The rolled-up green silk sash on the bureau near the bed puzzled me. There wasn't much else on that bureau. Room decor was minimal, and clutter was nowhere, aside from my own belongings strewn about.
The housekeeper enlightened me. "Lay the sash across your bed so the maid will know not to change your sheets," she said.
This, as I came to learn during my visit, was one of many ways that Carlisle Bay resort in Antigua promotes sustainable practices.
Bugs are another. Insecticide spraying is definitely an environmental no-no, but those no-see-ums are nasty and annoying, especially at dusk.
Gardeners at Carlisle Bay sink organic pellets of some sort deep into the lawns, gardens and beaches of the property on Antigua's southeast coast.
No more bugs.
It's the sort of detail that Gordon Campbell Gray, chairman of London-based CampbellGray Hotels, is known for at One Aldwych and Dukes in London, at Le Gray in Beirut and at Carlisle Bay in Antigua.
Long before "green" became an industry buzz word, Gray established himself as a leader in promoting sustainability in the luxury sector, while supporting local community outreach programs at the same time.
Carlisle Bay is no exception. Environmental practices go hand in hand with the resort's cosmopolitan service, style and ambience.
The chic, 82-suite resort debuted in December 2003, its contemporary design, minimalist decor and spacious public spaces offering a contrast to the Creole-heavy resorts found on most Caribbean islands.
But guests don't forget for a moment where they are. Most of the one-, two- and three-bedroom suits are oceanview, beachfront retreats with wide terraces and patios.
Tropical gardens border the walkways and pool area. Bananaquits light on breakfast tables at Indigo on the Beach restaurant or hover on balcony railings of guest suites, hoping for a morsel of jam, a bit of toast or a sugar packet.
According to General Manager Jon Reynolds, the resort's clientele represents a "perfect mix."
"Our very first guest in 2003 is returning this month for his 10th visit," said Reynolds, who served as resort manager for a year at Carlisle Bay and cut his teeth at Claridges and the Ritz in London before joining CampbellGray Hotels in 1999. "Our level of repeat guests is strong, particularly at the holidays, but we attract new clients each season, as well."
Bookings for the winter season are double the pace of last winter, he said.
One wing of the beachfront suites is dedicated to families, and there are several two- and three-bedroom units that can accommodate extended families.
I saw several strollers on the walkways, happy toddlers wading in the calm waters of Carlisle Bay and kids marveling at the koi in the lily pond.
Age-appropriate activities are offered for the Cool Kids, 2 years and up; Crew Blue, the pre-teen crowd; and Crush, the teen set who have their own lounge and new off-site activities, such as kite-boarding.
But it's not a mob scene. Carlisle Bay provides baby-sitters in the evenings and serves a children's dinner at 5 p.m.
Couples are accommodated in the suites at the far end of the resort, and it all works quite well, Reynolds said.
"Our guests are well-traveled professionals and span a wide demographic range, but we know that couples want their privacy and families want their space," he said.
The resort hopes for an uptick in its wedding business. "We did 10 weddings last year, but we'd like to do one a week in the near future," Reynolds said.
The U.K. market accounts for 49% of bookings, the U.S. market for 33%, and the rest is a mix from Canada and Europe.
Carlisle Bay tweaked its room decor this year with new fabrics and flat-screen TVs, added a line of Spanish spa products and welcomed a new spa director.
New this winter will be yoga classes on the beach jetty as well as on the resort grounds.
Jeremy Bates, a U.K. tennis pro, is at the resort all winter to offer classes on the resort's nine courts.
"We're working on a calendar of events that includes sailing weeks, tennis weeks, Carnival in July and a culinary program where guests cook with the chef," Reynolds said.
While not an all-inclusive resort, Carlisle Bay will offer an optional rate structure in 2012 that includes meals and drinks.
"Times are changing, and our guests want options," Reynolds said. "They also want value. Our rates have remained the same for three years. It is better to have a bustling hotel rather than an empty hotel due to rate increases."
Winter rates start at $920 per room, per night, double.
Features unique to Carlisle Bay include a 45-seat screening room, set up just like a movie theater with current releases, popcorn and beverages every evening.
The library has a varied selection of reading material and computers. Internet is free in the rooms, and WiFi is available in the public areas.
East, the resort's signature dinner restaurant, serves a wide selection of Asian dishes with an emphasis on produce purchased from local farmers.
Details are important throughout Carlisle Bay, including menu items. Breakfast jams served at Indigo on the Beach are homemade, organic where possible and change with the season.
The resort's mahi mahi, Caribbean red snapper, king fish and yellow fin tuna are locally caught.
Chef Peter Fitz Dreyer said that the restaurants' spiny lobster is caught in the resort's protected bay.
Dreyer can arrange private dinners on the jetty, on the beach and en suite. "The dining experience is perfectly in tune with the philosophy of Carlisle Bay, which is 'contemporary luxury on the beach,'" he said.
The in-room amenities are so subtle as to not be noticeable, including a daybed on the terrace, a spacious shower with easy-to-work faucets, and reading lights attached to the headboard in addition to the bedside lamps.
The Italian Gaggia espresso machine came with directions.
A conch shell placed outside the door serves as the Do Not Disturb sign; room service is prompt, and dishes are picked up exactly two hours later.
The screen on the sliding glass door leading to the terrace lets the sounds of the tropics into the room at night.