News & Reviews Caribbean & Mexico Turks and Caicos Review: COMO Parrot Cay, Turks and Caicos

If you want to know what I think of COMO, you can see how well I took the news of them taking over Laucala.  I don’t like their London properties.  I rarely look at COMO’s portfolio.  The ambiguity of “luxury” means one person understands it as spending $500 per night, whereas for another, it’s over $50,000.  The luxury travel market is filled with companies offering a product priced as luxury, sounding like luxury, but offering little more than an Instagram opportunity – a facade that lasts little more than a click of your camera.  They are the second tier of the luxury market, and while the first tier is Goliath, it is a long way down to everyone who looks like David’s shrivelled scrotum.

So, you might find it strange that I decided to visit Parrot Cay.  However, I had it on good authority that it would blow my mind – and not in a Kurt Cobain way.  I was also hedging my bets; I was not keen on flying for 11 hours just to see Amanyara.  As luck would have it, you can experience cognitive dissonance, hold two opposing views simultaneously, and be okay with it.  So I’m happy to report that Parrot Cay was worth the hassle.  Still, whilst we all should talk about our inner beauty and never compare ourselves to others, it was immediately apparent it was not at the same level as Amanyara.

Getting to Parrot Cay starts with a 20-minute drive to their dock.  We had a quick drink in their lounge and then got on their boat, which felt like it was designed more for a booze cruise than a luxury resort.  The boat was significantly nicer when we returned, so they might be trying to lower expectations.  Within 30 minutes, we arrived at Parrot Cay to be greeted by everyone from the GM to those other people you immediately forget and then have to pretend you remember their name for the rest of your stay.  Our two-bedroom beach house was on the other side of the island – a ten-minute buggy ride later, we arrived.

We were introduced to our butlers and given a tour of the room.

They aimed to impress with the room setup, which included personalised gifts for our daughters (except one was misspelt – after I mentioned it on Instagram, they fixed it.  I just know it will turn out I spelt her name wrong in an email somewhere, but it’s much better to blame other people), and a vast food selection which even included caviar.  Being a man of the people, I treated my 10-month-old to some of those delicious fish eggs and will use this to remind her how she’s too spoilt and can’t have a pony.  Top marks.

My first tip for Parrot Cay:  Do not stay unless you’re in a Beach House or higher.  All the rooms and suites are beside the Lobby, a good few hundred-meter walk to the beach.  Looking at one makes you feel like someone ran over your dog and made you homeless from the vet bills.    All the higher room categories are directly on the beach.  A beach that your dog, and any other animal on earth, would adore.  The split between the room categories is severe and degrades the charm.  But just like San Francisco, one of the world’s wealthiest cities, if you ignore the homeless and pretend they’re not there, only good will come from it.

Our two-bedroom beach house, #1014, felt precisely like a beach house – plenty of white, bright, light, airy, with complimenting, calm colours.  The design choice is simple, but the colour palette worked well.  It’s a much more relaxing design than Amanyara; not as impressive, but more comforting to spend time in.  It brought me to a spiritual level, which to most people would be heart-attack-in-t-minus-5.

You enter the open-planned living/dining area with a guest bathroom.  This leads to the kitchen, with the minibar and coffee-making facilities.  The bedrooms were right next to each other, which made me worry the children would wake each other up, but it never proved an issue.  Both rooms are identical, with ocean-facing views from the bed and wardrobes behind the bedroom, leading to the bathroom and outdoor shower area.  Fear not, there is an inside shower and bath too.  I struggled to understand the room layout and why they would put the bedrooms so close to each other until I woke one morning to see the view available from bed.  Spectacular.

These rooms are some of the latest additions to Parrot Cay, having only been built a few years ago, so streaming, USB-C and plug sockets beside the bed, and controls for blinds were all present.  Gallivanter’s Guide has its crusade of wanting chemical-free products, whereas I want my blog to be known for my humanitarian work to bring Toto’s to every hotel in the world.  It’s 2023, and wiping our arses with our hands is like trying to cure cancer by ripping a horn off an endangered rhino.  Everyone gets minus 400 points if they don’t have a Toto, whereas caviar gets you 1 point.  It’s a fair system.

The shower controls also require you to bring your spirit leveller with you to turn it off, and, of course, whoever manages the air conditioning in Turks needs to be fired, as, just like Amanyara, it roars to life like it’s making a mating call to the mothership.  Whilst the air con noise is annoying, you know what’s worse?  No air con.  We had a power outage at 9 pm on the first night, followed by another that lasted 30 minutes the next day.

The other big downside is how close the villas are.  We could hear our neighbours talking, and it deeply upset me to hear they weren’t talking about me.

Outside is a lounge, dining table, and covered-but-really-not-well-shaded area with loungers, followed by the magnificent, heated pool.  The pool is always in the sun, as is most of the outside area, so if you can, I recommend altering your genetic makeup so your skin doesn’t burn if someone so much as shines a torch at you.

