Pleasant Surprises Are Everywhere at St. James's Club

Senior editor Kristin O'Meara visited St. James's Club in Antigua. Her report follows:

MAMORA BAY, Antigua -- The masseuse found me in the garden, where I was sipping tea, nibbling finger sandwiches and watching yellow-breasted bananaquits flitting around under a palm tree.

Minutes later, I lay quiet, happy and swathed in towels on a massage table set up in my room as the masseuse rubbed me down with fragrant oils and the sun slowly dropped beneath the horizon.

I'd been at St. James's Club for all of an hour-and-a-half, and I'd already speedily disposed of a festering case of travel-induced funk. St. James¦s Club

Pleasant little surprises punctuated my visit here: A fresh and fragrant guava that was a spontaneous gift from the front-desk attendant; the basket of warm toast that greeted me at breakfast each day, and the cook who remembered how I liked my eggs.

Under new management since August, the property has undergone a number of changes.

The $3 million renovation, which will go on through the winter of 1998, covers new interiors in guest rooms, with new soft furnishings and fresh paint; new kitchenettes in some villas; remodeling of public areas, including the lobby and reception areas; relandscaping; upgraded dock areas; refinished swimming pools; upgrades to the main pool deck; upgraded beach bar and grill facilities; repainting, and back-of-house improvements.

With 162 guest units in hotel rooms and two-bedroom villas, the club is the fourth property owned or operated by hotelier Rob Barrett.

He also operates Galley Bay, Pineapple Beach Club and the Royal Antiguan, for a total of 628 guest rooms, a hefty chunk of the 3,000 units now available on Antigua.

The room count at St. James's may very well expand in the near future; management is considering the addition of 60 hotel rooms overlooking Mamora Bay.

Guest rooms in the hotel wing that flanks the ocean -- an old-style building that formerly was a Holiday Inn -- already have seen an overhaul, and the result is crisp, clean and fresh.

Plenty of white tile and cool-hued soft furnishings make the simply furnished rooms comfortable and pleasant.

The spacious and well-appointed two-bedroom suites, which are situated on narrow "streets" that wind up the side of a hill overlooking the resort, were slated to receive a fresh coat of paint and new soft furnishings, a welcome change from the dated, dark color scheme I saw.

All villa unit renovations should be completed by late November.

Despite the fact that this was my first visit to the St. James's Club, it was evident that Barrett's service and standards already had been instilled in the hotel's operations.

For starters, things worked: Glitches in phone service, air conditioners and electrical service were nonexistent.

Also working was the staff.

During my stay, there was a constant hum of activity at the hotel, with staffers actively if inconspicuously making upgrades -- painting, planting, trimming, cleaning and otherwise sprucing up the resort.

Service by the retrained staff was solid.

Guest services and front desk staff were quite efficient, professional, even warm -- a pleasant find in the Caribbean -- and aside from a few long waits for coffee in the morning, table service at meals was prompt, pleasant and efficient.

The meals themselves, although pricey, were well presented and of good quality.

Guests can opt for cooked-to-order breakfast at the main Rainbow Garden restaurant, in addition to a plentiful buffet.

The airy, fan-cooled room also serves as a venue for lunch, or guests can opt to dine on casual fare at the beachfront Coco Beach barbecue and bar.

Another pleasant surprise is tea, served daily at 4 p.m. in the Garden Patio adjacent to the lobby.

Guests are offered a choice of three venues for a-la-carte dinners, and reservations are recommended across the board.

Piccolo Mondo, perched high on a hill overlooking the water, serves international fare; the Docksider Restaurant and Bar offers a picturesque nighttime view of Mamora Bay Beach and the surrounding hill country.

The Rainbow Garden also offers dinner fare, except on Mondays and Thursdays, which are buffet nights; Monday has an international theme and Thursday is Antiguan night.

As with other members of Antigua Resorts group, St. James's Club guests can choose from inclusive or EP options.

Extensive sports facilities are another hallmark at the property; the resort offers seven tennis courts, five of which are lighted; a fully staffed dive center; use of all nonmotorized equipment, and horseback riding.

Three pools for grown-ups, one kiddie pool and two beaches round out the hotel's water features.

The gym, which was clearly in need of an upgrade, is slated to be relocated to new, fancier digs in the shopping area now located in the midst of the villas, where a Jacuzzi will be added in time for winter season.

Additional services are available on request, such as the aforementioned, commendable massages and deep-sea fishing.

Summer rates, which are valid through Dec. 19, start at $235, double, EP, in a club room; with the inclusive Platinum Plan, club room rates start at $430, double.

EP rates for a two-bedroom villa start at $475, double, and the inclusive version is priced from $660, double.
Antigua Resorts
Phone: (800) 345-0271

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