Room Key: Curtain Bluff

Address: Antigua

Reservations: (888) 289-9898

Web:www.curtainbluff.com

Sample rates: Through July 24, from $550 per deluxe beach room, per night, double, to $1,700 per two-bedroom Grace Bay/Morris Bay suites, double.

No. of rooms: 72 guest rooms and suites.

Location: About 30 minutes from the airport.

Facilities: Two beaches; a pool; tennis and fitness centers; squash court; business center; Kids Camp seasonally.

Noteworthy: A sail on the 50-foot Sentio sailboat is well worth the $75 charge. Warm coconut chips served at bar.

Not worthy: Dim lighting in bathroom; dim walkways.

OLD ROAD VILLAGE, Antigua -- Ive checked into four Caribbean resorts in the past few weeks, from high-end to not-so-high-end, from all-inclusive to room-only. All were beachfront properties, stocked with in-room amenities and with a variety of restaurants.

Then I returned to Curtain Bluff, having not seen it in two years.

Cal Roberts, general manager, was there to greet me as he does every guest. He offered me afternoon tea on the terrace while I checked in. My room was ready and off I went. It was a smooth and seamless arrival.

Here is what struck me: Returning to Curtain Bluff is a lot like arriving home after a business trip, exhausted but happy to be back in familiar surroundings, free of work, airport or travel hassles for a time.

Curtain Bluff has been described as a classic Caribbean resort, a well-oiled machine that caters to a specific clientele. Thats an apt description. 

Ive also heard it labeled a resort with a country-club feel, reeking of tradition.

That, too, is accurate, and probably one reason the Caribbean successfully supports a mix of resorts targeted at different markets.

The 60%-plus repeat guests who fill Curtain Bluffs beds, dine in its two restaurants and sip cocktails on its terrace also would agree. Its why most of them return, season after season, and why their kids and grandchildren spend more holidays at Curtain Bluff than at ski lodges or other tropical venues.

Curtain Bluff's beach suites open up onto one of the resort's two beaches, while its bluff suites climb the hill above and offer stunning sea views. TW photo by Gay Nagle MyersWhat keeps them coming back is the tweaking, as Rob Sherman, managing director, called it, the reno-
vations and additions that have kept it new and fresh over its 50 years.

Our returning guests want what theyve come to know and love about the property, but theyre also eager to see something new and different each time they arrive, said Sherman.

This year it was our new customized kitchen, our new deep-sea fishing boat and Hobie Cats, and the teak furniture at the Beach restaurant.

Last season we added new fitness equipment, upgraded the furniture in the bluff suites and added new amenities from Aveda. In the past three years, we totally gutted and refurbished our Morris Bay and Grace Bay suites and redid the bluff suites, he added.

Sherman said this winter was the best since pre-9/11, the yardstick by which seasons are now measured in the Caribbean. This was not a one-hit wonder, Sherman said. We had a good year last year, as well, and bettered it this winter season by 30%.

Curtain Bluffs current season runs through July 24 and resumes Oct. 29.

Its difficult to position Curtain Bluff, Sherman said. Were unpretentious, we offer value, were elegant but not over the top.

Without air conditioning in the rooms, Curtain Bluff is a hard sell in the summer for new guests, Sherman said, although our repeat guests know the trade winds still blow and its not uncomfortable.

Although multigenerational families make up the bulk of Curtain Bluffs repeat business, especially during the Christmas and Easter periods, Sherman reported a consistent increase in new guests.

Were getting couples, newlyweds and young families from the U.S. and the U.K. Perceived value is important to our guests, new and repeat.

Curtain Bluffs all-inclusive rates include meals in its main restaurant, which serves breakfast and dinner, and the Beach Club, which offers a daily buffet lunch.

Drinks, water sports, tennis, squash, use of the fitness center and a small business center with free Internet service also are covered.

In-room Internet connections are $25 a day, and laptops can be rented.

WiFi is an area that guests seem to want, and were exploring that, Sherman said.

Another item under consideration is a stand-alone restaurant.

We get reservations from other resorts guests, and it can get crowded at times, Sherman said. Our guests may want a third restaurant here, especially during the peak season.

Evening entertainment is often a live sax trio, playing pre-60s dance music. Couples sit on the terrace of the Sugar Mill Bar with after-dinner cognacs and conversation. The place shuts down by 11 p.m.

Curtain Bluff may not be for everyone, but it certainly is my kind of place.

To contact reporter Gay Nagle Myers, send e-mail to [email protected].

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For more details on this article, see Chef is up to task at Curtain Bluff.

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