This all leads directly to the beach—the magnificent, one-of-the-best-in-the-world beaches.  It is incredibly soft and white, and the tide is so low during the morning that you can walk hundreds of meters out into the ocean.  Ideal for kids, less so for whales.  I could walk so far out to sea I could see my house in England.  Whilst the villas are close together, the beach is so long, and we are at the end of the stretch of villas, that we never saw another person, making it feel like our beach.  As much as I love beach resorts, I’m not a beach person, but this is enough to turn me into one.  With how my investment portfolio is going, I’ll soon be sleeping on one.

Yet as I grew increasingly fond of the beach, my fingers grew fonder of scratching my skin from the profusion of sandflies.  I’m pretty sure sandflies inspired Oppenheimer to create the atomic bomb.  Days after getting home, I was still itching.  I am no longer flesh; I am one giant itch.

One of the benefits of having a beach house is the butlers.  I have never seen an implementation like Parrot Cay, and I fully endorse it.  It’s such a good idea that it offends me that I never thought of it, and no one else has ever done it.  Typically, where resorts use butlers – not room service where they call them butlers – they are limited to your villa.  At Parrot Cay, they’re in your villa and follow you around like they’re your drug-riddled groupie, and you’ve got a line of coke.  In the nicest way possible, of course.

Let me put it into practical terms.  We had two butlers, and either one or both of them would come with us whenever we left the villa.  One had to drive because guests were not given buggies, but they would take all our orders, ensure preferences were followed, and serve all the food.  They are the first and last line between you and regular Caribbean service.  They would come with us even when we visited our friends in their villa.  The implementation is brilliant.

Equally as brilliant were the butlers themselves.  Very attentive, very kind, and they even offered to babysit, therefore becoming my best friends.  We would WhatsApp to organise things and receive near-immediate responses – they’re not onsite, so it’s not as efficient as Amanyara, but rarely more than 5 minutes away, ten at most.  The only area they could improve was restocking or better taking note of preferences.

It’s hard to generalise the service as outstanding at Parrot Cay because we almost exclusively dealt with our butler.  But that’s all I have to go on, so yeah, it was great.

Whilst the island is vast, all the facilities are a small, walkable distance apart.  It is a shame that everything looks pretty basic, bland even.  You will take a quick look, feel disappointed and wonder what to say or do now – just like when someone shows you a picture of their kids.

The Lobby, where the rooms and suites are based, hosts the restaurant Terrace, a bar with a very different Caribbean style than the rest of the property.  Besides the beach, too much is crammed together, removing the exclusivity.  The main pool is just a sizeable square-looking thing, while the adult-only pool beside it has more charm.  There are two new tennis courts, obviously two boutiques, a kids club that actually has toys, and a gorgeous, nearly finished cinema room.  The gym is next door to the spa and yoga and pilates studios.  It offers a pool, steam room, whilst the spa has an outdoor jacuzzi.  Inside the gym is a good range of equipment, but like most of the property, it shows its age.

For dining, there’s either Terrace, an Italian restaurant, or Lotus, their Asian offering.  During low occupancy, they will rotate daily which restaurants are open.  Scattered around the resort are free water refill stations and all the water provided was free.  That has to be commended, but their homemade cordial felt like someone pissed in my drink.

We had breakfast in our villa daily, which worked well, but it was undoubtedly less hit and more miss for lunch and dinners.  Even when it felt like it was going well, it managed to sabotage itself, like a dish where half the chicken was delicious and the other half tasted like it had bird flu.  The beef tartare was so covered in salt it was like eating the sand from the beach, which may have tasted better.  Except for one meal, I felt disappointed by everything we ate.

The food was the worst part of our stay.  That is until they sent us to the god-awful Providenciales airport two hours early for our flight.  The food is just a lack of skill, making us spend more than ten minutes in that airport could only be malicious intent.

The Good

  • Villas
  • Value for money

The Bad

  • Food
  • Facilities need a cosmetic upgrade

The Luxurious

  • Setting / Beach
  • Unique residences like Donna Karan’s villa
  • Butler service

Rating

Good

Conclusion

I’m not a COMO lover, but I’m not quite the COMO fighter I once was.  At least I can now see there was some sanity in taking over Laucala – they’re already managing a 1,000-acre island, even if they’re at very different levels.

However, there is a lot to like here.  The butlers deliver fantastic service, the beach is stunning, and the accommodation is good, potentially excellent if you get one of the residences.  You only need to spend a few minutes here to realise why it’s much cheaper than Amanyara, but one being great does not mean the other is terrible.  The price reduction is a fair summary of the quality discrepancies.  Interestingly, the GM was ex-Amanpulo, which seemed to offer some similarities: gorgeous beaches with a hard product not quite matching it.  Parrot Cay is, however, showing continual improvement.

I can live with all the niggles.  Even those damn sand flies.  All except the food.  You do not get a chef in your villa by default, but you can hire one – so do that and enjoy one of the most spectacular islands in the world.  Parrot Cay compares well to the rest of the Caribbean and is better than Little Dix Bay and Jumby Bay, but Amanyara is another league above.

Room type: Two-Bedroom Beach House When: July 2023 Rates: from $6,000/n

Two-Bedroom Beach House from $6,000 per night

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Tom Cahalan

Written by Tom Cahalan on 27th Jul '23

Dorsia Travel’s co-founder Tom Cahalan’s take on travel is reliably candid. Here’s his take on what’s good, bad, and luxurious.

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