A weekend at Hermitage Bay, Antigua
Antigua and Barbuda, some of the Caribbean's most famous holiday places have always been known for luxurious hotels, pristine beaches and welcoming hospitality. Being serviced by the two British carriers and German-based Condor plus an easy 50-minute ride from Saint Marteen (serviced by Air France and KLM), Antigua is a frequented by European and U.S. travellers alike. This brings together a nice mixture of cultures and making Hermitage Bay a melting point that creates the perfect atmosphere to satisfy the most discerning travellers. Somewhere in between green rainforest, miles of shoreline and turqoise sea lies one of the Caribbean's best All-including resorts. Yes, you did read correctly. While I would never have thought that I will ever be writing about this kind of hotels - simply because for me an all-inclusive resort meant terrible and massive food plus drinks from the pipe - this place is definitely the one to break that rule!
With the flight being only delayed for 35 minutes (that's the best time we got during 6 weeks of island hopping in the Caribbean), our upscale holiday experience already started upon leaving the airplane when a lady holding the sign with the hotel's name was already waiting outside the arrival hall. She was the one accompanying us through immigration and even stressed the lady at the customs to open a new line for us since it seemed to take ages queuing up. Leaving the terminal without any hassles, we followed her straight to our driver who drove us smoothly to Paradise, aka Hermitage Bay. Honestly, I like to prepare myself for upcoming stays and I love to know what to expect from hotels (at least sometimes) - and Hermitage Bay often referred as the best All-Inclusive Resort in the world, I was more than excited when the car finally stopped and a cool guy opened the door to welcome us personally. I couldn't remember that we used the real front desk one time, since we were whisked to the lounge chairs at the bar and before we could even think of getting the credit card out of our wallet, a refreshing Mojito arrived. They indeed fulfilled my first wish without me having said something. What a breathtaking way to start an amazing stay.
Once we finished the drink and signed the welcome letter, we were accompanied to our Beachfront Villa overlooking the beach without any restrictions. All villas have a very cool (but given the dark wood) still cozy atmosphere with verandas on the front boasting two lounge chairs and a day bed. Although we love to have our private pool and Hermitage Bay to have some of the coolest Pool Villas in Central America, we loved to be on the first row and occupying one of only five beach villas - plus it was a secret wish from my side in memorial to my beloved beach villa on the Maldives. I mean whats better than getting out of bed, opening the doors to the veranda and dipping into the sea before getting ready for breakfast. There are definitely worth things I can tell. For general five-star standards the room looked very minimalistic, tough there was nothing missing: a double bed made the centre of the room with a writing desk to the right and a drawer next to it that hosted the television (very small but rarely I can guarantee), a safe plus a minibar with lots of drinks and snacks - at first instance I thought that there is a charge for the items since it looked like an in-room bar at the Ritz Carlton, but to all my surprise it was free and replenished daily after filling out your preference card during breakfast. Okay I was slightly impressed, like I was when I entered the bathroom to find two sets of Aromatherapy Associates toiletries - you can hardly find them elsewhere on the planet so this was just outstanding!
The rest of the room was quite basic with a sofa and make-up desk in the main room as well as a toilet next to the double vanities and the free standing bathtub in between the two wardrobe spaces. A cool amenity was the outdoor shower opposite the toilet that brought the Caribbean flair back into the villa. Unfortunately the bed was not too comfortable with only a bed sheet, no blanket and no topper - making the beach a perfect asset again. However this was the only thing that was not on par with the top-notch equipment of this stunning resort. Another big problem was that we could actually never finish the minibar which was due to the staff at the bar preparing the best Mojito of the Caribbean. The only thing we actually could finish were the vegetable crisps, nuts and the half bottle of Champagne that was part of the lovely welcome amenity along with a fresh fruit platter and an assortment of the best pastries I had for months.
I have to admit that the greatest things of this resort are the tons of privacy one has plus the amazing food and beverage selection. Even tough we were staying at Hermitage Bay with a Hollywood superstar, nobody was going crazy (well besides us perhabs) and we had the feeling the staff did not treat them different in any way. In fact I loved the statement of the owner saying: "Hermitage Bay is actually a place where celebrities are just humans too". I guess that's the success story why this resort is frequented by many famous guests not just from the US. Once I look on the pictures and think back, the only thing that comes to my mind is the fact that Hermitage Bay could easily rebrand itself as an Aman Resort. The sleek style, personal service, dedicated areas and finally the food! Oh my gosh - the food! Did I mention that I haven't been a friend of All inclusive resorts? For me all inclusive resorts never made sense, it always meant crowded buffets, bad quality or no service. While I was totally convinced of this concept once it is well done, it also has to be said that Hermitage Bay is probably the world's number one when it comes to all inclusive resorts. I don't want to call me an expert in this kind of resorts (I am not familiar with all inclusive at all) but recent awards and statements can tell.
From the first moment we arrived at the restaurant and were accompanied to our table, we could tell that this dining experience was going to be completely different from any of the other 20 Caribbean resorts we have recently checked out. Well I knew why I saved the best resort for our last nights but more to follow. We were handed the menu as well as the wine list. While the menu read Truffled Mozzarella and Mushroom Pita bread (we both were blown away already) the menu offered wines that are normally sold above 50 USD per bottle in other Caribbean resorts. After Lukas was looking for price tags without any success, I politely reminded him that we would be staying at an all inclusive resort. We both were really impressed when our first lunch turned out to be a real gourmet experience with top service. The food was excellent and we never had an empty water nor wine glass. Free flow cocktails would have killed me at other resorts, however at Hermitage Bay I could easily drink 5, 6 mojitos and did not fe bad at all. Of course it would have been hard to continue writing that review but one specific person always made sure we got home safely.
That previously mentioned person was Ms Vi, the adorable Guest Relations Manager. She was always on-site during afternoons and dinner time to make sure every single guest is happy and has the most amazing time. While we were sitting at the bar terrace, my colleague Lukas just finished a drink and before we could even look for the server to draw his attention on us, she was ordering another round of Mojitos for us. I am absolutely fine if today's high-end hotels charge sky-rocketing nightly prices like 1000 USD but I expect extraordinary service. That time my already high expectations were exceeded for another time.
Ms Vi is the perfect example of a person loving her job and while nearly all of the world's hotels got rid of such a position, we clearly saw how important such a person is for the hotel guests. It always needs someone guests can talk to and tell about holiday experiences. She did an amazing job and should we ever be opening a hotel, there is no way for Hermitage Bay to keep her (HAHA). At least we try to find someone as passionate and as perfect as her since her role is playing the host of the home away from home.
I have to admit, I scheduled our stay at Hermitage Bay especially at the end of our 7-week journey since I already read how special this place is. However one thing I did not know was that my expectations are exceeded. And another point I would have never dreamed of: Never would I have thought that my expectations are exceeded more than once. Yes, the rooms were splendid, the tons of privacy amazing, the location remote and the food simply outstanding - BUT the service was over the top and extremely gorgeous. It all ended with the staff having arranged everything on their own - us without doing anything: we passed by the front desk and they already scheduled a late check-out (there's nothing more annoying than always begging for it) plus organised our limousine back to the airport.
Hermitage Bay is actually the first property on our blog which I would rate with a 11 out of 10 since they went the extra mile more than once. For prices around the 1.000 USD mark, I have to be brutally honest and say it's a superb steal and I secretly hope they will always have a villa available once I go back to Antigua.
We were exclusively invited by Hermitage Bay for a press stay. However all above written expresses our opinion and has not been influenced.