24-Hour Room Service: Raffles Resort, St Vincent & the Grenadines
Saturday 12 February 2005
Hurricanes hit the Grenadines on average once every 70 years, so it was with particularly bad timing that Raffles opened its first Caribbean resort on the island of Canouan last August - just weeks before Hurricane Ivan arrived.
Hurricanes hit the Grenadines on average once every 70 years, so it was with particularly bad timing that Raffles opened its first Caribbean resort on the island of Canouan last August - just weeks before Hurricane Ivan arrived. Raffles' staff retreated to the sturdy Villa Monte Carlo high in the hills and waited as months of handiwork was blown away overnight.
After a Herculean renovation effort, the resort re-opened in early November and, aside from a few landscaping issues, there's little evidence that Ivan was ever here.
It makes you wonder if nature was voicing some form of protest - the beautiful island of Canouan is being touted as the Caribbean's next big luxury destination. The five-star Raffles Resort takes up two-thirds of an island of just three square miles, Donald Trump has also bought a slice of the action; he plans to open a further 60 luxury villas in April.
You can see why. Canouan is the Carib-Indian name for "island of turtles" and it claims to have some of the best beaches in the region. It's just a short boat ride away from the marine park of Tobago Cays - a small collection of uninhabited islands with pristine sandy bays, horse-shoed by one of the world's largest coral reefs. It was here that Pirates of the Caribbean was shot; you can't get more picture-postcard than this.
Raffles Resort, Canouan Island, St Vincent & The Grenadines, West Indies (001 784 458 8000; www.raffles.canouanisland.com)
Time from international airport: Canouan is 100 miles east of Barbados and a few miles from Mustique. Cessna flights leave Barbados daily for the 40-minute hop.
The resort is in the process of acquiring a private jet that will be available for pick-ups from other destinations across the Grenadines.
There are 156 rooms and villas with either garden or ocean views. Eight of these are "personality suites" that offer a private plunge-pool and direct beach access.
If huge high-ceilinged rooms and a luggage space the size of a small double bedroom are your bag, then you'll be happy here. But if you like things a little more manageable then it's probably not for you. All guests are issued with a personal golf buggy for the duration of their stay to get around the sprawling resort. Don't bother trying to walk to breakfast as you'll just get stopped by staff wondering what you're doing on foot.
Virtually everything is imported - the bathroom sinks come from Mexico, Murano glass panels from Venice and wooden furniture from Malaysia, so the styling is a little schizophrenic and could benefit from a local touch. In fact, if it wasn't for the lovely Caribbean staff, you could be pretty much anywhere in the world. Having said that, the dining options are impressive and include Jambu's, an Asian-influenced all-day restaurant, the European gourmet of La Varenne and the fine Italian of La Piazza. There are also a couple of bars to choose from, including the Godhal Beach Bar which opens directly on to the beach, or the resort's signature bar, Bellini's, where you can sample a cracking Martini.
Freebies: in the bathroom there are delicious RafflesAmrita Spa products containing essential oils including eucalyptus and rosemary. Bottles of chilled water are delivered to your bedside each day, along with fresh flowers, fruit and a morning paper.
Keeping in touch: As well as dual-line telephone with computer, fax and internet connection there's a Phillips widescreen TV with 23 satellite channels, multilingual voicemail and a bedside CD-player. You can also use two PCs in the business centre.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Doubles start at $345 (£182) for a garden view. Abercrombie & Kent (0845 0700 614; www.abercrombiekent.co.uk) offers seven nights from £1,709 per person including British Airways flights from Gatwick to Barbados, transfers to Canouan and breakfast.
I'm not paying that: The Tamarind Beach Hotel and Yacht Club,
(001 784 458 8044; tamarind-beachhotel.com) a beautiful traditional Caribbean hideaway, has rooms that open directly on to a white sandy beach. Doubles from $280 (£147) with breakfast.
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