Le Grand Courlan Spa Resort - Reader Reports & Opinion
Week At Le Grand Courlan August 2004
We visited Le Grand Courlan for a week, arriving there on Sat. 7th August.
A problem with the brake hydraulics on our Excel Airways Boeing 767 meant we were sitting on the tarmac for an extra 70 minutes at Gatwick while they tried to fix the problem. It got sorted, but it isnít the ideal start to a holiday that is being taken as a stress-buster after a hard year both job-wise and personally. The flight crew were really good though and made the long journey almost seem bearable. The seats werenít exactly comfortable after the first couple of hours and some of the headphone plug-in sockets in the arms were faulty, meaning sound only went into one ear via the Ďphonesí. This actually began to bug me after a while as I tried to keep up with the film commentary etc. Excel lease these planes and I think they need to make sure that they get from the leasing company (Icelandic, I believe) what passengers need in terms of comfort and amenities for these long-haul flights. Shrek 2 was the film on the way out (saved me renting it!) and The Day After Tomorrow was showing on the homeward journey. A double dose of Robbie Williams at the Albert Hall (once each way) meant that getting some sleep on the way back wasnít a problem. The food was quite edible and my friend managed to get the vegetarian option she ordered through the booking agent, although it was only because we were at the back of the plane near the kitchen and got served early on, rather than the flight crew having the info necessary. They gave her a form to book the return meal though and again, she got what she ordered. The outward flight stops at St Kitts and after a big bump on the tarmac on landing a big round of applause burst out, although it was mainly from those people who were actually from St Kitts or Tobago rather than the rest of the passengers! (This was actually repeated on landing back at Gatwick too, even though that was a smooooth landing!) Because the captain decided to change the turn-around of the plane (cleaning, re-stocking etc.) from St Kitts to Tobago he managed to pull back all but 25 minutes of the time lost at Gatwick. Thoughtful decision, much appreciated by us.
Transfer to Le Grand Courlan was provided and went smoothly through good organisation by our appointed rep.
Our Garden View room was nice, with air con, ceiling fan, TV, fridge (not stocked but great to keep our bottled water cold) and coffee/tea making facilities (Nescafe and Liptons provided!). On Saturday evening there was plenty of time, after our meet and greet reception with a cocktail in the hotel foyer, to go in to the nicely appointed open-sided ďPinnacleĒ restaurant for a meal and have drinks and entertainment afterwards. We spent Sunday to Tuesday just relaxing either on the beach or by the pool (ladies be aware, if you try to go topless you will definitely be asked to cover up), although Monday (or was it Tuesday!) was a total washout with it raining solidly for 24 hours. No, not long showers with a few minutes between them for some respite, but non-stop continual unrelenting persistent rain. Still, it being an all-inclusive resort meant that it was no problem to keep fed and watered and read and sleep; after all, we didnít go to ďdoĒ Tobago just relax and chill out there. That said, on Wednesday morning we made a late decision to book a tour of the island with our own personal driver. This we did through Victor, the Guest Relations Officer, at Le Grand and despite the last minute booking he had our driver sorted and with us within 45 minutes. Our tour was just great, thanks to our driver, a Morgan Freeman look-a-like named Reggie Cadiz. Reggie was just so knowledgeable about the whole island and took great care to show us all that the island offered in terms of its history and natural beauty. We were out on the road from 10am until 6pm in a really comfortable car with bottled drinks, including beer, provided free of charge from the ice-filled cooler box in the boot. It is up to you to tell your driver what you would like from your tour. If you want to swim at a couple of the lovely beaches or just take in the scenery and history of the island as we did then all you need to do is say so.
Reggie did such a good job that I really would like to take the opportunity to recommend that others use him if taking a tour, or indeed any kind of trip or journey. As Steve says, excellent service deserves to be rewarded and I agree with him whole-heartedly in unashamedly promoting those who give above and beyond the call of duty. If you book the tour direct through the hotel then a cut of your $65 US per person goes to the hotel, with more going to the firm employing the driver. The driver just gets a driverís fee and of course a tip from you if you wish. However, if you would rather your money went straight to the driver then there is nothing to stop you phoning him directly and making a personal booking and negotiate your own price. Just give a couple of days notice, as these guys are called upon to do the hotel/airport runs and general taxi work besides the tours, and make sure you phone them on their personal number not through the firm they work for.
