News & Reviews Caribbean & Mexico Antigua Review: Jumby Bay, Antigua

Ahhh, at long last.  My first trip to the Caribbean.  So low were my expectations that surviving the first day came as a relief.  We were only in Antigua for a two-night layover, but I wasn’t exactly going to slum it at the Bates Motel.  No, I was here to try the best.  Unfortunately, that didn’t exist, so Oetker Collection’s Jumby Bay had to do.

Jumby Bay is a private island, barely a ten-minute boat ride from the airport.  It’s so close you can practically taste the planes flying overhead, or worst case, use your ears to hear them.  With 40 suites and 54 residences (villas) spread across 300 acres, it’s hardly somewhere you’ll feel cramped.  Unless you’re going to the beach, where come 10 am, the towel clan had been out in force and stolen every seat.  I guess planting our flag to prove ownership has changed a lot over the centuries, and for that, the locals are very grateful.

Jumby Bay is an easy destination to reach – if you ignore the slowest customs process I may ever have seen – but not even Oetker can fix that.  We took the ferry to Jumby Bay and saw every other guest being escorted elsewhere whilst we were left hanging like someone’s unwanted stepchildren.  Finally, someone showed up and took us to the lounge whilst we waited for the room to be ready.  At this point, they handed over an alcoholic drink and asked for allergies, which was weird because they put so much effort into the room setup but got amnesia in the lounge – they already knew the answer to both.

I’m British.  I’m allergic to the sun and dentists.

As destinations go, Jumby Bay isn’t too shabby.  It’s exceptionally well kept and boasts a significant amount of wildlife that may or may not be indigenous – like the Galapagos tortoise, it’s impossible to say, and scientists believe we may never know.  What we do know is there are three beautiful beaches, Harbour, Jumby Bay and Pasture.  In truth, though, Jumby Bay Beach is the likely destination, as it’s the only one with facilities.  We, humans, love being near the water, but we love water mixed with alcohol even more.  Our Pool Suite was barely 100m from Jumby Bay Beach, but don’t get too excited, as all the trees mean it’s not what I would call a beach view, but for us, the location was ideal – close to the beach and close enough to the main resort.

I booked a Pool Suite, which had both the pool and the suite, so top marks.  Even more fantastic was the room setup.  It was an absolute overload of food, which my cardiologist will have some stern words to say about, but I’ll be dead, so won’t hear any of it.

The room was much better than I imagined, but it was clearly no Cheval Blanc Randheli.  It’s a colonial-inspired design that fits in well with the area, but they’ve also modernised areas and kept it fresh, such as the bathrooms.  Modernisation does come with its downfalls – like the room service menu being only available on the TV, which takes eight weeks longer to use than paper.  The air conditioning seemed to be playing a rap battle against the wind with a game of “who can be the loudest” (and here I was thinking Aman New York was bad).  But what annoyed me the most was the feeble shower pressure – it was like getting a golden shower from someone shaking their dick above your head.

The tall ceilings in the living area certainly helped create the feeling of space, but it wasn’t just a cheap parlour trick, this is a suitably sized suite.  You have a courtyard entrance, large enough to spend time in, an outside bath and shower, and an entire pool and decking area.  The pool was more like an “Oh, that’s nice, I thought it was just a plunge pool” size as opposed to “Oh, that’s a swimming pool!?”.  The waterfall sounded nice, though.

If privacy is an issue, then get your worried face ready, as it’s very open and beach-facing.  Walking from the beach you will be able to see your neighbours and their neighbours.  Best just assume it’s like living under a surveillance state and you’ll feel more comfortable, but these days I worry more about other people’s privacy from my children screaming than I do of other people looking at me.  There are also no keys to access the rooms, so probably best to leave your Patek Philippe and pink blood diamonds at home.

I wish I had the time to visit a Residence and tell you all about it, but remember before you complain: these reviews are free.

Praise the Lord; there is a Kids Club.  They call it the Explorers Club because there’s not really a kids club per se, more like a playground and a small indoor area, but that’s because a team of people takes all the children on activities around the island.  I dream for the day mine are old enough to dump here.   It’s a cool idea, just not beneficial to us who have children too young to go there.

