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ANTIGUA, W.I - Every January, the McCowan family upholds the tradition of taking a vacation from the United States, heading south to Antigua to the same resort. And this year is no different. “I was raised in a pretty formal household. And, the staff here are incredible; they know exactly how and from which side to serve. As for the food, it’s sublime,” Mrs McCowan says. “Typically, our friends accompany us, but this year they've opted for a cruise. They’ve actually just messaged us to say ‘We won’t be doing this again, we’ll be back as usual next year’.”
Our conversation centres around the luxury four-star all-inclusive resort, Curtain Bluff. An exclusive sanctuary placed between two bays, quietly poised in the serene enclave of Old Road, Antigua. Perched on an awe-inspiring bluff, this lush retreat acts as the meeting point where the playful Caribbean Sea greets its untamed sibling, the Atlantic, at the island's southernmost tip.
“You won’t find TVs in your bedrooms here, but we do have two TV rooms on site,” states our guide during our brief welcome tour of the resort; immediately inducing a sense of relief as we relax with a customary fruit punch in hand.
That’s a bold commitment to relaxation. Such a creative sanctuary I thought, as the tour meandered on.
It’s only been 10 minutes and I’m already dreaming up the books I’m going to pluck from the resort’s library. Or could I pen my own story, mojito in hand? No, too cliché I thought.
No matter your choice of accommodation, each of the 72 rooms and suites offers an ocean view. The entry-level deluxe rooms on the ground floor boast direct beach access, with floor-to-ceiling doors that perfectly capture the picturesque vista of mature palm trees, hammocks swaying in the breeze, and waves striking sand.
The whole place is a passage to an exclusive old world. It’s a family-friendly spot that seems to have been dreamt up during a particularly glamorous daydream.
Our guide's pace quickens as we ascend the stairs to the summit of a three-story building standing at the end of the resort’s garden path. Passing the room key over the lock, she ushers us through a wooden door adorned with a silver pineapple-shaped knocker, saying, "Welcome to your home for your stay, the Grace Bay Suite."
The Grace Bay Suite is part of the Hulford Collection, named in honour of the resort’s founder and it certainly stacks up.
As the door opens, the swaying palms and Carib grackle bird song greet us on one side and I’m wondering if we’ve entered a locked open-air corridor to other rooms, but not so.
Turning into the newly renovated suite, a round stone mosaic table provides a home for a generous vase of fresh blooms. The lounge’s pristine-white sectional is arranged to greet the ocean-palm panorama beyond the spacious terrace, whilst also beckoning the forest views behind into the fold. We are almost in the treetops here.
The lounge decor is light, optimistic and calming. The suite is equipped with a coffee machine with Lavazza pods, (decaffeinated pods included) a mini-bar offering Chilean merlot and sauvignon blanc by Luis Felipe Edwards plus local rum, beers, snacks and the usual soft drinks.
The bedroom is spacious and inviting, luxuriously outfitted with the comfiest king-size bed, furniture featuring rich woods, intricate carvings, and a balance of formality with ease. Everything shines anew thanks to a comprehensive, multi-million dollar renovation completed during the summer closure, making its grand debut in October 2023.
The terrace’s raised plunge pool provides front-row seats to spectate the sea and lush green headland. Molton Brown provides fragrance-powered body care to freshen up ready for dinner. The walk-in waterfall shower was a highlight for me but if you’re one for a lingering bath before bed there’s a full-sized, free-standing eggshell stone bathtub.
The Grace & Morris Bay suites can be linked to a junior suite to create a two-bedroom stay for multi-generational or family trips; Extended groups and families can reserve the entire floor which consists of four bedrooms.
For breakfast, start with a local Antiguan fruit platter and then homemade muesli, followed by eggs Benedict. If you still have room, delve into the assortment of Danish pastries, available daily - the cinnamon bun is a must-try.
“You’ll see The Sea Grape as you walk along the beach - it’s a beautiful spot and the food is really, really wonderful,” shared a guest, noticing our curious expressions. At this point, I’m starting to half-jokingly suspect management might be compensating guests for such glowing accolades.
The food is of a very high standard and is served between The Tamarind Tree and The Sea Grape restaurants. Lunch at The Sea Grape offers a laid-back, open-air setting on the calmer of the two beaches, with options to order from the menu (don't miss the homemade meatloaf) or indulge in the buffet. The selection is satisfying without being overwhelming, and you're likely to encounter freshly grilled, locally caught mahi-mahi, creole chicken or crusted salmon.
On select nights, The Sea Grape also serves à la carte dinners, while the Sugar Mill Bar's cocktail hour boasts circulating trays of hors d'oeuvres and a selection of champagne, Hendricks, and rum punch.
Atmosphere? Like you’re dining at a close family friend’s home. And, that’s really the feel of the entire resort wherever you’re relaxing. It's sophisticated in precisely the right measures, yet remains genuine and welcoming, making you feel completely relaxed.
At the heart of The Tamarind Tree restaurant stands a real majestic, centuries-old tamarind tree. Here, we savoured à la carte breakfasts and dinners, featuring a worldly mix of international favourites and delicious local Antiguan cuisine. Evenings come alive with excellent singers and a fantastic live band.
Waiters? Beyond attentive without being overbearing. Wines? The resort boasts one of the finest cellars in the Caribbean, stocking bottles such as Lafite Rothschild for those wishing to mark the occasion.
Nice to haves for our next stay? Our only suggestion would be some non-alcoholic options aside from the wonderful virgin cocktails. I’m thinking Seedlip inside the mini-bar or a Peroni 0.0% from the beach bar would go down a treat. As would some naturally sugar-free goodies.
I could tell you more about all the water-sport activities included in your room rate at Antigua’s most iconic resort, the championship tennis courts, and the pilates. And I could go wax lyrical about the staff remembering our names every time, the nice touch of homemade cookies after lunch and the soothing sound of the waves that lull you to sleep.
We could delve into the exquisite number of stars you can see after sunset or describe the sheer relaxation you feel whilst floating in the adults-only jacuzzi watching the aforementioned sunset from one of the most enchanting views on the island. But that's not the crux of it.
The heart of the matter is, that your stay at Curtain Bluff goes beyond these luxuries. This refuge harmonises Antigua's untouched natural splendour with the sophisticated elegance characteristic of a legacy, independently-owned resort—a favourite across generations of the same families.
And, although the resort ownership is leaning into a new era following the passing of the ‘Matriarch of Curtain Bluff’, Lady Michelle Hulford, we don’t feel uneasy. It’s quite the opposite.
The legacy of warmth and exceptional service the Hulford's cultivated shines brightly through the staff at their cherished Bluff, offering a testament to a longstanding tradition of hospitality and a profound bond with the island. Whether it's snorkelling through vibrant coral reefs, kayaking along the picturesque coastline, or engaging in sports like squash and pickleball, every activity underscores the resort's dedication to the enrichment and well-being of its guests.
This isn't simply a break away in Antigua; it's a helping hand to help you get back to, well, you. At Curtain Bluff, you won’t be hosted, you’ll be embraced into the family. And, as you emerge from the serenity of the adults-only pool and jacuzzi, pondering the evening’s menu, you’ll catch yourself thinking, as we did: “Why did I wait so long to come here?”