Carlisle Bay is one of those hotels where you feel at home the minute you walk through the front door. Professionally, I shouldn’t like it as much as I do, but that’s just one of those anomalies that happens to us all once in a while.
I have a bit of history here, having visited several times over the years, and while nothing has notably changed to warrant any obvious mention, this is a hotel that delivers a great family vacation, up to a point.
Let me clarify. Carlisle Bay would make many folk run for the hills, never to return again. Especially those seeking an adult holiday as this place is, at times, completely overrun with overenthusiastic kids. Having been here with my children at varying times and various ages, I can cope with this because, ultimately, as those of us with kids know: if the kids are happy, we are happy. What may not suit is that this resort is not a finely-tuned machine, rather a more well-oiled one. Experience has taught management what works well and they go with it. Lacking are the small enhancements which would label it exceptional.
Notable, bad and good, are the following. The pristine, long, golden beach with a soft, sandy bottom generally has a breeze blowing by to keep you feeling fresh on a hot day. If you’re travelling with offspring, the Kids’ Club here is a gem. It is well thought out for those six and under, being secure and well run. And the Beach suites include a second bedroom for the kids: less stress and good value for money.
For adult travellers without children, there are suites set apart to ensure a safe distance from the early morning risers in the family accommodation. The restaurants are nicely done, again with an adult-only restaurant for lunch at one end of the beach. What I must take umbrage with are decisions which don’t make sense. The club for teens, the Crush Lounge, complete with play stations, table football, ping pong and more has been closed. No one on-site could tell me why, and considering the number of teens hanging around, this is a seemingly short-sighted decision.
In addition, the activities schedule is rather limited, bearing in mind the number of tennis and water sport facilities in place which could be put into action. Finally, the lack of staff around the beach and pool areas led me to wonder whether they either needed more employees or a more visible management team. The sleek, modern images on the hotel’s website are somewhat misleading, as although the suites are modern in style, the cool, calming, atmosphere that one would normally associate with these interiors is left outside the hotel gates.
- Daily breakfast for two
- Room upgrade upon arrival
- Subject to availability
- Early check-in / Late check-out
- Subject to availability
- Complimentary Wi-Fi
Exclusive benefits may vary by hotel or hotel group. Exclusive benefits apply when booking the Best Available Rate and are not combinable with any hotel offers or special packages unless stated.
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I was greeted at the security gate by the guard who was warm and welcoming. After a short drive down to the main entrance, I was met by staff members who greeted me by name. In the lobby, I was given cold, refreshing towels and a welcome drink before being taken directly to my suite.
The lobby is very modern and contemporary offering a large, open-plan space with high ceilings. All the soft furnishings are in white with dark wood furniture which is striking at any time of day or night. It’s a beautiful setting.
Room and suites
The beach terrace suites at Carlisle Bay are bi-level spaces. The main room is a large open-plan one, junior-suite in style, with sliding doors facing out onto the terrace and the beach beyond. Within the suite’s main bedroom area there is a large sofa facing the TV and a freestanding wardrobe. Through the doors and onto the large terrace you can flop down on the day bed for two. Being able to walk straight off the terrace and onto the beach is of course a huge plus.
For adults travelling with up to two children of 15 or younger, the suite comes with a small second twin-bedded room.
The decor is modern with a palette of dark wood, white and dove grey soft furnishings and the odd splash of lime to add a hint of colour. I could see no signs of damage to the dark wood furniture and everything is well maintained—they close the property every September to touch-up the rooms and soft furnishings. The walls are all whitewashed and surprisingly showed no sign of wear and tear that you would expect with such a high occupancy of little people. As design goes, the rooms and space are well thought out and spacious.
The only real issue that I have with this room is with the bed. It is a large, king-size bed, heavenly, but in the day and age of bed toppers which allow you to sink into bed, the mattress here keeps you strictly rigid. After only a few nights, I found myself longing for my own bed back home.