Those wanting to use Reggie on this basis should call him on his mobile number (868) 685-7701 and if you do, see if you agree with the Morgan Freeman comment! Please tell him that you were recommended by Colin and Liz; it would be really nice for him to know that we appreciated him enough to keep our word and recommend him when we got back home. We used him later in the week but more of that later.
On walking back to our room on that Wednesday evening after our meal in the restaurant, we went via the swimming pool and heard what we thought were a couple of dogs fighting in front of the block of rooms we were going towards. To our horror, two pretty scruffy and nasty looking mutts suddenly headed down the path towards us. Between them they were trying to tear apart one of the five lovely little kittens resident on the site. I managed to get the dogs to drop the kitten and kept them at bay whilst Liz went to get a towel from our room to wrap the little kitten in; its back legs were badly damaged and it was trying to move just using its front legs. We took the kitten to reception and the young lad on the desk said they would get help for it. In the morning we asked the same person what had happened to the kitten and he said it had been taken away to be looked at and that it was moving about okay. However, we never actually saw that kitten again, and we only ever saw two of the five kittens again during the rest of the week.
The drama for the evening wasnít over however, as Liz was pretty ill with vomiting and diarrhoea from midnight onwards for the next 24 hours. Apart from eating in the hotel since we arrived, the only other food we had was when we ate at the ubiquitous Jemmaís Treehouse during our tour of the island earlier in the day. (The food, by the way, was really nice. Warning though! They donít serve alcohol). In the morning I got the hotel reception to call the doctor that the resort uses and she came pretty quickly. I understand that she is related to the management at Le Grand so I guess it was in their interests to call quickly. The call out cost $700TT which included an injection, antibiotics (only 2 dayís worth) and some Imodium. You need to make sure you get the receipts etc. so that you can claim on your travel insurance later. The doctor was pretty keen to stress that the hotel boils all its water and that water, rather than food, was the probable cause. I doubt that any consumable water is boiled as the islandís water authority provides a decent potable water supply, although in heavy rain contamination is possible. We had a letter left in our room later in the week after quite a bit of rain, as did others, suggesting that we might like to purchase bottled water from the resort shop to be on the safe side. I wonder why they would do that if water is actually boiled! Liz recovered enough to be able to go on the Buccoo Reef trip on Friday where we snorkelled on the reef, viewed the Coral Gardens and swam in the Nylon Pool. This has to be the best value trip anywhere! All this for the equivalent of 15 quid and picked up and returned to the hotel in air-conditioned comfort. First time snorkel wanabees are treated kindly and helped by the boat crew to get themselves in a position to swim and snorkel freely over the reef. I would like to thank Alan and Aileen who were at the Grafton next door for teaching me the rudiments of snorkelling the previous day. I met them when Aileen and I were having a scuba diving lesson in the Grandís swimming pool; another first for me. My lesson was a freebie, Iím not sure if it is included in the Graftonís package.
The Friday night buffet in the Pinnacle turned out to be our most disappointing meal. A large contingent of bankers had turned up for a conference and at the time we went into eat a lot of the food had been consumed and the trays and dishes had not been replenished. Covers on some food had not been replaced and this meant what food there was at that time was lukewarm or cold. I asked for some more fish to be brought out but, despite it coming out quickly, it was just as lukewarm. In our experience, on the nights that the main evening meal is a buffet it is advisable to book for 7pm when all the food is fresh and hot. Otherwise it is pot luck as to availability and quality at other times. All our other meals which have had waitress service were pretty much excellent. Only on one night, Wednesday, did we find that service was unbelievably slow as the restaurant seemed to be packed to the rafters. Food is generally very, very good for all meals and the staff are usually very attentive, polite and genuinely pleased to be of service.
On our final day, Saturday, Liz needed to go to the pharmacy for some more tablets and we used our free transfer gained from booking the round-the-island tour to get a taxi to the pharmacy and back. We booked this again through Victor and it turns out that you usually have the same driver as before; all part of the deal, I guess. So, enter Reggie! We were planning to have used him again on a private basis to take us up to and into the rain forest but because Liz took ill we hadnít managed it. So it was nice to see him again before we left. As I said before, I canít recommend him highly enough.
All in all, we both really enjoyed our week at Le Grand Courlan and wished we could have afforded the time to go for a fortnight. Despite a few unfortunate incidents we both would go again to Le Grand. For a nice, chill-out holiday (with no kids!) it is hard to beat. And the free spa treatments, which I nearly forgot to tell you about, are just the icing on the cake. Tobago is not for those who want to go on holiday to be seen. It is for those who want to just melt away into its raw, unsophisticated natural heart and emerge chilled and at one with the world. Well, thatís what I think! Worked for me! So, donít be put off by the one or two minuses that happened to us. Book Le Grand Courlan and go for two weeks if at all possible instead of one. Iím pretty sure that we will sometime soon!
