Page 1 of 1

Trip report 4/12 - 4/19 LONG!

PostPosted: Fri Apr 21, 2006 4:55 pm
by ChrisA
Just thought I owed any new visitors to the board a trip report as I have found all of the advice so helpful. In summary, Antigua is a wonderful place to spend a week, even longer if you can!

Resort: We chose to stay at Dian Bay and were very pleased with the resort. I cannot figure out all of the negative posts about this resort. The staff were very friendly and helpful, making dinner reservations for me, suggesting places to go, knowing my name and how I preferred my Pina Coladas! Brenda was fabulous behind the bar! The room was very clean and the air conditioning functioned perfectly. Water pressure was among the best I've ever had in the Caribbean. Yes, the beds are two twin beds held together but I slept just fine and the firmness was great for my back. This would be the only thing I would like changed. We did not eat at the resort other than a good breakfast buffet so I cannot comment on the food. It is about 40 minutes from St. Johns but that's what we wanted and the car we rented was perfect.

Rental Car: We rented a Suzuki Grand Vitara from Thrifty and received a 2006 model with only 5000 miles. Great car. Approx $400 for the week.

Activities: Did both SeaFaris and Eli's Eco Tour so finally a comparison for anyone who's interested.

Eli's Eco Tour was a great trip. Hands-down the superior experience. Very large power cat with 3 very friendly and knowledgeable crew. Had about 20 of us on the boat - all with plenty of room and shade from the sun if you needed it. This was a nice, relaxing and very enjoyable trip. Learned quite a bit about the island, its history and eco-system. Got to snorkel at Bird's Island (very nice reef - lots of living coral and fish) and at Hell's Gate. Excellent lunch of BBQ chicken, pasta salad, green salad, fried plantains and banana bread.
SeaFaris was not as nice for us. Small inflatable boat, with lines of bench seats going the length of the boat that you straddle. Seats are padded, about 14" long and 6" wide with metal handles front and back. Boat was filled to capacity and you had no way of moving while underway as the benches are so close together. The trip was all about racing around the island and beating everyone up with the spray off the waves. My experience on the water is such that I noticed he was actually trying to make the impact of the waves and the subsequent soaking worse with his driving. I think they enjoy soaking you down. No shade whatsoever and they actually instruct you to remove hats and shirts since they will get blown off and soaked. Needless to say, many people got horrible sunburns. There was a brief snorkel stop at Green Island, which was crowded with snorkelers. They had rum punch, water and one plastic container of a fried, stuffed item for lunch which no-one ate. Then a stop at Nelson's Dockyard for about 1/2 hour where everyone pretty much went their own way. No time spent by the crew giving us any history of the port. Now I know why Eli would not comment on this before!

Restaurants: Home was a real treat. We both had Lobster Carl and it was perfectly cooked. Carl and his wife Rita ended up chatting us for about an hour after we finished our meals and were charming. Rita even went so far as to call Jill at Gibson's to make us reservations for lunch the next day (Sunday) as they planned to be there as well.
Gibson's was a very nice surprise. Ordinarily I would have driven right past the place as it has a very plain entrance facing the street. Turns out it has a very nice covered porch right on the beach and is frequented by the locals "in-the-know". Snapper was excellent as was the lobster salad.
Abracadabra was fabulous. They had a lovely table on the side veranda and we ended up sitting next to Eric Clapton and family. We even decided to go there a second time for our final supper on the island. Everything we ate there was wonderful. Gnocci was light as a feather and perfectly sauced. Highly recommend the roast suckling pig (specialty of the house). All pasta dishes were prepared to perfection. The two gentlemen who ran the restaurant were fabulous, even to the point of instructing the hostess to get us a table on the veranda (2nd dinner at this restaurant) when they were fully booked and we had no reservations!
Harmony Hall: Beautiful ambiance, very nice and accomodating manager but disappointing food. Mahi Mahi appetizer was overpowered by Soy and Sesame seeds. Mixed Seafood Grill was also overpowered by sesame seeds. Lobster was overcooked. We sat under a tree which was dropping tiny white flowers on our plates.
The Beach was very good. Finding it for our first dinner on the island was challenging. For anyone who has not been driving in Antigua - Dickenson Bay Road DOES NOT go to Dickenson Bay! Thankfully, when we got lost all the way up Friar's Hill, a taxi driver was gracious enough to lead us all the way to the restaurant. We had the lobster spring rolls - very good. Coconut shrimp, OK but not great though the dipping sauce was wonderful, and calamari, good but nothing special. Split a small seafood pizza which was great.
Antigua Yacht Club Restaurant (formerly Southern Cross)was very disappointing. Grilled vegetable napoleon was cold and Gnochetti was heavy and pasty. Manager was very nice and wait staff were excellent as well but the kitchen staff is desperately in need of some guidance.

Shirley Heights: What a fun time! Packed with people and great music. Wonderful sunset. Not to be missed.

Well, I could go on for hours more.... This was a great trip and I will definitely be back! Many thanks to Eli for his work making this board so informative.