The in-room technology is good with a large TV with cable channels which can be connected to an iPad (yet old style adapter, rather than iPhone 6). The light fittings bedside and throughout the room are all on dimmers but on a cable rather than on a wall, so you do need to adjust them individually rather than on a central console which is fiddly. There is also a coffee making machine which is quite complicated to use versus the more simple ‘pod’ variety, and although they do leave good instructions for you, I gave up very quickly as it was quicker to just head down to breakfast.
East, the Asian restaurant, is a small and intimate dining venue for about forty covers. Red furnishings and Asian dark wood and bamboo make a welcome change to the usual Caribbean-style venue and cuisine. The menu is a medley of Asian cuisines, from Chinese to Japanese, Thai and Vietnamese, and although not extensive as far as choice goes, the food it is quite delicious and well presented.
Guests on the special package called the ‘super chill out offer’ are privy to an all- inclusive dining basis and can eat and drink at all outlets and bars, without exception. The only drawback at East is the sedentary service, where from one course to the next I waited a long time. If you can cope with a couple of extra drinks between courses then I would highly recommend this restaurant, however, children will get bored, especially within the confined space.
Spa and wellness
I didn’t use the spa for a treatment but I did use the gym which is adjacent: a large facility with plenty of equipment for both cardio and weights. There was, however, limited air-conditioning which made it very uncomfortable.
Pool and beach
The pool is large and free-form and surrounded by sun beds, but beware, limited in number for a hotel of this size. Guests with a penchant for lying around the pool may find themselves out of luck. The pool deck is tiled and although it looks attractive, it is exceptionally hot to walk on without shoes, even the short distance to get into the pool. There is a pool bar, but this doesn’t seem to be fully functional; the wait staff rarely wander over for your order.
The beach is situated on a large bay. It has ample sun loungers which are comfortable, if a bit antiquated. Unfortunately, the beach service is virtually non-existent and apart from the fact that there is a cooler with bottles of water by each group of sun-beds, I would have liked the option of having other drinks served throughout the day. When I did eventually receive a visit from a beach waiter, I ended up having to wait over a half hour for my order to arrive.
Staff and service
Overall, the staff at Carlisle Bay were exceptionally friendly and in this sense, couldn’t be faulted. However, I did feel an overall sedateness in the service speed. This was probably due to a lack of co-ordination by a manager; there didn’t seem to be anyone over-seeing any of the restaurants.
While I was generally looked after very well on all fronts by the staff, the service is lacklustre and slow. After a week, I imagine one would get a little tired of wondering whether the beach and poolside waiters would ever show up to take or deliver an order. And while other hotels in the competitive set may have slightly more ‘finesse’ when it comes to this issue, it is true that this is very much a Caribbean trait: everything happens a bit slower than in other parts of the world. The whole ‘mañana’ style here allows you to slow down accordingly and get away from the hustle and bustle of life. Embrace the pace?
A bill was delivered to my room the night before departure which was all in order. I checked with the front desk the morning of my departure if I could have a late check out which was graciously granted. My bags were collected within five minutes of the call to the front desk and the check out was smooth.
How to get here
30 minutes by car from Antigua Airport
First-hand knowledge from LuxuryBARED members who've been here.
What I liked
This hotel is located on the mainland and is a great family friendly hotel.
Unlike other hotels i have visited in Antigua this one seems to be very popular with families with kids aged between 3 to 14. They have a great pool which is open all day and a restaurant next to it which serves lunch and dinner. Also beside the pool is an cinema where every day films are shown, it’s a great way for children to keep out of the sun. However there is also a kids club and a water sports centre where kids can go and have fun. I even tried the kayaking one day which was great fun.
Although there are lots of kids the beach is very relaxing, drinks and little snacks get delivered straight to your sun bed and the restaurants serve great food from seafood, Asian food and grilled food. Carlisle Bay does also appeal to couples, the Jetty Grill restaurant is only open to adults and the East restaurant by the pool advertise that children under 10 come before 7pm. The staff are really friendly and always make sure you have everything you need.
What I disliked
There was nothing I disliked about this hotel.
G.Parsons aged 15