Antigua: Galley Bay Resort & Spa
by, 03-30-2013 at 08:44 PM (4513 Views)
I have stayed at the Fairmont Royal York in Toronto and imagined myself living there. I spent a week at Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel for my birthday one year and was über impressed by the hospitality of the staff. I have had drinks and appetizers in the poolside cabanas at the Viceroy and Hotel Zoso in Palm Springs and in early 2011 rented a lovely two-story condo on lovely Dover Beach in Barbados, steps away from the famous St. Lawrence Gap.
Many moons ago, I watched the shimmering lights of Las Vegas from a luxury suite at Caesars Palace and not so many moons ago watched those same lights from my suite at the Aria. But truth be told, Galley Bay Resort & Spa on the Caribbean island of Antigua has stolen my heart. There is no other way to say it – I’m in love. Almost two years after my first trip and just over one year since my last, and I can't stop thinking about Galley Bay. I've got it bad.
(Pictured above) Helicopter view of Galley Bay Resort & Spa
(Pictured above) Premium beachfront
After checking out Elite Island Resorts’ two dynamic properties on Antigua - the St. James’ Club & Villas and the eco-friendly Verandah Resort & Spa on a press trip - I arrived at Galley Bay Resort & Spa – a 98-room adults only property - late at night. After the 45-minute drive from one property to the next, I was quite content yet a bit tired after a tasty and filling dinner at The Verandah’s Nicole’s Restaurant, so when the golf cart at Galley Bay scooted me off to my accommodations, I barely took notice of my surroundings…until I opened the front door to my upstairs room suite. Man oh man. In the words of Julie Andrews, I must’ve done something good.
There are four different types of accommodations to choose from at Galley Bay and I was placed in one of the 32 Premium Beachfront suites that boast just over 560 square feet. The bathroom (first door to my left) was tastefully decorated and enormous. Jacuzzi tub for two, two sinks, bidet, a fabulous shower with two showerheads: One that is about shoulder height (in the event you don’t want to get your hair wet) and a traditional shower head for those long luxuriating showers. (I love whoever thought of that.) I know it’s just a bathroom; but it wasn’t just a bathroom.
The king-sized bed was as beautifully made as it was comfortably luxurious and I slept like a princess -- but not before I took in the sunken living room, wet-bar, and floor-to-ceiling windows. But it was the view through those floor-to-ceiling windows just beyond my second floor balcony window that took my breath away when I awoke the next morning. You see, what was a pitch black view when I closed my eyes to go to sleep turned out to be a view of the most magnificent three-quarter mile white sand beach just several feet away and just beyond my very own palm trees. Somebody pinch me, I thought. And that is how my love affair with Galley Bay began.
There is a quiet luxury and elegance at Galley Bay that is much easier to experience than it is to describe. It is relaxing and unpretentious, yet it is clearly a superior property in remarkably serene, lush and intimate surroundings. From the white-sand beach (shared by Giorgio Armani - yes, that Giorgio Armani - when he is at his vacation home right down the way and who I met on my second trip) to the lovely swimming pool (avec waterfall) to the tennis court to the pastel-colored Adirondack chairs that face the sea, Galley Bay is the kind of place you go to relax - whether alone, with friends or with your lover.
(Pictured above) The lagoon
(Pictured above) Giorgio Armani's compound at Galley Bay
(Pictured above) The poolGalley Bay is also a haven for nature lovers and is in the midst of 40 acres of tropical flora and fauna as well as a breathtaking lagoon. It is a natural bird sanctuary that isn’t just home to the frigates, pelicans, and herons that take flight but it is also home to some pretty snazzy tortoises and lots of little florescent green geckos. And since I am a lover of animals and staunch supporter of saving endangered sea turtles, I was ecstatic to learn that Hawksbill and Leatherback sea turtles can sometimes be found nesting between July and October on the shores of Galley Bay. In fact, if you request it, a Galley Bay staff member will call you when any sea turtles are hatched so you can run down to the beach to experience nature at work. I don’t like to talk about it (*pout*), but I actually missed a once in a lifetime opportunity to see this miracle of nature on my first night at Galley Bay. But, hey (*shrug*), I guess I’ll just have to go back again.
Like St. James Club and The Verandah, Galley Bay is an all-inclusive resort which means that meals and drinks are included during your stay. But don’t get it twisted for a moment. All-inclusive in no way means sub-standard cafeteria style food. In fact, the. food. is. spectacular. Award winning Executive Chef Andrew "Stan" Baxter changed my entire point of view about the dining experience at all-inclusive resorts and after dining with Chef, General Manager Paolo Rovoletto and Property Manager Cedric Henry, my expectations about food and luxury have most certainly risen.
(Pictured above) Property Manager Cedric Henry
There are three al fresco restaurants to choose from at Galley Bay – Sea Grape Restaurant, Gauguin Restaurant, and Ismay’s Restaurant (which was named after a long-term employee and is the only restaurant that has a slight surcharge), but my favorite place to sit down to dine on a curried corn covered hamburger and mind-blowing crab cakes is in the palm cabanas on the beach at Gauguin. *Kissing the tips of my fingers* I’m telling you: They don’t call them Elite Island Resorts for nothing. You can read more about my food experience here.
(Pictured L to R) Restaurant namesake Ismay & General Manager Paolo Rovoletto
(Pictured above) My favorite table at Gauguin Restaurant
The spa, the spa, the spa. Let me just start off by saying that I have NEVER seen a lovelier spa than the one at Galley Bay. Never ever. In addition to a nice pedicure, I was provided with a complimentary spa treatment (a 30-minute massage) and – are you ready? – my treatment room was up in the trees. (Close your mouth.) Yep, up in the trees…where it is tranquil and quiet and lovely and where the sheer curtains blow softly in the breeze. And while you certainly have a choice of treatment rooms (single or double, up in the trees or not), I’ll take a tree-house massage at Indulge Spa (perfect name, don’t you think?) any day of the week.
For me, one of the things that makes a property luxurious isn’t just the beauty of its surroundings, but the attention to detail; what I like to call The Extras. The service at Galley Bay is impeccable. The staff polite, friendly and appropriate yet not over the top formal. Within 48 hours of your arrival, a manager calls your room to be sure that everything is to your satisfaction and within 48 hours of your departure, the same. The front desk is extremely helpful when it comes to helping decide whether to rent snorkel equipment at the Activities area on the beach, take a helicopter ride in town, or simply ride a complimentary bicycle both on and off the property’s lovely grounds. One of The Extras that I enjoyed the most were the Bed Notes, nicely presented information cards that show up tucked in the fold of the sheets on my bed. “Fig Tree Drive is the most popular drive in Antigua,” one of my notes read. “It is lined with tropical fruit trees, including bananas, which actually used to be called figs in Antigua.” A lovely touch, don’t you think?
(Pictured above) A comfy seating area
I’m quite certain that I have left something out, but Galley Bay is more about the experience than it is about me giving you a list of its amenities. I so want to experience it again…and again.
But here’s the thing: I want you to go to Galley Bay Resort & Spa for the experience too. Really. You won’t be sorry in the least. And you can trust me on that. After all, I'm in love I tell you. I'm in love with Galley Bay.
(Pictured above) Right off of the lagoon, this is one of Galley Bay's Gauguin Cottages, one of the most uniquely designed Tahitian-themed private accommodations I have seen (including your very own breezeway, plunge pool, and completely separate shower room). Just perfect.
Special Note: You can book Galley Bay Resort & Spa, an Elite Islands Resort luxury property, via Luxury Link.