Value is big selling point at refit Jolly Beach

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BOLANS VILLAGE, Antigua -- Largest property, longest beach and second-largest employer in Antigua; biggest signature fantasy pool in the Caribbean -- superlatives came fast and furious during a recent visit to Jolly Beach Resort on Antigua's southwest coast.

Perhaps the biggest draw for many clients, however, is the price, which begins as low as $89 per person, per night, in the off-season.

After several incarnations since the property opened in the mid-1960s, Jolly Beach Resort held its grand reopening in late April.

The $10 million renovation added an 8,000-square-foot pool featuring waterfalls, a Jacuzzi and a swim-up bar.

The pool itself curves and meanders through gardens.

Other new facilities include a meeting room and a Cyber Center offering Internet access at an additional fee.

Guest rooms and public areas have been refurbished with colorful fabrics and wicker furnishings.

Weddings at Jolly Beach's gingerbread chapel are a lucrative market for the resort. During the ceremony for the couple above, the groom fainted and was revived by the resort's attending nurse. However, most ceremonies go off without a hitch. The five room categories range from small supersavers -- which management compares with cruise ship cabins and for which no single supplement is charged -- to junior suites with separate sitting areas.

All offer air conditioning, a balcony or patio, a ceiling fan, a hair dryer, a television, a direct-dial telephone and a safe (at extra charge).

King and queen superior oceanview rooms contain refrigerators and coffeemakers.

All rooms are termed oceanview, although some offer only a partial water vista.

If the view is important, this should be addressed at the time of booking.

Accommodations are scattered about the grounds in low-rise buildings, each named for a Caribbean island.

Jolly Beach's 40 acres include five restaurants, seven bars, a disco, a game room, three meeting rooms, a fitness center, two freshwater pools, four tennis courts and the usual variety of land and water activities.

There also is an on-site dive center, which guests can use for an additional charge.

Jolly Harbour Golf Club is within walking distance of the resort, and Cedar Valley Golf Course is 20 minutes away.

An on-site, professional-level cricket facility also is available to guests.

Jolly Beach Resort created a beachfront area of colorful vendors' huts where guest can browse and shop right on the grounds of the resort. A weekly entertainment and activities program includes aerobics, nature hikes, garden walks, dance lessons, games and contests.

Each restaurant focuses on a particular dining experience -- Greek, Italian, international buffet, open-air grill and Caribbean seafood served at the beachside eatery.

A dozen or so licensed vendors are clustered in small, colorful shelters near the beachside restaurant.

Guests can browse for T-shirts, tie-dyed wrap arounds and other souvenirs right on the premises.

Marriage ceremonies are a big market for the resort, according to Jolly Beach.

Jolly Beach expects to host close to 500 weddings this year. Half of the couples hail from the U.S., and the rest are from the U.K. and Canada.

My group witnessed a wedding at Jolly Beach's white gingerbread gazebo surrounded by gardens.

The bride wore white; the groom was dressed in bermuda shorts.

A full program of kids' activities also is offered as well as discounts or free stays, depending upon the child's age.

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