Travel, like life, is full of surprises. And on a recent visit to the legendary Antiguan all-inclusive resort Curtain Bluff, I was surprised twice: First, by the fact that it was WAY more casual and friendly than it’s old-school, country-club rep had led me to believe. And also by the unexpected but much-appreciated niceties I enjoyed during my stay. Here are my top six:
There’s something about breaking the day for a spot of afternoon tea that makes one feel elegant and just a tad Downton Abbey-esque, no? Tea at CB, served daily on the Sugar Mill terrace and covered in the all-inc rate, is a low-key and leisurely affair, sweetened with cookies, fresh tropical fruit, and scones with clotted cream. Yellow-breasted “sugar birds” will flit by, hoping you’ll share your scrumptious spread. But don’t waste a morsel; those finger sandwiches are that good.
You know from this post that insufficient and/or attached hangers in a hotel room are my pet peeves. Imagine my delight then, when I opened my closet doors to find more hangers than even an outfit-obsessed packer like me could need – and none of them attached to the hanging rod! Thank you, sweet baby Jesus.
My appetite for retail is legendary, and the truth is, I could shop 24-7. Alas, that’s impossible in the real world of brick-and-mortar shops. But not at the Bluff, where the lobby gift shop’s official hours are from 9am to 5pm but staff will bust it open any time if you ask. Proof: When I rocked up to the store on my first evening, all ready to get my shop on, Randy at the front desk didn’t just turn his head when he saw how disappointed I was that it was closed. Nope. Instead he fetched the keys, opened it up, and allowed me to browse at my leisure. When’s the last time your local Target did that for you?
CB is renown for its tennis instruction, and has four oceanview courts presided over by local pros Nigel, Dillo and Gloucester. I had the pleasure of their tutelage during one of last year’s Tennis and Wellness Weeks, when UK tennis stars Annabel Croft and Andrew Castle hosted a series of lessons, clinics and exhibition matches. I’m a complete novice with negligible hand/eye coordination, so I couldn’t have been more thrilled when, under Nigel’s watchful and patient eye, I was actually able to connect the racquet with the ball. Never mind that nine times out of 10 it went outside the lines, into the neighboring court, or fell just short of the net; I hit it. Yay, me!
5. Jams and Jellies
I’m in love with a jam. Well, a jelly to be precise. The guava jelly that comes with breakfast is one of a selection of tropical fruit preserves I’m told are made on-site at CB. And trust me when I tell you: I don’t think you’re ready for this jelly. It’s unctuous and delicately sweet, the Bordeaux-hued loveliness glistening seductively as it is presented with pride by your waiter. This is the standard by which I’ll be judging all other jellys, and if the resort sold it (hint, hint), I’d have brought home a boatload.
Despite Curtain Bluff’s old-school reputation, when it comes to connectivity they’re on the cutting edge. Everywhere I went I could log on to complimentary, super-fast and reliable resort wi-fi – which is more than I can say for other, much newer Caribbean hotels, where there’s either no, spotty or expensive wi-fi. Kudos to the CB team, who clearly understands that today’s traveler wants to stay connected with the real world - or at least be able to “humble brag” over social media about what a great time they’re having.