Almond Beach Club & Spa – Barbados Hotels – Debbie's Caribbean Travel & Resort Reviews

May 2003

Flights
We flew Air Canada from Halifax to Toronto then down to Bridgetown. The connection through Toronto was very tight as we had to change terminals and were in line to clear security in Toronto (again as we had already cleared in YHZ) for about 45 minutes. We got on the plane with about 10 minutes to spare. The flight was uneventful and we managed to get exit rows on both flights.

Arrival & Check-In
Arrival in Bridgetown was pretty uneventful – we did have to walk through a long walkway due to construction going on. We were also given pamphlets with clinic numbers to call within 48 hours to let them know we did not have SARS and that we felt OK. Since we booked directly with the hotel only the transfers back to the airport were included. I think this is kind of odd – you’d think if they’re going to include just one way it would be the arrival. We tried to hop on the ACV shuttle bus but they had no room so we took a cab at $20USD. This was cheaper then the Almond Village would have charged for a pre-paid one. Check-in was quite speedy and my Mom and I got a deluxe pool view room which was nice because travel agents get run of the house and we could have wound up with a room with no balcony on the 4th floor. They offered us punch and face clothes at check-in as well. The lobby was kind of ho-hum – it’s really an oversized hut with a couple desks which I never saw more than one person sitting at.

Room & Grounds
Our room was on the third floor with a big balcony overlooking the pool. The room wasn’t overly big – we had asked for 2 double beds but got two ¾ beds made up separately but pushed together. We didn’t really mind but I can see some clients not liking this. The room looked as if it had been redecorated recently and even had a quiet air conditioner, complete with a remote control! The bathroom on the other hand was due for a make over as it was old and dingy and there were stains in the tub. We also had no hot water for the first three days which was a serious bone of contention with my Mom who takes baths! I do not think that is acceptable for a 4 star property. The room would almost be better served if they extended the room a bit and made the balcony a bit smaller. I asked to see other rooms but were told they were full and it would not be possible. We met a couple of girls from the UK who had to be moved because they had a leak coming in from the outside through their patio door and we also met another couple who had a leak in their room every time the people upstairs showered. All these things point to the age of the building which you can tell is kind of old. On the plus side, the age had contributed to the loveliness of the gardens as the bushes and trees are all mature and have beautiful flowers and birds.

Location
The website is very vague about this. This property is on the water but it’s really on small coral ‘cliffs’ overlooking the water. It’s good for snorkelling but you have to walk a little way down the beach to actually get in for swimming. I think some people there were kind of unimpressed with this and I can see how as I would be if I thought it had a big sandy beach. However, the swimming at the next property, Sandy Lane, was awesome, and there was three swimming pools on property which was fine for some people. There are shuttles going all day until midnight to the Almond Village which had a bigger sandy beach. The property is 19 miles from the airport. You can walk into the nearest town which is Holetown. Car rental is approximately $120 USD/day.

Staff Friendliness
I think that the staff get full marks for friendliness. They were always very accommodating, eager to help and quick to serve as well as being fun. We rented a cab for a morning and it was the bartender (he moonlights as a cabbie) and he was really informative and helpful. Sunny in guest services certainly lived up to her name as well.

Suitable for :
This is an adults only (age 16 +) resort so obviously not suitable for families with young children. There was a lot of couples and a high percentage of older British people. I would not recommend this place to a young group of people. We did see one gentleman in a wheelchair but it really isn’t super wheelchair accessible.

Hotel Features: safety deposit boxes (free) currency exchange security guards doctor at hotel or on call room service for lunch or supper (free) coffee makers walk in closet weddings available at the Club and the Village

internet access – just one computer at $7.50USD for ½ an hour

Beach/Pool Area 3 small freshwater pools beach towels available (free) chaises by the pool and beach

watersports: snorkelling, water skiing, tubes, banana boat, windsurfing, sunfish sailing, reef fishing, fish feeding (free but limited time)

Other Golf – 9 hole at Almond Village aerobics yoga tennis fitness centre

Spa- full menu available at extra cost

Meet brochure description & rating?
I would have to say no. ACV has this property listed as a 4 star. I would say it is more a 3 or 3.5 star property. Everything is showing signs of wear and tear and the fact that we had no hot water for 3 days was really unacceptable and the issues that other people were having with their rooms was not a good sign. Also, the lack of beach in front of the hotel contributes to this. The rooms are really quite small and the lobby very unimpressive. They were very clean and tidy though!

Entertainment
This was a bit of a let down too. I have been to a 3 star in the DR and had a different show every night. Here there was a band that played every night from about 7pm until 11pm and that was it. They played kind of old 80’s music with a few contemporary hits thrown in (which suited my Mom very well!). After 11pm there was only the piano bar which is quite small. There is a place to dance, but not many couples were using it during our visit – you would have to go to the Village and the last shuttle back is midnight so you would have to come back then or catch a cab for about $25 USD. It is very quiet after 11pm. My Mom and I stayed up one night on the beach playing cards and everyone disappeared after 11:30pm. Do not go here if you are looking for wild and crazy nights! I did notice a night club not far up the road but it looked quite swanky!

