Review: Carlisle Bay, Antigua
“Every time I log onto facebook, someone’s having a baby” I fed back at my first few megabytes of data after 14 hours of traveling. As I tossed my phone into my bag, my traveling companion, Georgia replied: “Well where are they? With their babies. And where are you? In Antigua. So be quiet and enjoy the view.”
We pulled up at a majestic entrance: A pathway lined with more cascading palm trees, than I, an Egyptian, have ever seen, as a lady approached us. “Miss Malek, Miss Kinchin? Welcome to your home away from home. We have your room ready for you, and welcome you to Carlisle Bay. Someone else will greet you at the other side.” Worried, as to where the other side might be, why I would need a second greeting there, and if they would like me as much or send me back, our taxi pushed onwards.
As we stood at Carlisle Bay’s open shaded entrance lobby, I stilled and stared around as a host replaced my bag with a drink-to-the-hand in one swift swoop. A dash of lemongrass, lime, mint, and I forget the rest as my imagination had already started wandering around the beautiful open-walled sanctum. “This is just where they check people in,” I whispered. If Carlisle’s equivalent to a ‘welcome doormat’ was this vast, cooled, comfortable zone of relaxation, I could barely wait to see the suites on offer.
The rooms at Carlisle Bay afford most with a beach view, and ours was a raised ocean view suite. As I stepped in, the woodwork, plantation style, of white and grey hues took my breath away. Our bed and bathroom were steeped above the open plan living space, which lay before a spacious terrace. Home away from home, indeed. I stepped out onto the terrace to take a quick snapshot. Looking down at my phone, another new baby notification popped up on it. Flicking the camera on, I looked at the white sand beach through my phone-screen ready to capture the view. Then I saw it right there on the five inch screen. FOUR baby bumps. Four pregnant couples had managed to fit into the view from my terrace. The latest trend of taking a ‘babymoon’ to celebrate your infant’s impending arrival was everywhere. Even here in Antigua. Aside from the obvious: babymoons, honeymoons, or the ultimate destination-wedding, Carlisle Bay is a secluded getaway for anyone seeking fun, sun and adventure. The suite of activities at Carlisle includes an irresistible offering of complimentary sailing, kayaking, snorkeling, windsurfing and paddle boarding. And if you can name an activity, Carlisle can have it arranged. If that isn’t enough to fill your day, then Antigua’s main draw – yachting and sailing – can be enjoyed at Carlisle who offer boa charters and sailing lessons as well as sunset cruises, picnic charters and all day excursions.
With the weather against us, as tempting as it was to lie in our spacious, luxurious, open plan suite and watch “botched” all day (the E! channel’s capitalisation on plastic surgery gone horribly wrong), the beach still beckoned, overcast or not. Its carpet of white sand really does stand out against the emerald backdrop of its surroundings, and as I walked away from our suite, I was lured toward the sound of steel drums. Set on a hidden corner of the beach, the hotel had set up a bonfire – I knew I should’ve packed marshmallows – steel drums, and a bar serving endless rum punch. I instantly felt nostalgic for every catch-up I’ve been intending to arrange with friends lately, as here was the perfect setting for it: a warm, friendly, fun ambience adding that light buzz as you unwind amongst a stunning setting.
Dining at Carlisle Bay has been designed for “the mooners” as I have decided to call them, as well as your typical Caribbean visitors: a setting for every mood. Whether it’s a relaxed foot-in-the-sand lunch delivered to your lounger in the Coconut Grove, a romantic dinner for two at East (think: lots of red and Chinese lantern style lighting), or signature beach-grills, there is something to suit all. We opted for dinner at East on our first night, which is noted as one of Antigua’s finest Asian restaurants, and attracts guests from all over the island. The setting is beautiful as you enter via tall Indonesian carved doors, to a deep fuscia and dark wood interior. Of course, we entered to something else as well: the all too familiar glance we usually receive which translates roughly into “are they a cou0ple?” and usually consists of Georgia playing to her audience, whilst I giggle bashfully and snatch my hand away. The cuisine at East, although plentiful and beautifully presented, reminded me of my attempts to prove to boyfriends past that I’m a “great cook”; I opt for fool-proof stir-fries and throw everything into the wok. I add the teriyaki sauce, artfully serve, et voila. Then you take your first bite and realise that in your excitement you’ve made all the right ingredients taste like teriyaki-soup. This was unfortunately how our beef stir-fries materialized, along with the side of pak-choi we ordered, which actually emerged from the kitchen in the form of courgettes and baby corn. Notwithstanding, the meat beneath it was succulent and tasty, and the service accompanying it is infallible. We ate to our fill and left the restaurant holding hands for added entertainment. The real heart of Carlisle Bay however is Indigo On The Beach. Sea breezes fill the opensided room and terrace. Tables are spread out over a rustic wooden floor, which steeps down onto the beach. With grilled seafood and meats, crisp salads, and an extensive Caribbean/Italian infused menu, I found myself slipping into the usual marker of an excellent menu: when I begin to ask if we can order mains as starters. With a friendly Emogen on board to help me narrow the choices down to the best recommendations, I was able to order the civilised way, and Michael, our sommelier paired our wines to perfection.
When I arrived at Carlisle Bay, I had grand plans for adventure, for hikes, to sail out and see what I may. Whereas all these activities can be effortlessly arranged with the wonderful Johanna and the helpful team on board, the resort has such a power to lull you into a mirage and keep you there. There are its bars, my favourite being a softly lit, open-sided pavilion with shutters opening up to the sea. There’s its spa with the soothing, experienced Michelle to guide you through their choice of bespoke treatments and massages. Then there is the one memory I cannot revoke: the breath-taking Antiguan sunset, which falls on the bay. Although I may have returned from Carlisle the shadow cast by that sunset, onto those still waters, as I tip-toed through them, rum-punch in hand, has remained there. And until I see it again, I can only recommend that you visit to imprint a shadow of your own at the captivating Carlisle Bay.
Head into summer at Carlisle Bay and enjoy a holiday at half the usual price. Carrier is offering a 7 night stay from £1960 per person based on 2 adults sharing an Ocean Suite, including breakfast, return flights from London Gatwick with British Airways and private transfers. Valid for travel from 1st June to 21st August 2015, bookings must be made by 17th August. Contact Carrier at 0161 492 1354 or www.carrier.co.uk