Almost all the facilities are on the west of the island, with all the Residences taking up the east, so there’s little reason to go there unless they, too don’t have keys and someone’s already taken your Patek, so you need to get a replacement.  On the west side, three swimming pools are spread out in different locations, as well as a bar/lounge, boutique, tennis court and a petting zoo with chickens, sheep, and tortoises.  The animals are part of the charm, as you’ll find so much wildlife as you navigate your way around.  It’s not as wild as, say, Fregate or North Island – it’s far more controlled; it’s less rustic, but it still offers something extra.  Those in a Residence are given a buggy, but we plebs would need either a bike or to call someone.  They didn’t have suitable bikes for a baby, so we just walked everywhere, which wasn’t so bad because it’s relatively short distances, and it’s not exactly a wasteland out here – it’s pretty darn beautiful.

I did manage to take a sneak peek at the gym, which had a good range of TechnoGym equipment, offered everything you would need, and was indeed spacious.  There’s also a spa, but they frown on you for taking a screaming six-month baby in there, so we never got to see it.

All-inclusive

Question: is there a single all-inclusive resort with fantastic food?  Maybe Kudadoo.  It feels like all-inclusive hinders the ability to make truly amazing food.  I’ll now insist they should charge for food and then head to the Maldives, where they do charge, and complain about it.

Jumby Bay offers an all-inclusive experience, but there are some limitations, like charging for room service and offering an extremely restrictive room service menu.  We took our first meal in the room as the children were exhausted, and we were exhausted from the children.  The conclusion was, “If I had to pay for it, I’d be upset”.  Does that mean all-inclusive is fantastic, as we didn’t pay for it?  That’s the philosophical question of our time. Lunch was very average, with just a basic menu of some tacos and ceviche.  Breakfast was a significant improvement, with the usual buffet of fruits, cereals, pastries, and meats; they also offer a la carte menus, including a kid’s menu – although they’re mostly egg options.    Dinner the next night was significantly better, although it took almost an hour to arrive, and we never received some of the sides we asked for.  Overall, the birds that kept trying to eat our food seemed to like it more than us.  We didn’t have enough time to try all the restaurants, so maybe you’ll get luckier than us.  Top tip: get to breakfast early.  They open at 7 am, and we were the first there; by 8 am, it was rammed,  most likely because everyone had woken early to put their towels down.

The service was generally very friendly but not entirely competent – like housekeepers looking completely baffled by us wanting a baby bottle cleaning.  However, I’d never seen and really like some of the processes they automate, such as being emailed a daily update of the news and being emailed that housekeeping tried to enter, but our DnD was on.

This beach is as crowded as Antigua Airport.  I thought I would need to ring the doorbell to see if anyone was home.

The Good

  • Facilities

The Bad

  • Food
  • Proximity to airport

The Luxurious

  • Setting
  • Exclusivity

Ranking

Good

Conclusion

There was no way we had the time to try everything on offer here, but they provided enough to paint a picture.  The food needs to be improved, and the rooms aren’t mindblowing, but they’re sufficiently fine.  Jumby Bay is a pleasant experience without being spectacular.  The island is beautiful and large enough to explore, the explorers club is great for older kids, and there’s a good amount of activities and nature to enjoy.  Having to fight to get a beach seat is what drags it down.  This isn’t Normandy; I don’t want to fight anyone on a beach.  Luxury is about the ease of it all.

However, I’m not sure if it was the lack of time, we had here that left me longing for more, or that it was better than I expected, or if my lowered demands mean now all I really care about is my children not bothering me, but I felt I’d return.  There are better places, but it’s a good property and pretty convenient, particularly if you’re from the East Coast.  If you’re in Florida and fed up with arm wrestling all the alligators on meth, you can be here in just three hours.  That’s not like the three hours of mental gymnastics like me getting to Amanzoe, which is more like seven; this is a legit three hours.  And that’s maths, which we all know is true – except Floridians because their schools probably banned maths books.

Room type: Pool Suite When: March 2023 Rates: from $4,500/n

Pool Suite starts from $4,500/n

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Tom Cahalan

Written by Tom Cahalan on 5th May '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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