Walking into the Bay Gardens Resort & Spa, you immediately know one thing: You're on vacation. One of St. Lucia's premiere luxury resorts, Bay Gardens Resort is situated on lovely Rodney Bay, not far from the capitol city of Castries, but in a world all of its own. If you're planning to visit St. Lucia, Bay Gardens Resort should be on the top of your list of accomodations for a fun family vacation, romantic getaway, or a honeymoon trip for memories that will last longer than most marriages.
Step inside, where you'll be greeted by the friendly desk staff, a huge tropical flower arrangement (more like a giant, colorful bush), photos of the flora and fauna of the island, comfy wicker furniture, a gift shop stuffed with island memorabilia and gear, and a delicious island breeze wafting through, and you will quickly realize that it's exactly the way a tropical vacation ought to be. In fact, it would be nice if life were like this all the time. Ever.
I was part of a trio of bloggers and journalists invited to visit Bay Gardens hotels last week as part of a press familiarization tour. I am not sure how I got so lucky as to be invited, but I'm not one to look a gift horse or a trip to a luxury resort in the mouth, so there I was, a little dazed and confused from the flight, but excited nonetheless. We were met at the airport by Richard, Activities Manager and Jack-of-All-Trades for the hotel. Richard had us fill out cards in the van so we didn't need to check-in, gave us our keys so we could go directly to our rooms when we arrived. He had icy cold bottles of water and fruit for the 1 hour drive to the hotel, located on the opposite end of the island from the airport. Our friendly driver, Charles, stopped along the way to let us stretch our legs and enjoy the scenic views, and gave a running commentary of what we were seeing along the way.
Bay Gardens Resort is a 4-star, all-suite luxury resort that is part of a trio of hotels owned and operated by the Destang Family, but this is no mom-and-pop operation. The Destangs are local St. Lucian's with a long history of investment and involvement in St. Lucian business enterprise. Mrs. Destang was honored by Queen Elizabeth II and named as an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) for her service to the tourism industry, an honor slightly below Knighthood. St. Lucia is a British Commonwealth and very few people have this distinction. After an hour or two at any of the Bay Gardens properties, you understand why these hotels would be fit for a queen.
Upon arrival, I was escorted up to my room, a large one-bedroom suite that would have fit a family of four or five comfortably. The suite featured a full kitchen, complete with stove, full-size refridgerator, and all the equipment you would need for an extended stay. I was very pleased to find a blender, which I thought would be great for tropical smoothies for kids, or adult beverages with some local rum and freshly squeezed lime. It must be margarita time somewhere, right?
Both of the main rooms of the suite rooms were adorned with flowers, including two swans sculpted out of bath towels. There were flowers in the enormous bathroom as well, offering a sweet and romantic touch, as well as a delicate fragrance throughout the room. The flowers are grown all over the property, and fit well with the decor and ambience of the rooms.
The bathroom was larger than my livingroom at home, and had a complicated shower with jet-sprays, a full bathtub, and twin sinks. I wasn't sure how to work the jet-spray system, and found myself pushing random buttons until one of them squirted me in the face. I was glad no one was around to see this, although I thought it must have looked like some bit out of a Three Stooges movie when I got shot in the nose by the water. The only suggestion I would have for the hotel would be to provide some kind of instruction sheet, for those of us who only have two settings on our showers at home: "on" and "off". I think I would have had a most excellent shower massage if I'd known how to work it properly.
I had an ocean view room (a little pricier than garden or pool views, but SO worth it). I enjoyed sitting on the balcony in the morning, cup of coffee in hand, gazing out over the sailboats moored in Rodney Bay. It was a perfect escape from my otherwise stressful life of full-time work, child care, volunteering, writing, and whatever other projects I have going on at the moment. It was wonderful to just sit in a quiet place, overlooking a peaceful bay, and dream a little. The staff at Bay Gardens Resort is completely committed to customer service and hospitality. When I slept through my wake-up call, I heard a persisting knocking on the door. I thought it was housekeeping, but when I finally answered, it was the bellman. He said the front desk had tried to call me several times, and when I didn't answer, they were concerned that the phone was not working (more like, the bed was so comfy I was in a coma). I thanked him for his concern, but was a little embarassed that I hadn't heard the phone ringing.
It's tempting to want to just stay in your room at Bay Gardens, what with the fancy jet sprays, gourmet kitchen, room service, flat-screen TVs, gorgeous view and all. If you happen to venture out, there is quite a bit to do at the resort, including a full menu of water activities (boating, snorkeling, swimming, fishing), a fabulous round pool with hot tub, a full-service spa, and two excellent restaurants featuring international and local fare. Daily activities led by our friend Richard include yoga, Tai Chi, water aerobics, and personal training. Check the daily activities board to find out what's available on any given day, depending on the weather and guest interest.
If you're even more adventurous and want to venture off the property, a quick boat trip across Rodney Bay will take you to Pigeon Island for a lovely and educational hike up to an old British fort with a spectacular view, or glide across the sky on a parasailing trip among the frigate birds. Walk out the front door of the resort and find a plethora of restaurants to suit any palate, including the fanciest Domino's Pizza I have ever encountered anywhere else in the world. There's even a locally-owned coffee shop with Starbucks-ian lettering, if you need your daily fix of caffeinated beverages.
Bay Gardens Resort is a perfect place for families with kids of all ages. They offer babysitting provided by the staff, so all the sitters are vetted and part of the Bay Gardens family. The beach next to the hotel offers first-come-first serve lounge chairs, shady trees, and umbrellas to help you keep the little ones from roasting. Teens and tweens will love the water activities, including a rubber raft pulled by a speed boat that darts around the bay and a swim-up trampoline. There are kids programs available when there are enough kids on the property, so ask when you arrive what might be available.
Ready to go? Right now, Bay Gardens Resort is offering some fantastic summer rates, with as much as 70% off peak rates. Book now through their website and enjoy all the comforts of home (if you happen to live in a luxurious mansion) for a fraction of the normal price. Normally, during peak season a full suite at Bay Garden Resort runs about $250-$400/night or $200/night for a deluxe room. You can add on an all-inclusive meal plan, or just breakfast, for an additional charge.
Bay Gardens Resort also participates in Interval International's timeshare exchange program. I'm plotting to cash in our bi-annual week in Kauai for a trip back to Bay Gardens soon. I can't wait to show it to my family.
Disclosure: Airfare and accommodations for my trip to St. Lucia were paid for by Bay Gardens. I did not receive any additional financial incentive or compensation for writing this post. All opinions expressed are my own, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Bay Gardens Resorts.
Photos: Copyright Glennia Campbell/The Silent I. All Rights Reserved.