Oh no, another day in paradise

Elizabeth Heathcote forgets her middle-class conscience and revels in St Lucian luxury

St Lucia is stunningly beautiful. I know this because I saw it from the minibus as we drove to the hotel from the airport, from one end of the island to the other. I made notes: reggae party on the beach; banana grove; fishing village; rain forest; mountain village; mountain forest. Castries, the capital, cascading down the hillside in pink and green; destitute-looking shacks to remind you you're in the developing world.

"Are we there yet?" Nicola had spent the journey behind a magazine, fed- up because the drive was cutting into our beach time, but now she looked up, just in time to see the shacks. We both peered at them for a moment, and then at each other, and I went to open my mouth but she frowned. "We've got a week," she said. "No politics, no economics, nothing like that, all right?"

Nicola's my oldest friend but we live hundreds of miles apart, so once a year or so we go on holiday to catch up. Like an old couple we know what we like and that's an all-inclusive resort in the Caribbean, one of those places where you don't have to pay for anything and you never leave the compound. The very notion will strike terror into the heart of any "traveller" and it's true that "difference" and "culture" don't come into it - in fact that's exactly what you're avoiding - but believe me, after a long winter bent over a keyboard, there is little more relaxing than this.

An all-inclusive resort is a microcosm, a sanitised parallel universe where going abroad involves no stress because it involves no difficulty, where everyone's pleasant and speaks your language and whatever you desire will be yours. It's the adult version of getting locked in a sweet shop. And Nicola, as usual, is right - if you're going to do it and pay pounds 1,300 a week for the privilege, you may as well leave your middle-class conscience at the gate.

This year we'd chosen Le Sport, famed on the all-inclusive circuit for its health spa and wide array of sporting activities. As the gate came down behind us, our finely tuned antennae checked out the essentials - if you're going to be here 24 hours a day then it's crucial that these are in place - but we were soon reassured. This is the tick list: 1) Room/hotel buildings a delight, low rise, pretty, quiet. Pools (three), bars and other facilities promising. 2) Beach uncrowded, adequate number of sunbeds, has shade. Not too far from room or restaurant. 3) Location picturesque. Also remote, therefore away from hawkers and hasslers. 4) Food fantastic. Breakfast and lunch are buffet-style, therefore eat-as-much-as-you-like. This is very good. Dinner is a la carte but not too formal. Light options available. A second restaurant serving fantastic Pacific rim food for twice-a-week dinner variation. 5) Classy fellow travellers. Too expensive for the prop-me- up-at-the-bar-until-I-swing-at-you-or-fall-over category of all-inclusive client.

The next morning, after a breakfast of fruit, pancakes, bacon, eggs and muffins, Nicola installed herself on a sunbed with a book and refused to budge until Wednesday. It fell to me to investigate. I started out with the board listing the day's activities: tennis, golf, cycling, fencing, archery, volleyball, table tennis, Caribbean dance, mountain walks, gym and all the usual classes, Tai Chi, aqua-aerobics, scuba-diving, wind- surfing, water-skiing, snorkelling, sailing - with free tuition available in everything. I returned exhausted to the beach where I drifted into a gentle snooze.

I was disturbed by movement on my left. A young man, one of the staff of "bodyguards" paid to see you through activities and make you generally happy, had placed a yellow flag by my side. I squinted up at him. "What's that for?" "Stick it in the sand if you want a drink," he said. "One of the waiters will come and serve you." I drifted off again, my life complete.

I was woken an hour later, this time by Nicola. We were due up at the Oasis, the monastic treatment centre, for the spa part of our holiday. I've not had a lot of experience of these things but Nicola has and she assured me that the treatments compared favourably with top-notch health farms in Britain. We were allocated our schedules for the week - one massage and one treatment per day, although you can request more, which you'll get free of charge. I staggered from a full-body Swedish massage into a seaweed wrap (where I was painted with seaweed then wrapped like a sausage in a thermal blanket to sweat out the toxins) while Nicola had a head and scalp massage and gruelling sea-salt rub-down, and in this way we worked up a healthy appetite for lunch. And so it went on.

Holiday friends are part of the all-inclusive experience and by day three we'd settled in with a gang: Chris and Lizzie in their forties from Bromley; Jack and Suzie in their fifties from New Jersey. We were united by shared interests (lying on the beach, eating lunch, that sort of thing) and we were almost perfectly representative of the client profile: evenly split between British and American, mostly couples, varied ages. This is typical for all-inclusives but, unusually, Le Sport attracts a lot of unescorted women who come on their own or with friends.

