24-Hour Room Service: Windjammer Landing, St Lucia, West Indies
The perfect place to fall in love with the Caribbean
Saturday 13 March 2010
You hear much talk these days of ultra-hip boutique hotels springing up around the West Indies, which is all well and good, but nothing really beats staying in the kind of hotel that makes you realise why everyone loves the Caribbean, and why you fell in love with it in the first place. Windjammer is one of St Lucia's leading resort hotels, forever winning prizes for its accommodation, food and beaches (it possesses Bride magazine's "Most Romantic Beach", and the hotel also specialises in second marriage celebrations, if you're interested). The resort lies on Labrelotte Bay in the north-west of the island and was completed 20 years ago, so there are lots of good anniversary deals currently being marketed.
To describe St Lucia as green and verdant is like saying Daniel Day Lewis does a spot of acting. Most of the island is mountainous rainforest, which means it can't be built on. Not so good for property developers but excellent for you and me, as there are no high-rise buildings or competitive 7am starts to secure prime, seafront sunbeds.
The hotel – well, it's more like a little village really – was conceived and built in the 1980s by David and Lynn Cram, Canadians who were living on the island and making Windjammer clothing. It was planned like a southern Mediterranean village, all red-tiled roofs and whitewashed villas, and apartments splayed up a beautiful hillside and around a crescent-shaped bay of pure white sand. For the higher villas there is a regular electric car service if you don't fancy the walk. (They are a long way from the beach, though I never heard anyone complain.) The lower villas and apartments are all just a couple of minutes away from the beach, watersports and resort centre, where there are shops, five great restaurants each with a different theme – among them the Upper Deck for Caribbean seafood and Dragonfly for upscale Asian and Creole fare – and a good assortment of bars.
Like all good resort hotels, it's planned so that leaving the site takes a monumental effort of will. Happily, there are plenty of distractions. The non-motorised watersports are all free, and there are a couple of good floodlit tennis courts upon which some excellent tennis was being played during our visit (the coach has played the game professionally, and his daughter almost certainly will as well at some point in the future). Mind you, you probably won't need all that running about: the stiffest exercise most people here take is working out how to do hospital corners on their beach towels.
There's a Serenity Spa as well, and, since Windjammer is famously family friendly, an excellent kids' club, the Jacquot, with baby-sitting and nannying services. But if, like me, you are not there with a vast brood of young kids, you won't feel left out. After all, it's a large site – 65 acres – and there are more than 160 villas and suites.
What you come to the Caribbean for is the sun, the sea, the fun and the food. And they are all there by the lorry load at Windjammer. And what it does not do, I'm glad to say, is use that rather wearing excuse in the West Indies for crummy service: "Hey, we're on Caribbean time here." In fact the service at Windjammer is impeccable, not least because the management team, led by Richard Mark, run big incentivisation schemes as well as staff scholarships for hospitality and hotel management courses in North America. Every guest has their own "Ambassador", for example, who will look after you, show you round, and broadly get you anything you want. Ours was called Michael, and he could not have been nicer.
The resort is five miles north of the island's capital, Castries (in truth, not the prettiest place in the Caribbean), and just south of the luxury villas and cool restaurants and bars of Rodney Bay (we had a fabulous sushi/fusion meal here at The Edge, a restaurant placed right on the waterfront). Even more spectacularly, don't miss the Friday night jump-up at Gros Islet, just past Rodney Bay. This is a huge street party, with food, drink, fantastic music and some quite eye-popping dancing which would be unlikely to find favour in the UK before the TV watershed – or even after, come to think of it.
Nowhere on St Lucia is that far away, and a sea cruise to the Pitons (the twin green mountains in the south that look like something from Jurassic Park and which form a Unesco World Heritage site) should not be missed either. The more adventurous can try riding on the mile-long Cas en Bas beach, but take note: the locals are quite fantastic horsemen – bareback, standing in the saddle, acrobatics, you name it – so my own risible efforts to stay upright brought the comment that I had the heart of a chicken. I felt they were being generous.
This is the West Indies, not Zurich, so if you are looking for hi-tech minimalism you are in the wrong place. The rooms are spacious, inviting and comfortable with just a hint of the Moorish in the furnishings (rattan chairs and the like). Every suite has superb views, and the villas all have their own private plunge pool. My teenage daughter and I were in the lower Hibiscus suites. Ours comprised two sumptuous double rooms separated by a kitchen and sitting room, all of which seemed to be the size of a small prep school. There was a wet room, as well as a Jacuzzi-style bath. The balcony was large and often so inviting that we had to force ourselves down to the beach and restaurants. Each of the three rooms had a large flat-screen TV, where I could watch the West Indies tonking England at cricket (my daughter did this rather less). One of the resort's four pools was just a few steps away, and we didn't see a soul there all week. Our accommodation was always immaculate: rarely have I felt so keen to hand over a wad of dollars for room service at the end of the stay.
Windjammer Landing Villa Beach Resort & Spa, Labrelotte Bay, St Lucia (001 758 456 9000; windjammer-landing.com)
Doubles start at US$177 (£118), room only.
ITC Classics (01244 355 527; itcclassics.co.uk) offers seven nights' all-inclusive in an Anthurium Lily Suite at Windjammer Landing from £1,565 per person, including flights from Gatwick and transfers. Guests receive US$50 credit per room per night for spa treatments, etc. Valid for travel until 30 April.
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