Reinvented Cap Juluca still retains identity

Caribbean editor Gay Nagle Myers visited Cap Juluca on Anguilla shortly after its reopening, a date of major importance as far as the resort's repeat guests were concerned. Here is her report:

f Eustace "Guish" Guishard was nervous facing the first group of journalists to stay at Cap Juluca in more than a year, he didn't show it.

And as I learned after a three-day stay, the Anguillan-born general manager had no cause for worry.

Cap Juluca's 11-month-long, multimillion-dollar makeover made an already good product even better, newer and fresher while leaving its trademark identity intact.

Repeat guests have nothing to fear. Cap Juluca's stark white Moorish-style villas with turrets and arches remain in place, and afternoon tea and scones are still served on the terrace at 3:30 p.m., as are sorbet and bottled water on the beach throughout the day.

The library is bigger with the addition of three computers for guests' use, and the beach is wider on the east end.

The villa bathrooms remain light-filled and airy, and guest rooms are still without televisions and door keys.

Most of Cap Juluca reopened Oct. 28, with some villas, a restaurant, the pool complex and boutiques opening by mid-December.

My early December visit found an enthusiastic staff awaiting the start of the holiday season.

Many of these employees spent their last year filling roles other than housekeeping, landscaping, bartending or serving in Cap Juluca's restaurants.

Guishard said that "many staff members pitched in to help us repaint, replant, repair and redo," and often put Cap Juluca's renovations ahead of their own homes.

To recap: Hurricane Lenny's surprise and unwelcome visit in November 1999 "created a wind and water mess," according to Guishard.

The resort shut its doors and began a mega-restoration that went much further than sand removal from the lower floors of the villas and repair of the cracked tiles in the swimming pool.

In fact, the $20 million restoration touched virtually every aspect of Cap Juluca's 58 rooms and junior suites, seven full suites and six pool villas.

"Before Lenny, Cap Juluca looked a bit tired. Our returning guests wanted to see a spruce-up, but not major architectural changes," Guishard said.

And what a spruce-up!

Here is what I found:

  • Twenty-four-hour room service, daily complimentary continental breakfast served en suite and new guest room soft goods in beige, cream and olive tones complemented the resort's Moroccan ambience.
  • White tile floors replaced terra-cotta floor tiles in the villas, adding to the fresh, clean look of each unit.
  • New landscaping included fountains in the courtyards, a pond near the main entrance and newly planted palm trees flanking the walkways.
  • A reinforced concrete sea wall on the west end of the beach is skillfully camouflaged with sand and foliage to contain future storm surges.
  • Guishard said the wall extends four feet below the ground and has drain holes on the top.

    The two most seriously storm-damaged villas have been rebuilt of concrete with reinforced iron.

  • George's restaurant, located midway down the beach, enlarged its kitchen and added a separate kitchen to handle room service requests.
  • Weekly theme nights at George's now showcase Moroccan and North African dishes, West Indian cuisine and beachside barbeque menus.

  • The new Kemia (ke-MEE-ya, the North African word for tapas) restaurant shares a coral outcrop next to Cap Juluca's signature restaurant Pimms.
  • Both are suspended over beach and water.

    Kemia is Anguilla's first hors d'ouevres and tapas bar.

    Its menu is as dramatic as its setting, especially the seasonal oysters, chunks of steamed snapper and wedges of baby lettuce with fig goat cheese jelly and vinaigrette.

    Pimms' specialties run toward Eurasian-Caribe dishes such as Anguillan crayfish dumplings, curried roasted chicken and Szechwan-crusted black angus strip loin.

    Cap Juluca was sorely missed during its closure.

    However, it was all worth the wait.

    I am confident that repeat guests (who make up more than 50% of the total business) and first-timers will agree.

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