Neil, an American charmer with deep, liquid eyes, had stumbled across this fact and had become a regular there. Which would have been great entertainment for the ladies except, we discovered by chance, he was married with a family back home. Still he provided our entertainment - we got to watch him work his way shamelessly through the female population - until one night it was our turn. He'd chosen a bad moment - Nicola and I had skipped dinner to get drunk on free sea breezes, and sisterly solidarity was running high.

"Does your wife know what you're up to Neil?"

"Of course. We're soulmates, she knows everything about me."

"So you haven't told her then?"

"We're so close it's not possible that she doesn't know."

Yeah right.

Apart from Neil and the honeymooners and despite the number of young women and handsome bodyguards, sex didn't seem to be that high on anyone's agenda. The single thirtysomething women I chatted to were either taking a holiday from complicated romantic lives or just couldn't be bothered. I was, frankly, more interested in the food, but for the sake of this article I did a little research and ladies, if you're looking for a bit of romance, you're unlikely to be disappointed. And that's enough of that.

So the week wore on. There were dramas of course - one day we woke up and it was cloudy; another day Nicola got burnt and had to cover the appropriate parts to sunbathe through it, that sort of thing - but generally we just got fatter, smoother of skin and more relaxed.

The last day, as the gang sat down to dinner, there was melancholy in the air. Lizzie stared at her menu. "I just can't do it anymore," she said disconsolately. "I want a boiled egg." We all nodded. But had they enjoyed it? Had it been worth the money? "Definitely," said Chris, an all-inclusive veteran. "You could work up a bar bill of half the cost of this holiday in a week in a four-star hotel." Jack nodded knowingly. The activities and treatments had gone down well. "It gives you a focus," said Chris, who'd tried everything from the mountain walks to meditation. "It gives me a chance to read my book," said Lizzie. "I'm getting more dessert," said Nicola. The rest of us followed.

ST LUCIA

GETTING THERE

Virgin Atlantic direct to St Lucia from Gatwick. The flight takes nearly nine hours and costs from pounds 301, plus tax (tel: 01293 747747).

FURTHER INFORMATION

Le Sport is on the north-west tip of St Lucia, close to the tourist centre of Rodney Bay. Brochure price for a week through Tropical Places starts from pounds 1,299; two weeks from pounds 2,099 (tel: 01342 825123). The price includes flights and transfers, all meals, unlimited drinks including house wine and premium brand spirits, treatments in the spa (there are optional extras, such as reflexology, at an additional charge), plus all sporting activities listed in the feature. Nightly entertainment - some of it quite good - is included, but most of the action after dark takes place in the piano bar, which stays open until the last customer goes to bed. Excursions around the island are available at extra cost, and car hire is available.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Rebel, rebel: Vivienne Westwood in her baroque-influenced early-Nineties designs
fashionWhy we mustn't take Dame Vivienne Westwood for granted
News
The police have been criticised in a raid on the luxury home of Sir Cliff Richard
people
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
tvStrictly presenter returns to screens after Halloween accident
News
Boxing promoter Kellie Maloney, formerly known as Frank Maloney, entered the 2014 Celebrity Big Brother house
people
Sport
Dwight Gayle (left) celebrates making it 1-1 with Crystal Palace captain Mile Jedinak
premier leagueReds falter to humbling defeat
Sport
Harry Kane
premier leagueLive minute-by-minute coverage
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Arts and Entertainment
Morgana Robinson
arts + entsIt is not easy interviewing Morgana Robinson. Here's why...
News
video
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Arts and Entertainment
Jerry Hall (Hand out press photograph provided by jackstanley@theambassadors.com)
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Excellent opportunities are available for par...

    Investigo: IT Auditor

    £60000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits : Investigo: A global leading travel busi...

    Recruitment Genius: Chef De Partie x 2

    £16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This charming and contemporary ...

    Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor - OTE £20,000 Uncapped

    £15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Day In a Page

    Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

    Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

    Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
    Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

    The last Christians in Iraq

    After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
    Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Britain braced for Black Friday
    Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

    From America's dad to date-rape drugs

    Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

    The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
    Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
    Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

    Flogging vlogging

    First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

    US channels wage comedy star wars
    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

    When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
    Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

    Look what's mushrooming now!

    Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
    Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

    More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

    The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

    Oeuf quake

    Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
    Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

    Terry Venables column

    Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
    Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

    Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

    Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin