand is common to all, yet each island possesses its own distinct charm. Let’s take a closer look at some of these captivating destinations:
Antigua beckons with its array of full board venues and is encircled by mesmerizing coral reefs.
Barbados, renowned as a vibrant party hub, offers a lively atmosphere for those seeking a good time.
Grenada, a lush paradise, boasts dense forests, enchanting waterfalls, and the rich aroma of rum distilleries.
Trinidad, a vibrant and cosmopolitan island, has its own unique attractions, captivating travelers with its cultural flair.
No matter which West Indian jewel you choose to visit, or how many, you’re assured of a distinctive experience, brimming with exciting activities and captivating places to explore.
Perhaps you’re tempted by an underwater adventure, like snorkeling along the pristine coasts of Antigua.
In Barbados, a visit to Oistins, with its bustling atmosphere and local flavor, is a must.
Grenada offers the opportunity to delve into the art of rum-making at one of its famed distilleries, an experience that engages all the senses.
For the curious traveler, taking the ferry to Tobago from Trinidad unveils yet another layer of Caribbean allure.
Excursions can be booked through our local agents and hotel tour desks. We do recommend making advance bookings for catamaran trips to ensure your spot on these popular adventures.
On a practical note, if you’re required to fill out any immigration forms upon arrival at an island, flight attendants typically provide them. However, Barbados is an exception, where we suggest completing an online immigration form (https://travelform.gov.bb/) 72 hours in advance of your arrival. Alternatively, you can conveniently fill out a form using one of the automated machines in the arrivals area at the airport.
Should you have any inquiries about the entry requirements for any of the islands, a wealth of information is available on Gov.uk. A quick online search using the island’s name will provide you with detailed insights to ensure a smooth and enjoyable visit.’
Note: Information on entry requirements, personal safety, mobile phones, domestic flights and much more will be sent to customers at the time of booking.
The Grand Pineapple serves as the sister resort to The Verandah, both conveniently situated across the road from one another. These resorts offer similar amenities, featuring well-appointed rooms furnished with either a Queen or King-sized bed, and for those traveling with companions, they provide spacious twin beds. The room layout and amenities are consistent across all accommodation options, with the room type determined primarily by the captivating view they offer.
The estate is meticulously managed, boasting beautifully landscaped gardens and well-maintained pathways. For ease of mobility, golf trollies are available, particularly useful for navigating the hillier sections of the property. The resort provides several inviting swimming pools, each accompanied by its own bar, although the serene pool offers a peaceful oasis without music or bar services.
Dining options at the Grand Pineapple are abundant, encompassing a variety of cuisine types. A coffee bar near the reception provides a caffeine fix, while “The Outpost,” a rustic grill bar perched at the resort’s highest point, treats guests to breathtaking ocean views. A visit to this bar is a must.
The beach at the Grand Pineapple is nothing short of magnificent, offering calm and inviting waters. An array of on-site activities awaits guests, along with the opportunity to explore off-site adventures organized by the hotel or local agents.
This impressive resort is certain to be a delightful destination for Not Out Travellers. The airport is conveniently located around 30 minutes away, with the Vivian Richards Stadium just a 20-minute drive.
Given its location at one corner of the island, the Grand Pineapple stands as the primary dining and entertainment option in the vicinity. However, day passes are available for those interested in exploring the facilities at The Verandah Resort, just across the road.
Carole and I are thrilled to be staying at the Grand Pineapple for our upcoming tour, and we eagerly anticipate sharing this fabulous resort with all of you.
Note: There is a $5 per person, per day tourism levy imposed by the government, and a $24 per room per day Resort fee imposed by the Resort. Both are payable in full at check-in.
The Verandah Resort, a 186-room property, is one I’m familiar with, having stayed there on two previous occasions, albeit a few years ago. During my latest visit, the resort was undergoing renovations for all its social facilities. Notable improvements included the expansion of the beach area near the reception, complete with a new bar and dining facilities. Enhancements to the main social area, including the construction of a Sports Bar, were also evident, and I am confident these improvements will be completed in time for our stay.
I recommend utilizing the golf cart transportation system, especially when traversing the main drive. At the top of the hill, where the primary social facilities, dining options, and the swimming pool are located, the terrain levels out. A set of steps leads down to an excellent beach, ideal for sunbathing and readily equipped with water sports equipment. The sea’s tranquillity and the opportunity to observe cormorants fishing make this experience truly special.
The airport is conveniently a 30-minute drive from the hotel, with the stadium approximately 20 minutes away.
A range of excursions can be arranged through the hotel, and catamaran tours are a popular choice, although I recommend booking in advance even though the resort has its own catamaran. They believe they can accommodate everyone for an additional cost. Similar to the Grand Pineapple, The Verandah Resort’s location at one corner of the island means there are no other nearby restaurants or bars. However, day passes are available for those wishing to explore The Grand Pineapple’s facilities across the road.
Though I was unable to explore the entire site, I am confident that you’ll depart with fond memories of this resort.
Note: There is a $5 per person, per day tourism levy imposed by the government, and a $24 per room per day Resort fee imposed by the Resort. Both are payable in full at check-in.
If you ever wish to learn to swim again, the beach at Jolly Beach Hotel would be the perfect spot. The sand is soft and golden, the sea’s warmth is inviting, and its floor is clear of stones. The tranquillity of the sea and the sight of cormorants fishing make this beach a must-visit. (During my visit, the beach hadn’t been raked daily due to the presence of turtle eggs, with the hotel awaiting their hatching.) The extensive stretch of sand offers numerous sunbeds and permanent shades, while the horizon is broken by other islands in the distance.
This 300-room hotel, which temporarily closed post-COVID, is now being revitalized under the capable hands of John Murphy, a friendly Irishman. Various parts of the estate are being revamped, and new facilities are under construction. There are five bars on the premises, one of which claims to be the longest in Antigua, and three restaurants, including a fine dining option on Sundays for 100 people at an extra cost of $45 USD. Nigel, the Head Chef, is brimming with excitement as his new cooking facility takes shape, promising an “action cooking” experience with his team operating various stations to produce a variety of flavours and cuisines.
The rooms offer comfortable beds and are simply furnished, each featuring a terrace or balcony for relaxation. They come equipped with tea-making facilities, a hairdryer, and an iron. Every room includes air conditioning and a ceiling fan.
During my visit, patrons I spoke to were thoroughly enjoying their stay at the hotel. I am excited about the improvements, and I have been invited to visit again upon my return, which I plan to do. Room servicing is not a daily occurrence at Jolly Beach; instead, staff will attend to it after seven days. However, you can request servicing within this period for a fee of $10 USD. Additionally, you have the option to exchange towels and bedding at no extra cost and change the bed yourself.
Note: There is a $5 per person, per day tourism levy imposed by the government, and a $12 per room per day Resort fee imposed by the Resort. Both are payable in full at check-in.
You’ll have the chance to find a Caribbean shirt and sample irresistible homemade “churned” ice cream, along with various other local foods. However, the true highlight is the fantastic atmosphere created by the spirited Antiguan people, enhancing this special ground. It’s essential to enter at the designated gate. Your Tour Manager will guide you to the right entrance and the meeting point for collection.
Our local agent insists that the “Boundary Bites” servery on the ground floor of the South Stand offers some of the best food on the island. Be prepared for a warm and exciting experience at the stadium.
The airport arrival process is generally straightforward and quick. I recommend filling out the immigration form on the Barbadian Government site in advance (https://travelform.gov.bb/), but on your arrival, you can use the available machines to complete the form. This typically takes only a few minutes; however, it may be time-consuming on a large jet with numerous passengers.
Barbados offers a plethora of activities, and our local agent, can arrange a variety of sightseeing options. The Catamaran trip is highly recommended, and early booking is advised, especially when several cruise ships dock in December. For a fun and easy local travel experience, you can hop on the Reggae bus for a mere 3 dollars. These buses pass by all our hotels and drop you near the Bridge, close to the town centre and shopping area. Don’t miss trying a sandwich from the Cutler fish hut, a unique experience where you can purchase soft drinks on one side and alcohol on the other. It’s a fun local attraction and a popular food hut on the island.
On-site bars and restaurants include “The Lighthouse Terrace,” serving an excellent buffet for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. “Careenagehe” offers a bar and restaurant area, and there’s also a beach bar. For fine dining enthusiasts, “The Grille” creates a calm and welcoming atmosphere.
Both the main swimming pool and the infinity pool are inviting, and there’s a sandy beach with ample deck space and sunbeds. The staff are friendly and helpful.
The reception concourse features a boutique, Colombian Emerald store, a cash dispenser, and an ‘essentials’ convenience shop. The ground floor offers a well-equipped gym and spa area.
Lastly, I highly recommend taking a short walk down the hotel’s driveway to visit Cherish’s Bar and the immensely popular Cutler Fish Hut. You’ll likely find yourself returning more than once!
The hotel rooms are generously sized, offering either a king-size bed or two comfortable single beds. Bathrooms are functional, equipped with showers instead of baths. The rooms are self-catering ready and feature excellent air conditioning units, as well as an ironing board and iron. The hotel provides laundry services and a gift shop that also stocks alcohol, tea bags, and other self-catering essentials. The airport is a convenient 20-minute drive, and the Kensington Oval is three miles away.
During my stay at the hotel, I found it to be a very pleasant place, ideal for a touring group, with a plethora of options for dining, drinking, and making merry in the immediate vicinity. Jake’s and Mama Mia’s, located just across the road, were particularly enjoyable. Plenty of local shops are also within walking distance, covering most of your needs.
At the rear of the hotel, you’ll find the main swimming pool, two sun decks, three Jacuzzis, and a stunning beach with golden sand and clear turquoise waters. A buffet breakfast is served in the Reef bar/restaurant, offering a pleasant start to the day. The hotel boasts dedicated staff, ensuring you won’t have to venture far from your sunbed to receive top-notch service.
The hotel provides one washing machine and one dryer for guests’ use, along with a gift shop that doubles as a convenience store. Several bars and restaurants are situated in close proximity to the hotel, making it a delightful place to stay. The hotel offers a great vibe, and I overheard a guest at the Yacht Club mentioning that, pound for pound, this was the best hotel on the island. Traveling times to the airport and the Stadium are approximately 20 minutes.
During my visit, a superb local steel band called “Wizard” played, followed by more local singers and dancers, creating an entertaining atmosphere for guests. The entertainment is designed to provide a fun experience, and it certainly accomplishes that.
All standard rooms are similar, differing only in the view they offer, rather than the room facilities. The rooms are located in three-story buildings, with a number of steps to access the upper floors. If you prefer not to walk around the site, the hotel provides a shuttle service between 7 am and 11:20 pm.
The hotel’s “Diamond Club” offers 30 premium rooms, complete with lifts to all floors and butler service to attend to your needs. Diamond Club guests can enjoy premium drinks like Champagne and top-brand spirits throughout their stay. Certain parts of the beach and an exclusive swimming pool are reserved for Diamond Club guests.
The hotel also offers a tourism and sightseeing desk in the reception area, providing excursions around the island, catamaran sailing, deep-sea fishing, and more. If you plan on partaking in these activities, it’s recommended to book them early and directly with the tourist desk. Please note that there is an additional cost for these tourist items and treatments.
The Royalton Grenada provides plenty of opportunities for sunbathing and relaxation on the golden beaches or by the pools. The well-manicured gardens are perfect for leisurely strolls. While many guests may feel the need to remain connected via their mobile phones, the wristband provided by the hotel serves as your passport to a fantastic getaway, granting access to all restaurants and facilities, and even unlocking your room.
Grenada is a small but surprising island that’s well worth exploring, with many touring options available. While there are numerous steps at this resort, I recommend using their golf buggy system to move to and from your room.
The National Cricket Stadium, formerly known as Queens Park Stadium, underwent a significant transformation in 2000, and it hosted its inaugural test match in 2002. Personally, I’ve had the privilege of attending the last two test matches held at this iconic venue.
This stadium boasts not only fantastic panoramic views but also a highly enthusiastic crowd that adds to the electrifying atmosphere. Once inside, you have the freedom to explore various sections of the stadium, allowing you to alter your perspective of the playing field. Some of the most captivating views can be found a few rows back on the lower level, providing an up-close experience of the cricket action.
For those seeking refreshments, there are numerous food stalls both within the stadium and just outside.
It’s worth noting that if the weather takes an unexpected turn and rain begins to fall, there’s a charming local bar situated across the road. It overlooks the stadium’s vehicle entrance and the bridge leading to the complex. This quaint establishment provides an ideal setting to immerse yourself in the local atmosphere and savor the moment.
One thing to keep in mind is that there are a few steps to climb if you’re heading to the seats on level 2. However, the overall experience at the National Cricket Stadium is bound to be an unforgettable one, filled with thrilling cricket action and a taste of the local culture.
The hotel also houses “LOCE,” a popular Sushi bar, and “Herbs and Spices,” the main hotel restaurant. “Herbs and Spices” serves a delightful buffet breakfast and often hosts themed dinners. The restaurant features a large, colorful, and airy room, with a focus on using herbs grown on the hotel’s premises.
A pleasant sun deck and outdoor swimming pool are also available, along with a well-equipped gym for fitness enthusiasts. The hotel’s rooms are spacious and comfortable, equipped with all the necessary facilities you’d expect in a high-quality hotel.
The Hilton offers an array of facilities, but there is a limited number of other bars and restaurants in the immediate area. However, a short taxi ride can take you into the town, where you’ll find plenty of options, especially on The Avenue. Travel times from the airport and to the Brian Lara Academy stadium are approximately 25 minutes and 50 minutes, respectively.
Both games start at 4:00 pm local time, which translates to 8:00 pm GMT. Gates open at 2:30 pm, and it’s advisable to arrive when they open. Keep in mind that the sun is likely to shine on the seats in the late afternoon just before sunset.
The Brian Lara Academy is a new and exciting venue, and the ground staff has prepared a fast, bouncy wicket that promises a high-scoring match. The West Indies team is confident, and the ground is expected to be full, making it an incredible atmosphere.