Post Recreated: Originally posted - 28 January 2003
When I wrote “Holiday Report 1”, it had been my intention to write a brief report about each accommodation property and restaurant visited, prior to publishing full reviews in myTobago over coming weeks. Nice intention, but here we are starting week two and I’ve basically achieved sod all. Anyone who knows Tobago will tell you that things take longer here (how about a multiple of five or ten?).
In fairness, it’s been hot and we haven’t acclimatised; the hospitality is meaning very late nights; our body clock is telling us to get up at 3am local time (7am UK); and to cap it all, we both went down with a cold at the start of the week, which confined Jill to bed all day yesterday (thanks, lady in seat 4B on the flight out). So, not only have we failed to make much progress on the list of hotels that we intended to visit, but I’ve been unable to get down my thoughts on the few that we have. My brain simply isn’t getting into gear.
Conscious that there are a one or two readers seeking comment on a few establishments, I’ve decided that the best plan will be to give brief summaries of our views. So here are a few thoughts on the major hotels that we’ve visited – but not stayed at:
GRAFTON BEACH RESORT
We spent more than four hours touring the Grafton and Le Grand Courlan and must extend our thanks to Mr Rene Seepersadsingh, Executive Director of the group. I can honestly say that no stone was left unturned and the visit was something of an eye-opener.
A tremendous amount of work has been carried out at the Grafton over recent months and internal refurbishment is ongoing – although very low-key so as not to affect guests. The hotel looks very smart, both internally and externally, and I was impressed with the range of facilities. Accommodation in the standard deluxe rooms was basic but spacious, comfortable and very acceptable. We even toured the new state-of-art CCTV-monitored kitchens which inspired considerable confidence.
Because it has only reopened very recently, the Grafton was naturally quiet and so it was difficult to draw any conclusions about visitor demographics. However, I understand that the Grafton does attract a much younger clientele than more up-market sister hotel, Le Grand, and that the Grafton is particularly popular with family groups. In fact, this was one of the eye-openers. I had always believed that Tobago’s premier family resort was the Rex Turtle Beach. In practice, I saw absolutely no evidence of facilities for the young at the Rex Turtle, whereas the Grafton Beach Resort has a full range of facilities for the young, with even more facilities planned or being completed currently.
LE GRAND COURLAN RESORT & SPA
Le Grand Courlan is more up-market and this is reflected in every aspect of the décor and facilities. The hotel undoubtedly has the best spa and gym facilities on the island. These facilities are open to the public – but residents of Le Grand obviously get priority.
We ended our visit with a lovely buffet lunch at Le Grand Courlan, joining two couples who were resident there and whom we had met on the flight out. One couple were returning for a second visit. The other couple were first-timers. All four confirmed their satisfaction with the resort and with the catering in particular. If our lunch was anything to go by, I am sure their views will be shared by many.
REX TURTLE BEACH RESORT
The Rex Turtle Beach was a big disappointment. Despite one of the very best beach locations on the island, the 2½-star Rex Turtle appears neglected and uncared for. British readers will know what I mean when I mention Southend-on-Sea or Clacton. There seemed to be more beach traders than guests, but I have since been told that they host a trader’s market on Wednesdays, which may have accounted for this. We will pay a second visit on another day before forming definitive views and writing our main mini-review.
We were unable to examine rooms at the Rex Turtle as the hotel has ignored numerous attempts to make contact. We invited the Rex Turtle’s General Manager to provide us with a conducted tour of the hotel to ensure that we were fully aware of their features and facilities. Our emails have remained unanswered. We shall not allow our views to be biased by this snub, but it might give some indication of the hotel’s attitude toward customer or public relations.
MOUNT IRVINE BAY HOTEL
The Mount Irvine Bay was another disappointment. Not due to any failing of the hotel itself, but simply because it was so obviously quiet. The hotel no longer seems to be featured in the holiday brochures of major tour operators and this is reflected in the obvious low occupancy rate. As a result, the only criticism of the hotel that we could find was lack of atmosphere.
A regular correspondent to myTobago had stayed at the Mt Irvine last summer, having walked out of the Tropikist after one night. They chose the Mt Irvine and were impressed with the refurbishment work that had been undertaken and wrote to me, urging me to visit the hotel and upgrade our listing. Having now visited the hotel, I totally endorse their view.
The Mt Irvine Bay hotel is very smart and the garden cottages, in particular, offer wonderful accommodation. Unlike most (all?) large hotels on Tobago, the Mt Irvine has managed to retain a certain Caribbean identity. You won’t feel that you could be anywhere in the world. Some people may find the Colonial decor possibly a little old-fashioned, but everywhere was smart, well-appointed, spacious and very comfortable-looking.
We must thank the Mt Irvine Bay’s new General Manager, Chetwyn Burnham, for his time during the two or so hours that it took to show us around.
OK - more later
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