If you live in London or the UK in general (or even Northern Europe), it’s a well-known fact that sunshine is sometimes hard to come by meaning there is a lack of winter sun. Of course, there are the odd days where the sun is shining brightly but it’s actually a fact that the British are deficient in the sunshine vitamin (Vitamin D). Summer of course is better and the sun does come out but in the British winter the days can quickly turn to one looooong series of 3 words: grey, dark and short.
I always think of beach holidays as reserved for summer but I’m not really sure why? In fact, it makes even more sense to get away to a beach destination in the winter, when you are really needing some sun and feeling down in the dumps about those grey days. And I’ve noticed now more than ever that I actually need a holiday after my Christmas holiday. Christmas holidays are actually bloody exhausting, aren’t they? Or am I the only one who feels that way? I mean they are fabulous and full of family fun but when they are over I actually feel like I need to get away. Preferably alone! If you are ever wondering what to get someone for Christmas consider a trip after the holidays to the Caribbean!
I was so lucky this year to discover the Caribbean actually – it’s one of my travel highlights for 2017. There is really nothing like discovering a new place and this year is the first time I’ve ventured to the Caribbean and now I keep wanting to go back!
In July I went to the Cayman Islands and then when it got colder towards Christmas I was hankering to go back to the Caribbean for some winter sun. This time I headed to Antigua. I hopped on the smoothest Virgin Atlantic flight EVER (and trust me because I’m a nervous flyer that this flight was soooo smooth) from grey and rainy London Gatwick and it wasn’t long before we were flying towards the sun. I couldn’t remember the last time I took a Virgin flight, it had been years but I really loved flying with Virgin – their customer experience is really great and they actually make flying ‘fun’. By fun I mean no delays, easy check-in, friendly flight attendants and a smooth and direct flight to sunshine. I mean what more could you want?
Eight hours later (direct flight as well!) I was in Antigua where the sun was shining and the rum punch was ICE COLD. Yum. My first stop? Checking into The Verandah Resort & Spa. After 8 hours of flying I was ready for a drink and to put my feet up. Therefore, I didn’t say no when I was greeted at the check-in with my first rum punch. It would be rude not to accept a rum punch when offered don’t you think?
The Verandah Resort & Spa is an all-inclusive resort (and a certified Green Globe Resort with a green tick of environmentally-friendly approval) meaning the moment you step foot on the property you really don’t need to worry about a thing. It’s like living in a cashless society for days on end which is really quite fabulous. This was my first experience of staying at an all-inclusive resort and I have to say that it really did take a lot of busy planning/thinking out of the brain. And for a girl who lives in London that is just the dream. If you feel frazzled because you have a busy life then I would highly recommend looking into an all-inclusive.
As I said once you arrive you don’t need to pay for a thing because you have already paid it when you booked the accommodation as a flat fee. That means meals, drinks and water activities at the resort are already covered so you never even need to carry cash. It’s an interesting feeling of freedom knowing you can pretty much eat and drink what you want without having to analyse prices and currencies or worry about tipping. And you would think all of this would be quite expensive but really it’s not!
I used to work at a restaurant when I was a student in university in Malibu, California and I remember how stressed out tourists would look when they were trying to figure out how much their meal was going to cost them and how much to tip. But when you are in an all-inclusive, that thinking can go out the window. Bye bye!
Upon arrival, I was also booked into a two-bedroom villa which overlooked the entire resort with a beautiful view of the beach. Honestly this place was FIVE TIMES bigger than my flat in London with a spacious living area, kitchen with all amenities including a bottle of chilled champagne waiting, two large bedrooms, two bathrooms and a large patio with lounge chairs and a mini pool. This is amazing if you want to come to the resort with a group of friends and chill out because you pretty much have your own house – it’s UH-MAZING. Having a bit of space when you live in a big city is really freeing as well. We are often so out of touch with nature and space in our own lives that to walk around in bare feet is quite liberating.
The Verandah Resort & Spa is spread out across 30 beachfront acres so it’s quite large and lush with two private white sand beaches and pools ranging from family-friendly to adult-only (if you fancy getting away from noisy, splashing children while you sunbathe). And if you think that you might run out of things to do at an all-inclusive it’s quite the opposite. Everyday there was a schedule of activities that you can choose to or choose not to take part in from cooking classes to yoga to water sports. Basically, the key to staying at an all-inclusive is that you can personalise your own holiday. There is literally so much on offer and so many choices you can pick and choose exactly what you want whether that’s an activity-packed schedule or nothing at all.
Take for example food – there are 3 main restaurants on the resort including Seabreeze, Nicole’s and Buccaneer. It doesn’t matter if you are vegan, only eat fish or only eat carbs (haha, I wish!) there are so many choices. For example, I chose everyday to eat at Seabreeze (buffet all day, every day but the food themes differ per day) for breakfast because they had these amazing cinnamon rolls as well as an omelet station that was superb. However, I loved Buccaneer (an a la carte restaurant where you order from a menu) for dinner because they had an amazing seafood chowder. Nicole’s is a fine dining restaurant where you can have lobster and steak for an additional supplement charge but this is the only additional charge you would have to worry about if choosing to dine there.
So, what were my days like while in Antigua? Well on the first day I decided to stick around and explore the resort. This included quite a lot of eating and drinking Strawberry Daiquiris but also a fabulous kayak out to the edge of where the bay meets the sea. I love water sports and especially kayaking as you feel so close to nature out there on the water. The weather was perfect as well and the sun was shining every day.
One important thing to pack is sunscreen! Of course, the locals are used the sun but even they protect their skin and if you are travelling to Antigua make sure you pack sunscreen. I took my favourite suncare brand, Ultrasun who make sun cream for every part of your body under the sun (no pun intended) including face, body, hands, lips and even hair as well as after sun care too.
At night it was nice to sit by the pool and have a margarita while listening to a traditional Caribbean steel drum band. The vibes at the resort are really good, it’s just a really relaxing environment where everything is nice and calm – a great break for a frazzled mind. And for once I didn’t have to worry about anything except what I was going to choose to eat for lunch.
The second day in Antigua I went exploring with Pink Panther Safari which is an all-female crew who takes groups around Antigua in pink Land Rovers. This was such a fun day out exploring the island and I’ve written a whole post about what we got up to HERE.
On the 3rd day at The Verandah Resort & Spa I took a swim in the morning on the beach and then it was time to move to St. James Club for the next four nights where our adventure leads us to the next chapter of my Antigua trip!
To book some winter sun:
***7 nights in Antigua from £1,185pp with Virgin Holidays including scheduled Virgin Atlantic flights from London Gatwick to Antigua, all-inclusive accommodation at The Verandah Resort & Spa with transfers included. Price is per person based on two adults travelling and sharing a hillside suite garden/resort view room, including all applicable taxes and fuel surcharges which are subject to change. Price is based on a departure on June 12, 2018. To book: visit www.virginholidays.co.uk, call the Hotline 0344 557 3870 or visit one of our stores in Debenhams, House of Fraser, Tesco, Sainsbury’s or V-Room stores nationwide.