Livestock I think this is worth mentioning because I really thought it was neat. There were 4 types of crabs that you saw a lot – green and clear ones on the beach, red ones that came out at night near where the dinner tables were set on the beach (watch your toes!) and big green ones that lived on land in big holes. There were also several cats around and there was two gorgeous orange kittens that we brought food to everyday. There were also a lot of birds that were in and around the Sunset restaurant and there was a stray dog at the Almond Village as well as some more cats.

There were many tropical fish that had us snorkelling a lot – fish like bread so if you can snag some from the restaurant and take snorkelling it will make you very popular.

Restaurants

On site:
Sunset – this was the main dining room that offered buffet breakfast, buffet/a la carte lunch and a la carte dinner (except for Mondays which is a buffet and Fridays which is a beach BBQ) They have a dress code in effect – even for lunch so you have to cover up and wear shoes. Enid’s – Great Bajan fare in a funky small restaurant. Minimal air conditioning so ask to be near a window. Tommy’s Rum Shop – bar next to Enid’s where you could grab a sandwich in the off hours.

At the Almond Village:
Horizon – their buffet and a la carte
The Reef – seafood restaurant right on the beach
La Smaritta – lovely Italian restaurant that is adults only in an air conditioned area. Beautiful décor and wonderful food Enid’s – their Bajan restaurant Courtyard Cafe – not sure what it’s called but apparently you can get casual nibbles.

Tours & Excursions:
Offered free of charge:
Monday picnic on a local beach with BBQ and open bar. We didn’t make this trip as we arrived on a Sunday and didn’t sign up 24 hours prior – sounded nice though. Wednesday & Friday morning shopping in Bridgetown – free shuttle bus into town for shopping. Departs the hotel at 9am and brings you back at 12:30pm. This seemed a short time but I wasn’t overly excited about the shopping (things were expensive even though they ere duty free!)and we were ready to come home at the allotted time.

There were numerous trips offered from the hotel but we wanted to do several things and they weren’t all offered as one trip so we rented a cab for 4 hours (at $20 USD/hour) and made up our own itinerary…

Harrison Cave – $13US/ this was a ½ hour tour on a trolly through amazing caves with stalactites and stalagmites. The film was broken down and the trolly also broke down but other than that it was pretty amazing.

Orchid Farm – $7 US. This was very neat – as most of the flowers were growing out of soil and just hanging. There was more than 20,000 orchids on display. Very beautiful but no one around to answer questions. There is a wedding Gazebo on site.

Gun Hill Signal Station- $4US . A restored signal station with a beautiful panoramic view of the island. Check out the giant limestone lion carved by a soldier stationed at Gun Hill.

Baobab Tree– there are two on the island – We saw the one on Warren’s road in St. Michael and the other is in Bridgetown. This is the widest trunk of any tree growing in the Caribbean – it takes 15 adults holding their arms outstretched to cover the circumference of the tree!

St. John’s Church – free. A classic Gothic church situated on a cliff overlooking the picturesque East Coast . Very reminiscent of old English Churches. Definitely worth a stop.

Bathsheba – West coast of the island – very beautiful and rugged with huge waves – known internationally as a surfer’s Haven.

Morgan Lewis Mill – we just drove by but it is one of the only two intact and restored sugar mills in the Caribbean.

Cherry Hill – one of the highest points on the island. Try a chunk of sugar cane as a snack!

Things we probably should have done:
Jolly Roger – cruise on a ‘pirate ship’ where you can walk the plank, have some lunch and drinks,treasure hunts and go snorkelling too. $50USD
Turtle trip – offered by the hotel – feed and pet the giant turtles. $20USD Submarine trip – not to be taken by a claustrophobic like me! Famous Jewish Synagogue

Rum factory – we had already seen one in DR…

Catamaran cruise – heard great things but we had fabulous snorkelling where we were!
Sunset Cruise – Sail along the west coast, hors d’oeuvres and drinks. $43USD Jacobean Mansions – 2 of the 3 remaining in the Western Hemisphere reside in Barbados.

Clientele: We were told that at least 20% of customers were return clients, which appeared to be true, We met several people that were on their 3rd, 7th or 12th visit so obviously some people think they’re doing a wonderful job. Supposedly their clients are 4% Americans, 20% Canadians and 76% British.

Conclusion
My Mom and I had a wonderful, relaxing trip but for the price that you pay I would not recommend this island above say the Dominican, Cuba or Mexico. The atmosphere is very British which is kind of unique with them driving on the left, serving tea and having Guinness on tap but not worth the additional prices you pay. The Almond Village Beach Club & Spa is really showing it’s age and I think it should finish it’s renovations as soon as possible. The Village looked much newer and I would recommend that to clients over the Club. (Unless of course they want no children!) The fact that the club has no real beach of it’s own is definitely a minus as well. The staff is great, as is the food, but the rooms are kind of small and mediocre and not worth the price that you pay. I enjoyed my time in Barbados but would probably return to other Caribbean countries first or experience new ones before going back.

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