By Ann Abel
I’d been curious about Gordon Campbell Gray’s Antiguan outpost ever since I’d heard the Scottish hotelier speak to journalists about the weird excesses invading five-star resorts. Why would anyone find it luxurious, he’d asked, to step into a 62-degree guest room with the TV blaring the “resort channel” that welcomes you by name and loops images of the hotel you’ve already committed to staying at? My thoughts exactly.
Clear-headed simplicity prevails at Carlisle Bay. The 82 oversize suites (around 800 square feet) are a study in elegance, with cool white tile floors and soft linens, abstract black-and-white nature photography, and splashes of watery blues and grays. No one tries to reinvent the wheel, but the staff—some 250 strong—delivers consistently competent, confident service. The technology is sane. And the turquoise water and pale-sand beach need no embellishment.
1. Hands-down the best food I’ve had in the Caribbean
Chef Pieter Fitz-Dryer is wise to the fact that after a day in the sun and water, people often just want grilled fish and vegetables. Or sometimes they want a pan-Asian feast. Or maybe they want wood-fired pizza. The three restaurants he oversees do all that and more. And he’s cultivated relationships with local purveyors—he can tell you when the tuna in your ceviche was line-caught, and extends the life of fresh fruit by making delectable jams.
2. The 17,000-square-foot Blue Spa
The therapists are uniformly outstanding—the friends I was traveling with all proclaimed their massages the best they’d ever had—and facials use results-driven Natura Bisse products. Bonus: a breezy pavilion for yoga and pilates, plus skilled teachers to lead the classes.
3. Nine courts for tennis—and I don’t even play tennis.
It helps that the courts, like most things here, are fringed with fuchsia bougainvillea, and that the tennis pro, Ken Gonsalves, has charm (and patience) in spades.
4. Careful separation of families and couples
There are separate blocks of rooms, on opposite sides of the main buildings, and even designated family nights or hours at restaurants—no one ever has to feel bad about bothering anyone else. Suites are configured differently, with separate bedrooms on the family side, open plans on the adults’. Each section has its own beach, and in four days on the adults’ side, I had no idea children were in-house until I kayaked around the bay.
5. Luxe REN toiletries in the guest suites
A small detail but a telling one: The bottles are generously sized (100ml, the maximum you can get him in your carry-on) like the rooms (around 800 square feet). They’re British without being fusty. They’re clean and organic—very simpatico with a hotel that’s all about simplicity. Most of all, they’re not showy, but they’re appreciated by those in the know.
From $635. www.campbellgrayhotels.com
Ann Abel has written about travel more than a decade. She was a senior editor at ForbesLife and the executive editor of Luxury SpaFinder. She has also written for Robb Report, Modern Bride, Girlfriend Getaways, Tablet Hotels, and Equinox’s Q blog. When not traveling, she is learning to fly at Trapeze School New York.