“ Address: Choc Bay / Gros Islet / St. Lucia „
We travelled to St. Lucia at Easter this year. As a family with two children aged 11 and 14 at the time we needed to find a hotel that would cater for everyones needs. When I had visited St Lucia 17 years ago I had stayed at Le Sport but to be honest the prices there were out of our league now and I don't think they are particularly family orientated but that may just be my perception from memory. ( Amy Winehouse also stayed there at Easter so I am glad I avoided it!). I was worried about my choice of Almond Morgan Bay because I had enjoyed Le Sport so much I was worried that I would be disappointed.
On my previous visit to St Lucia there had been very few places to eat so I was determined to opt for an all-inclusive package. I knew that this would also help with the budgeting as I find food bills seem to make up a large proportion of our holiday "spends". After reading Trip Advisor etc. for hours I decided to opt for Almond Morgan Bay as most of the reviews were positive. We made our booking through Virgin and then just waited for the months to roll by until we were on our way.
The hotel is situated 25miles from Hewanorra International Airport. The journey from the airport took about an hour and a quarter and provided a scenic introduction to the island. The hotel is only 3 miles from the capital Castries and is on the western side which faces onto the caribbean ocean.
On arrival we were shown into an open spacious reception area and were greeted by the sounds of a caribbean steel band and a glass of Rum Punch before being given our room key. Our bags were taken from us and we were put on a land train to be shown our room. I am probably being a bit of a grump here but after an 8 hour flight and an hour in a minibus I didn't need music or alcohol! I just wanted to get to my room quickly, this duly happened and the guide showed us to our room and explained the features and told us our bags would be about 15 minutes (at about 4.30). He also told us a table had been booked for us at 6 o'clock in one of the restaurants. We then waited for our bags, and waited and waited and waited! I had forgotten that nothing ever happens quickly in the caribbean. I really wanted a shower and to get dressed for dinner. Two of the three bags eventually arrived at 5.45 and after much searching the porter eventually found the third bag. By this time we were all grumpy and I was already regretting my choice of hotel. We had a quick change and went to the restaurant for dinner. We followed our map and easily found where to go and we found ourselves in a lovely open sided restaurant by the beach, by this time it was almost dark and there was a lovely atmosphere. The service was laid back but polite and the food unusual but delicious. By the time we had walked back to our room we were feeling much happier and the hotel was going up in our estimation. By the end of the holiday I had decided that I couldn't have picked a better hotel!
The hotel itself is set between two hillsides and covers about 22 acres. This gives it a very private feel and it has its own secluded cove. All beaches in St Lucia are officially public but not many locals frequent this one, it is really only hotel residents and the occasional hawker. The hotel was refurbished in 2005 and we got talking to a couple who had visited prior to that and they said the pool area had been vastly improved.
The hotel has about 340 rooms, we stayed in the older blocks but there were also some new rooms and suites on the opposite hillside. The older blocks have three floors and no lifts. The blocks are set on a steep slope so people with walking difficulties may find the paths quite hard work.
Our room was a reasonable size and had two double beds but surprisingly when we arrived there was also another single z-bed that had been put in for one of the children. We had expected that the children would have to share (not a popular idea!) but the hotel do this for families which was so helpful. The room had the worlds smallest safe--- we could fit in our passports, ipods etc but is was very dark in that corner and we always struggled to find things in it. There was a small wardrobe and a few drawers. They would have been adequate for a couple but we had trouble storing the clothes for the four of us. The decor was quite plain with white painted wicker furniture. Luckily there was airconditioning which really is a must in the tropical climate. Each room has a balcony or terrace but these are very small and can just fit a table and two chairs, however it was a pleasant place to sit and watch the world go by. The bathroom was large and light with a shower over the bath, there was always plenty of hot water and the towels were changed daily if you left them in the bath. There were also blue beach towels in the room. All the usual things like a TV and a hairdryer and coffee making facilities were included as was a lovely platter of fresh fruit and a half bottle of Rum!
The hotel has four restaurants but you do need to make reservations for your evening meals. This is done in reception and we simply booked several nights in one go and never had trouble getting the times we wanted. Dress code in the day was anything except male bare chests and swimwear, most people just used a beach cover-up or shorts and t-shirt.
Breakfast is served at two of the restaurants, this is a self-service buffet with a huge selection of food. There was always lots of variety. There was a good continental selection, various cooked choices including omelettes made to order and lots of cakes and breads and a machine to prepare your toast--a highlight for the children!
Lunch was either a buffet on the beach-you could take it back to your sunlounger or eat at the restaurant tables. Or a full-service meal at The Palms restaurant.
In the evening the four restaurants were open and served different style food. Dress code in the evening is more smart casual and I did see people asked to change when they were dressed inappropriately. This lent a nice atmosphere in the evenings and made the meals seem more special. All evening meals were waitress service:
The Palms--a continental style menu
Bambou---unusual caribbean/asian fusion menu
Morgans Pier--- the very popular fish restaurant which is situated out over the sea.
There was also a French Restaurant but that was adults only so I never ventured in there although I always though it looked a bit dark!
The food and service was always very good and we had no complaints at all. Some of the flavours were quite exotic but all the restaurants in the evening also had a childrens buffet of chips and hot-dogs etc when my son wouldn't try something new!
If you were hungry inbetween times there was a snack bar open which supplied chips, pizza, biscuits and ice-cream all day!
The hotel has lots of sunbeds but like most places you had to be up early to get the best positions as they did get taken. However during our second week the hotel emptied a lot and there were plenty of sunbeds then! There is only so long I can spend sitting on a beach, once I have read for several hours I get a bit bored so we had opted for a hotel with some available activities. We were very impressed with what we found.
On the beach there is a watersports hut, here you had to sign waiver forms for your chosen activity and also book the time slots for anything you wanted to do. You could only book for that day which was great as it meant you knew you would be able to do your activity if you got to the hut in the morning. There was also free tuition available. We had tuition for sailing and found the guy was great and didn't make us feel foolish and we really enjoyed ourselves. There were plenty of lifejackets in various sizes and we never had any trouble getting ones to fit when we were doing an activity. The activities available were:
Kayaks--either single or doubles
Catamaran (hobbycat) sail boats
Waterskiing--split into beginners and advanced (for children over 8 and adults)
Banana Boat rides
The staff seemed to be very laid back but we did notice that they did seem very safety conscious and were aware of all the activities going on in the bay.
There were four pools around the site with two being adults only. They were never particularly busy but you could always find spare chairs around them. they were all a nice size and they were very clean. The bars are around the pool area and one of the adult pools has a swim up bar.
If watersports aren't your thing there are four tennis courts with equipment avilable and I believe there is golf available locally as well.
There was a childrens club which seemed to organise various activities but I do not have any experience of how that was run.
In the evenings there was some entertainment laid on in the bar area. We never went to this although we could hear it from our room. It did tend to sound like Bob Marley impersonators every night! We tended to find that since it went dark to early that we were ready for bed early and got up early too! I think this was what most people did as breakfast was very busy by 7.30.
There is also a spa which offered a selection of treatment but they seemed a bit expensive so I didn't try them.
This hotel offered everything we wanted. It was TOTALLY all-inclusive. We did not have to put our hands in our pockets at all whilst on site. All activities, equipment hire, tuition (except tennis), food, snacks and all drinks were included. The hotel is set in the most beautiful tropical gardens which are a delight to walk around. Our room and all communal areas were kept very clean. The staff were always pleasant and helpful and happy to chat, especially the gardeners who will tell you all about the species they grow.
After a worrying start this turned out to be our caribbean ideal and we would certainly return here again (hopefully soon!).
4 star beach resort.