The Americanization of Cocoloba Beach Resort

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BARNES BAY, Anguilla -- Cocoloba Beach Resort is not top of mind for the majority of U.S. travel agents, and for good reason: The property has not been marketed in the U.S. for seven years.

That, however, is about to change.

Management of the resort, which had been under long-term contract to Italian inclusive operator Valtur until 2001, has reverted to the hotel's owners, the Anguilla-based Montreux Group.

Although the resort had a soft reopening last July, its reincarnation was still a work in progress when I visited in November.

The property, which closed in October 2001 until its soft reopening, was virtually empty. Signs of the previous management were still evident. Valtur bathrobes, for instance, hung in guest rooms.

Before it begins its U.S. marketing push, management wants to ensure that the property is properly Americanized.

The resort, one of few mid-market options on Anguilla, is undergoing a face-lift to customize it to the tastes of the U.S. market.

"We are upgrading the accommodations, landscaping and food," said Clive Carty, a longtime Anguilla hotel official who was appointed general manager last August.

The renovations are expected to be completed this winter. In addition to traditional dining in the main dining room, Carty is adding casual poolside dining that will include buffets.

Room service is expected to be fully operational this winter. The current dining room menu, which I found mediocre, also is being overhauled.

"If you have only one dining area, guests will be through with you after three days," Carty said.

Cocoloba now offers its guests the option of dining at Blanchard's restaurant and assigning the bill to their room. (See Blanchard's restaurant review below.)

Public areas and guest rooms will be brightened with tropical color schemes and new fabrics. The terra-cotta roofs are being repainted green.

The enhancements will accentuate the resort's location on the western, Atlantic end of the island, perched on a bluff between Meads Bay and Barnes Bay beaches.

From the main house, where the restaurant, reception area and pool are located, guests have sweeping beach vistas and sunset views. Cocoloba also has a lighted tennis court for nighttime play.

Beachfront units feature sunken living rooms, an in-room refrigerator, a safe, air conditioning, a shower, a bidet, a hair dryer and bathrobes (albeit Valtur bathrobes).

Cocoloba Beach Resort is an ideal option for clients who want to vacation on an upscale island like Anguilla but are hampered by their midmarket pocketbooks.

Although the resort wasn't totally ready to satisfy the needs of U.S. customers when I visited, I believe it soon will be.

Room key: Cocoloba Beach Resort
Address: Barnes Bay, Anguilla
Phone: (264) 497-8800
Web:www.cocolobaresort.com
No. of Rooms: 110. Garden, beachfront and oceanview.
Opened: Soft reopening in July.
Location: Atlantic side of Anguilla, atop Meads Bay.
Rates: From $180 to $320 per night, double, through April 15; from $120 to $150 from April 16 to Dec. 14.
Commission: 15%.
Noteworthy: Location, location, location. Beautiful spot, easily accessible to restaurants and attractions.
Not Worthy: Dining room service was friendly but slow.

On the menu: Blanchard's
Address: Meads Bay
Phone: (264) 497-6100
Fax: (264) 497-6161
E-Mail:[email protected]
Web:www.blanchardsrestaurant.com
Cuisine: Mixture of Caribbean, Asian and Cajun.
Cost: Appetizers range from $10 to $18, entrees from $32 to $48 and desserts from $10 to $14.
Opened: 1994.
Reservations: Suggested.
The Dish: Anguilla boasts some of the finest restaurants in the Caribbean, and Blanchard's is one of them. The restaurant offers a casual yet posh ambiance and impeccably prepared cuisine, overseen by owners Bob and Melinda Blanchard.
It's hard to go wrong when ordering. For appetizers, I recommend the lobster cakes and Bangkok shrimp.
Fish lovers must try filet mignon of tuna, basted with a Japanese marinade, grilled and served on a bed of confetti orzo with baby bok choy.
Other main course highlights include Jamaican jerk shrimp with grilled cinnamon bananas and cranberry-orange chutney basted with a spicy 10-herb sauce; and grilled mahi mahi, served on a bed of corn with shiitake mushrooms, spinach and a red curry sauce.
For dessert, try coconut ice cream served inside a coconut-crusted chocolate shell served with a rum custard sauce.
Tips: When diners split an order, the restaurant adds a $3 surcharge.

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