Just returned from a last minute break to Antigua leaving from Gatwick airport. As the holiday was last minute we only had a week to organise everything before flying off. The flying time is approximately 8 hours and 40 minutes from Gatwick airport via Virgin Atlantic direct flight. Upon arrival the airport was very chaotic and very hot; we opted for private transfers that only cost £20 per person return. We had a very big shuttle bus for just the two of us. The drive from Antigua airport to our hotel was only 20 minutes. The drive was very pleasant taking us through villages and farms with farm animals on each corner of the roads. All the houses are individual on large plots of land with a lot of trees and greenery not like the UK.
Arriving at the hotel Grand Pineapple Beach, we noticed that the reception is very old but staff are very welcoming and friendly; we were offered a very refreshing fruit punch (rum punch available as well) and checked in. We opted for a garden view room but were upgraded to an ocean view room at no extra cost. Upon arrival to the room the porter told us all about the facilities and where everything was situated, he didn’t even expect a tip!
The room was not at all as expected even for an ocean view room, it was very run down with dusty furniture and the tiles in the bathroom were dirty with grout missing. The sheets were dirty and smelly and air con was fairly loud.
As we arrived at the hotel for 3pm we set out to explore, everything is within easy reach of the ocean view rooms which is set on the hill and may not be suitable for the elderly or those with mobility problems. We headed to the beach and we were very disappointed! It is not at all like the pictures on the website, the sea is a little rough for our standard as I like to see my feet when I look down in the sea. You couldn’t see anything if you snorkelled as it was too murky but everyone there loved the beach! The food was ok not much choice with pretty much the same everyday and the same went for breakfast – nothing exciting. As this is an all inclusive hotel breakfast, lunch and dinner is all buffet style; we were very surprised when we were told you had to make reservations every single day. When you make them at reception they sometimes don’t pass it onto the restaurant and we are told that no reservations have been made, it is a very big inconvenience!
We only did one excursion and that was to Stingray City which is 5 minutes from the hotel (check the list of antigua excursions if you want). They came by speedboat and take you to the middle of the sea where it is calm and the water is crystal clear. There was only my husband and I and another couple on the boat. Upon arrival at Stingray City we were briefed of the dos and don’ts and were given snorkels. The stingrays are wild and venture out into the ocean but because they know their feeding time they come back when the boat arrives for us to swim with and feed them. We had pictures taken with them and hand fed them squid, we then got to snorkel and stroke them. They are very big but we never felt threatened or scared as we had guides with us in the water. It was the best excursion ever and I highly recommend it!
After arriving back from the excursion we were returned a few minutes from the hotel beach as the sea is calmer, we then realised the public beach was better than the hotel beach. We took bread with us every day to feed the fish that you could see at the water’s edge. The sea is much calmer at the far side of the public beach and snorkelling was amazing, apart from fish we also saw a baby sea snake, an octopus and jellyfish.
We went onto St John’s to get out money for the departure tax and were very surprised by how friendly the locals are. There isn’t much to see in St John’s and everything cost the same as the hotel shop apart from cigarettes. A box of 20 cigarettes cost $6 in the hotel and in St John’s duty free it cost $19 for 10 boxes of 20! Alcohol was also very cheap in duty free St John’s and we advise taking a private taxi and not a shuttle bus as the drivers are very friendly and tell you all about the island.
We had an 8pm flight so opted for a late checkout and got it for free; the going rate for the room is about $50. Even when we arranged this they didn’t make a note of it and we were given instructions for our check out at 12pm. So we had to go back to reception to sort it which they did hassle free but this could’ve been avoided!
Overall it was quite a disappointing holiday as we do enjoy pristine beaches with calm water. Antigua pictures are deceiving and holiday makers have a low standard when it comes to holidays abroad. Grand Pineapple is ok as it’s the only hotel on Long Bay beach and staff are fine but they are not so efficient. You would have thought that the caribbean would be much nicer than anywhere else but that’s not really the case. You cannot get the feeling from the pictures shown on most holiday places for the Caribbean. Some people have even booked their wedding there but Antigua itself doesn’t have the wow feeling unfortunately when compared to places like Mauritius or Maldives. I will not return to Antigua as there are far more beautiful islands in the world to explore so if you are on a budget this is for you if not then go somewhere else.