New owners revitalize Antigua's Jumby Bay Resort By Gay Nagle Myers / April 19, 2000 Share 1 -- JUMBY BAY ISLAND, Antigua -- Jumby Bay has had more ownership/management changes than "South Pacific" has had reruns. Well, maybe not that many, but there have been several incarnations, some of which were OK, some awful.Everyone can relax now. Heinz Simonitsch, managing director and part owner of Jamaica's Half Moon Golf, Tennis & Beach Club, is now at the helm. All is well.To recap: The owners of Half Moon acquired Jumby Bay Resort on Nov. 1, 1999, and right away set in motion plans to renovate, refresh and redo the property, which had been closed for three months. Jumby reopened two weeks later and had a full house at Christmas.Jumby's recent history prior to Half Moon's purchase includes Rockresorts, which took over the resort operation in December 1998 after a two-year closure due to hurricane damage in late 1995.That reign lasted through March 1999, at which point the island's 14 homeowners took it back from Rockresorts and ran it themselves through August 1999.The 39-room resort and Harbor Bay Villas share 300-acre Jumby Bay Island with the 14 homeowners, including Robin Leach of "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous."Simonitsch and his two partners now own and manage the resort and its 88 acres. The homeowners own the remainder of the island.Brian S. Webb, whose career includes stints at Ocean Club Paradise Island and Peter Island, is general manager.Jumby's experience begins at the ferry dock on the mainland. Guests are transported directly to the dock from the airport. It's smooth and hassle free.The ferry deposited me at Jumby's dock seven minutes later where Rita James, guest services manager, personally greeted me as she does all guests. No lobby, no lines, no waiting. No kidding.A smiling Antiguan in a golf cart brought me to my room. The transfer, from touchdown to toes on tile floor, took less than half an hour. It made the early morning departure from Kennedy in New York more than tolerable.Jumby's rooms, described in past literature in a confusing array of too-many categories, are stunning.Simonitsch will eliminate that confusion next winter by paring down room categories to four available in two seasons -- winter and summer.Although Simonitsch won't budge on adding in-room coffeemakers, he will air condition all rooms by next winter (half are done now).Louvered doors will remain so guests can choose sea breezes or not.My ground floor room, one of 15 in Pond Bay House, was steps from Jumby Bay Beach.Gauzy mosquito netting draped from the four-poster mahogany bed, a patio beckoned through French doors and the enormous bathroom had both a full tub and a shower.Best of all, a bike stood waiting outside my door. Bikes have no locks at Jumby. Neither do doors, for that matter.Bike baskets are on order, Simonitsch reassured me.I began exploring.The island isn't hilly nor is it crowded. The resort, at full capacity, totals 132 guests. Homeowners' posh villas and rental homes are spread out all over.Paved bike paths and roads circle the island, making it impossible for even someone like me to get lost.Egrets, the symbol of the island and the resort, rose gracefully from the grasses. Black and white sheep, whose island origins on Jumby Bay Island go back to the 18th century, grazed.The resort currently has three beaches for guest use. Jumby Bay Beach fronts the resort.Pasture Bay Beach on the island's windward side is the nesting site of endangered hawksbill turtles from July to November.I biked to the resort's Harbor Bay Villas, overlooking Buckley Bay. Villa guests soon will have golf carts to get around the resort. They'll also have cable television and VCRs.The complex has its own beach now, put in soon after the new owners took over.Another recent addition to the resort is a small jungle gym, with two colorful blue slides, centered on the broad lawn near the octagonal Rondavel rooms.Indicative of the changes initiated by the new owners is the policy that welcomes children of all ages year-round. Prior to this, Jumby's policy excluded those under 8 years old during the winter season.Children under 2 years old are welcome at the resort free of charge at all times; those from ages 2 to 12 years are charged $275 per stay in the winter and $75 in summer.A kids' counselor will supervise activities for the young set. A basketball court and kids' menu also will be available.Other Simonitsch touches include the following:An Olympic-sized lap pool, 80 feet long by 30 feet wide, similar to the new pool at Half Moon Golf, Tennis & Beach Club in Jamaica, will debut soon.A putting green and a croquet course also will open. Golf is available on the mainland.Area rugs and prints now brighten guest rooms.The name of the Beach Pavilion, which functions as the heart of the resort, has been changed to the Verandah Bar, a gathering spot for breakfast, lunch, cocktails, entertainment and concierge services.A gazebo near the outdoor dance floor has been added for bands as well as another at the end of the dock where guests arrive and depart.Dinner is served nightly (except Wednesdays) at the Estate House, whose plantation-style front entryway has been enhanced with a stone walkway leading to the grand exterior stairway, now dramatically floodlit at night.One of two crystal chandeliers that graced the Estate House now hangs in the Verandah Bar.An additional 29 two- and three-bedroom villas and 11 new beachfront suites are planned.So, too, are a second ferry, another generator, lots more Royal palm trees, an osmosis plant and a spa and fitness center.A recycling and conservation program, similar to the one at Half Moon, is high on Simonitsch's list.Still to be determined is the function of the landmark stone sugar mill in the center of the resort.The U.S. remains Jumby's primary market, accounting for more than 42% of business within the last four months, followed by the U.K. and Europe.Simonitsch plans to increase agent business, which now totals about 53% of all bookings."Jumby is a year-round resort," he said. "I don't believe in operations that open and close. We need year-round business to keep the airlines happy."One group that is very happy is the staff, many of whom had been let go by previous management but were rehired by Simonitsch.Many have been with Jumby for years, dating back to its opening in 1983 with eight rooms.Another group that's happy is the guests. I know. I'm one of them.