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Curtain Bluff: Casually Elegant, Deeply Relaxing

I’m several weeks tardy in getting this review up and  published but the truth is, I was almost immediately back to holiday planning mode as well as I got back. More on those trips another time (but here are some hints: France, Cunard, Grenada).  But at the moment, the focus is Antigua and this iconic holiday spot.

Note: A much shorter version of this review appeared on TripAdvisor.

Just got back from a week at this amazing resort. I’ve stayed at a lot of high end Caribbean resorts – beautifully appointed with magnificent views – but I’ve never stayed anywhere that harnessed that with such an accommodating, welcoming staff, old school elegance and a warm, relaxing atmosphere.

It was a completely different feel to — say, my trip to Anguilla two years ago. For that trip, I stayed at the Viceroy (now the Four Seasons, as I understand it). It was like walking into an expensive travel magazine’s photo shoot. Everything was clean, cool, smooth, beautifully appointed, clearly expensive and … utterly soulless. Nothing seemed particularly relaxed or relaxing. It was like being in grandma’s GOOD sitting room and not wanting to mess up the cushions. Recent trip to Antigua and Curtain Bluff was my first time back to that part of the world since and I was FULL of anxious expectation.

And Curtain Bluff blew me away. Let me break it down for you:

The rooms:  Our rooms (3 adjoining) all overlooked the ‘surf’ beach’ – which was called that not because people were surfing but because there was a slightly rougher surf there than at the calm beach. The rooms were comfortable, well-appointed and well-maintained. The bed was super comfy and the view from the bed was glorious. And for once, plenty of towels. Why do so many places give you the absolute bare minimum of towels? Same with hangers in the closets. Was delighted to see lots of hangers (it is a rare occasion when I don’t have to call down for more). Lots of little touches that made the stay particularly nice – lovely toiletries, handy mini-bar (stocked to your preferences), etc. And OMG the views from our balcony:

The food: There are two onsite restaurants – the Tamarind (in the central building) and the Sea Grape (down at the beach). I cannot say enough about how fantastic the food at the Sea Grape was. The daily lunch buffet was superb (the grilled tuna topped with fruit salsa ended up on my plate every day). The Sea Grape also does dinner several times a week and those meals were true highlights – we were a party of six and could not fault a single thing we ordered there.  Breakfast at the Tamarind was a fab way to start the day. Omelettes to order, plenty of coffee and quite simply the best banana bread I have ever had. They also offer up a complimentary fruit smoothie type beverage in the mornings that is absolutely delicious!  Dinner at the Tamarind was – to be honest – a bit hit or miss. The misses were things like a seriously over salted Greek salad and a lemon chicken that appeared to be intended as a delivery system for an oversupply of lemon juice they needed rid of in a hurry. But when they got it right – they got it spot on.  Best bets for dinner at The Tamarind were dishes that highlighted the freshness and quality of the ingredients, anything they grilled simply was top notch – from fish (be it mahi-mahi or wahoo) to flat iron steak (meltingly tender and well-seasoned).

The staff: I cannot say enough about the helpful, friendliness of this staff. From reception to housekeeping, from the waiters to the spa attendants. Nothing was too much trouble – even random and last minute special requests (a particular type of stout, a late checkout, a birthday cake). That kind of thing might have sent a more ‘by the book’ staff into a tailspin but the staff here is clearly empowered to do whatever they can do to make everyone’s stay as memorable as possible. Wendy, the Resident Manager, made our check in super smooth (and got us rum punches). Rob (the managing director) even had Dad laughing on a travel day – and seriously, Dad can be a cranky bastard on travel day. Two extra thumbs up in particular to Carolyn and Ieasha at the front desk/concierge station for their help through out and their good humour and to Babs (in the spa) because my nails are a disaster and I am not a natural ‘manicure type.’

The recreational facilities and beach: Two beaches – ‘surf’ beach which is the one the rooms all overlook and ‘calm’ beach where the all-important sun tanning and recreational activities happen. Calm beach is just fantastic – plenty of lounge chairs, hammocks and space (as there are only 72 rooms at Curtain Bluff, the beach is never crowded) and staff regularly circulate offering bottled water, cold towels and taking drink orders.

Also on calm beach is the activities jetty. When Curtain Bluff says ‘all inclusive’ – it really means it. Not just room and board but all the use of the water sports equipment is included, as are the snorkelling and scuba trips. On the beach, they’ve got waterboards, floats, kayaks (clear bottomed so you can see what’s happening under all that blue water) and pedal boats. All yours to use or not as you wish.

I would go back again in a heartbeat -and that would make me just one more of the many repeat guests to Curtain Bluff. Once you’ve been here, you totally understand why people go back again and again. Everyone at Curtain Bluff makes you feel like family.

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