Have a lovely time if you go!
Colin & Liz
Have read with interest about LGC and it is a 'possible' for April 2005. My one worry is the fact that it is on so many different levels and all the sets of stairs. I know there have been other queries in this GLC forum and that Steve ,you say they're "not too much of a problem'" are we talking a few short flights here and there of 5/6 steps at a time or a few flights of a dozen steps or more at a time? sorry if this query sounds trivial but it is of particular concern to me. Husband G. is fully fit and able apart from finding steps painful on the old knees !!!!! Stella.
Decisions Decisons! Which Room? When?
Hello there...well finances done and it looks like we are about to book to go off to Tobago 2nd Dec at LGC! Thank you so much to all that have replied to me earlier. MUCH appreciated....Can any of you suggest which Ocean room to request or are they all the same?
It was between this and the Grafton, which we can just afford for the end Jan, when the prices hike up, but the travel agent said there were lots of children there when she went last January... I love kids but not on holiday.
Anyway, before we book, I would love some feedback on whether you feel we should wait (hurricane etc) until end Jan and go to The Grafton (looking across sadly from time to time at the grown up hotel?) or take the cheaper option and go in December to LGC and be pampered to bits!
Kate and Jon
1 Week In Sept Review
Well what can I say. We had the time of our lives. The best holiday we have ever had. I have never really suffered with going back to work after a Holiday until Tobago.
My wife an I stayed in room 215 which is on the ground floor over looking the rear gardens and the beach. The view was out of this world. The photos of the sun sets that we took are fantastic. The coulurs are breath taking. The room was of a large size with a king size bed, cable T.V, coffee making stuff and Air con which sadly sounded like a tractor when running. The bathrrom was a bit worn and you couldn't really say it was a 4 star but it was clean and a good size.
Food was probably the best I have had from a Hotel all inclusive but the beer was never very consistant. One day it would be fine the next it was that weak it looked like wee.
Staff were very friendly and very funny. Every time I spoke to someone thet just laughed. It must be they way us Coventry people speak.
This has got to be the best holiday i have ever had. The island is just fantastic. Words can not explain. We will be going back one day soon.
October 2004 Visit
J F Markham
Just returned from a lovely week in Tobago. Finally arrived after being delayed 2hrs at Gatwick with Excel Airways (more on them later).
Arrived at the hotel to a very laid back check in, but you soon learn to chill out and go with the flow. We had a garden view room, although fom there we had a good view of the sea. A very nice room, well maintained and well cleaned on a daily basis by the polite staff.
Overall we were very imprerssed with the hotel. The fact that no children are allowed appeared to suit most guests, as there are only 86 rooms you do not feel lost in some big complex. Also the food we had during the week was varied and good quality.
As per usual some fellow Brits were complaining, too Hot!, staff not helpful (not that we noticed).
The fact you had to get up at 6.30 each morning to put your towel on a lounger to ensure a parasol or a good seat was a bit of a pain, are we Brits turning into Germans? Plus the Spa was a bit of a dissapointment, the daily treatments are really only a taster and you would need extras for a good spa. The downside was they were so busy it was not possible to book the extra treatments they advertise. They either need to get extra staff or rethink their daily planning. They could make a lot more money if you could book extra treatments.
We would happily recommend the Grand Courlan and Tobago. Frankly there is not a lot to do on the island, we went on a day island tour and that was enough. However, if you want to chill out, with good weather (we had a great week and very little showers) and nice food and views this is the place.
As for Excel Airways the only thing I think they excel at is being late. The plane coming to Gatwick for us was late, we then departed late as we missed our slot. We were also advised they were to go via Grenada to deliver supplies, part way through the flight they then told no we are going straight to Tobago (late arrival anyway). On leaving we get to the airport to discover a 4 hour delay as the plane was late coming in! When we got on the plane neither the Captain or Crew made an apology and acted as though we were on time! So as far as I can see Excel cannot run an on time airline. The plane itself needed internal refurbishment, my seat was broken and the seat headset connection outbound and return was intermitent. Our advise would be to use an alternative such as BA or Virgin (BWIA got terrible reviews by some guests at the hotel).