|The beach at Galley Bay Resort & Spa in Antigua. // Photo by Joe Pike|
You’re bound to get a few awkward glances thrown your way when you’re staying at a predominantly couples resort in the Caribbean with your recently retired mother.
In my head, I was thinking surely people assumed I was some money-grubbing, blood sucker looking for a “sugar momma,” while my mother, Veronica, was petrified that guests and staffers would think she “was one of those cougar ladies.”
But aside from a double take or two, we happened to fit right in with the friendly guests and staff at Galley Bay Resort & Spa, perhaps the best luxury all-inclusive in Antigua and one of my personal favorites in the Caribbean in general. In fact, I was praised, mostly by the female staff members, for being “such a sweet son” (if they only knew), and my mother was treated like a queen once she revealed that this was her retirement gift after nearly 30 years of teaching second-graders in Bayonne, New Jersey.
Now, a mom and son tandem isn't exactly Galley Bay's ideal clientele, but the point is you do not have to feel uncomfortable here no matter who you are with. Having said that, if I had to pick I'd go with pitching this to Millennial honeymooners.
"Joey, this was like heaven," my mom said. "You have the best job ever…if it wasn't for all the airport (stuff) you have to deal with."
This was my second visit to the roughly 100-room Galley Bay and my first in more than five years. Hands down, this time was better. The first time I covered the property as part of an Elite Island Resorts assignment and stayed in one of the hotel’s 15 Gauguin cottages, which are hidden amid the gardens and offer lagoon views and concealed individual plunge pools for private dips. General Manager Alex de Brito told me that roughly six of the 15 total cottages will be completely renovated by the end of the summer, while the remaining nine will be renovated by the end of next summer.
|The view from the balcony of room no. 44, an Ocean View Suite|
This time I stayed in an Ocean View Suite located mere feet away from the sound. Although I highly object to this type of guest behavior, you can literally chuck a rock from your balcony into the Caribbean Sea. Well, maybe not me since my baseball skills stopped evolving at around 13, but you get the point. There are 20 of these, with four one-bedroom rooms located in each building. The top rooms provide better views of the ocean while the lower-level rooms offer easier access to the beach. But I suggest going with a higher-level room since it is still practically effortless to get to the beach.
Although there is no beach service, the hotel provides clients with two Galley Bay water bottles per room to be used to fill up a tasty, adult cocktail to go. These water bottles are also great for clients who want to drink in the ocean. Clients can keep these as a souvenir as well. But if drinking roughly 20 ounces of booze at a time isn’t exactly your client’s thing, there are two bars located on either side of the beach. The bar in front of the Sea Grape restaurant and the bar at Ismay’s restaurant both serve drinks during the day. Agents should tell clients about Ismay’s bar since many guests I met at the hotel, including myself, were unaware that it was open during the day and instead opted to walk to Sea Grape, which is on the other end of the beach. Every time I schlepped a beverage to my mom, mine was empty by the time I arrived. Too bad we discovered Ismay's bar, which was about five feet from my room, on the second-to-last day.
This multi-level hideaway features three massage areas, two of which are rustic, open-air treatment "pods". The pods are rough-hewn, airy massage decks draped with sheer, white curtains for privacy, and both overlook the bird sanctuary and lagoon. In-room treatments can also be provided for guests who desire the utmost in privacy combined with the best in spa-style pampering. You can take a bit of indulgence home with you, as beauty products used during your treatment are available for purchase, for a luxurious remembrance of Galley Bay. My mom's credit card statement is evidence that she really loved these products.
|Travel Agent's Joe Pike and his mother, Veronica, dine at the Sea Grape restaurant.|
The best restaurants here are also by no coincidence the two that require reservations: the upscale Ismay’s, which is best known for its fresh lobster, and the Gauguin Restaurant, the highlight of which is its extremely quiet surroundings. Guests at Gauguin are seated outside in front of the ocean. Ismay’s, named after the hotel’s longest tenured employee, comes with a surcharge of $45. Reservations for each can be made the morning of, but I suggest the day before to play it safe. The main restaurant, Sea Grape, is also a great option. This open-air restaurant doesn't require reservations and has ample seating facing the ocean. Now, you may not see the ocean at night, but still hearing the waves crash while you're dining is pretty soothing. I suggest eating late, as the restaurant tends to clear out around 8:30-9 p.m., allowing for more personal service.
Cabanas for Clients With Late Flights
This is a touch I don’t see very often at Caribbean hotels, but Galley Bay has six small cabanas that can be rented out for $35 each day with the proceeds going to charity. Since a good chunk of the hotel’s guests are Europeans who usually have very late flights, these rooms are not cabanas in the traditional sense, but rather small rooms where clients can store their bags and shower in privacy.
Galley Bay Upgrades to Include New Gym, Gift Shop, Rum Bar and More
General Manager Alex de Brito told me by the end of December, the resort will have a brand new gift shop that will also serve as a grocery store, a new Diamonds International shop, a new rum and cigar bar and a new fitness center that will have ocean views, something the current gym does not offer.
The current gift shop will become the office of the owner and general manager and the current gym will be included as part of the shopping complex that will house the new gift shop. De Brito also told us roughly six of the property's 15 bungalows will be completely renovated by the end of the summer while the remaining nine will be renovated by the end of next summer.