Saturday, April 02, 2005

Peter Island

Deadman's Bay, Peter Island, BVI
Posted by Hello

My wife and I, as well as my 16 y/o daughter and my 10 y/o son just spent 5 days at Peter Island. It was a great experience, but there were a few glitches. Still, we will likely return someday.

First, the high points. The resort is the only inhabitant of an 1800 acre island. Most of the island is accessible only by boat and the beaches at that end are rocky. The main portion of the resort is nestled between the marina and Deadman's Bay, the latter containing a spectacular white sand beach. We stayed in regular hotel rooms, which are housed in two-story A-frames fronting on the marina, and opening onto the pool area in the back. We requested an upgrade to a junior suite, which sits at the edge of Deadman's Bay, but these were filled. The rooms are spartan compared, say, to the cookie-cutter luxury of a Ritz Carlton, but at the high end of typical Caribbean accomidations. Our rooms were immaculate, even the bathrooms, which we have usually not found in this part of the world. Beds were comfortable, though nothing spectacular (i.e., not one of the miracle beds the larger luxury chains are advertising these days.) Linens were clean and comfortable. The room was stocked with sandals, a flashlight, and a CD of island music which could be played in the CD/clock radio. There was no TV. For those that cannot escape completely from the outside world, the room telephone has a dataport for Internet access, though it was quite expensive at $2 for connection and $.75 per minute. (There was a spare office that was hastily converted into an Internet room; it had a huge desk with two computers hooked to the resort's T1 line, but only one worked. There was no charge for this.)

There were two restaurants, Tradewinds, which was near the pool and our rooms, and Deadman's Bay Beach Bar and Grill right on the beach. We ate breakfast and dinner each day at the Tradewinds, and had lunch most days at Deadmans. Breakfast included a wonderful Caribbean buffet with an omlette station, and there was ala carte available as well. Lunch at Deadmans usually had a buffet as well with various salads and entrees. Dinner at Tradewinds was always excellent, with the best food we have had in the Caribbean. Service was mostly superb, especially after our waitress, Maxine, took us under her wing. Under the American plan, all food is included, but alcohol is not, nor are the obligatory beach-side smoothies or even Cokes. The rooms are initially stocked with 6 sodas, two bottles of water, and two beers; they are supposed to be restocked during one's stay, but ours never were. Bottled water sometimes was free, and sometimes was not, but after a day we drank tap water, and there were no ill effects from doing so.

There is no nightlife at all, and that was fine. There was usually live music at dinner however. While the resort "discourages" children, at least half the guests had children with them, and this did not detract in the least from the ambience. We spent our days swimming, snorkeling, resting, eating, and hiking. A good time if that's what you expect to be doing. There are several miles of hiking trails, with one trail leading to a wonderful sunset view, and another to White Bay beach, a spectacular but secluded stretch of white sand and blue water. Snorkeling off the beaches was disappointing, but there were some interesting features here and there, with the best snorkeling actually off of Deadman's rather than White Bay as we had been told. We also chartered a deep-sea fishing boat for our last day there ($800/4hrs), and I caught a 65 pound mahi mahi!

And now, the "glitches".... Service was generally very good, but there was something lacking giving the rather high price of the resort and the exclusive reputation. The resort can hold a maximum of 100 guests, but I never got the feeling that any of the staff (beyond Maxine, that is) even knew our names. There was just no personal touch. I compare this to the Concierge-level service at a Ritz Carlton (which comes out similarly priced), where we were immediately made to feel totally at home. We had phoned the resort prior to arriving to warn them about my daughter's shellfish allergy, and we were assured that all restaurants would be alerted. This didn't happen and we had to remind everyone at virtually every meal to help us with food precautions for her. At one point, a different waitress at Tradewinds (not Maxine!) didn't seem to even comprehend what I was requesting, and I had to ask to speak to the chef (who was very understanding as well as a fantastic chef!) This exemplifies some of the problem...many members of the staff do not speak English as well as some of the others. I am usually good with accents and gently making myself understood (I try not to be a stereotypical American tourist!), but there were times I just couldn't get through. Some of the other glitches (and they were minor) relate to this, I think. We had ordered drinks to be delivered to us at the sunset lookout point, but the message did not get through. We had lunch packed for the deep-sea fishing expedition, but while there were four full set-ups with pasta salad and fruit, there was no cutlery, and two of four sandwiches never made it to the lunch bag.

Peter Island is a haven for yachters, and they were all over the place, some with children that were, ummmm, less well-behaved than the resort guests. They would crowd the bar at lunchtime. This was, however, a minor irritation.

Perhaps the most disappointing, or maybe just annoying, problem involved the attitude of the entire resort about the Spa. It is a beautiful building, but the services are very pricey, and you can't go in if you don't purchase a massage or some such thing. I was not going to spend $130 or so for my 10 year old to get a massage. The VERY WORST part of all this is that the spa has taken over Big Reef Bay, one of the most picturesque beaches on Peter Island, and those of us not using the spa are not allowed. Frankly, this might violate the laws of the British Virgin Islands, which declare all beaches public. Spa personel were minimally apologetic when tellling us we could not walk on the beach, and frankly the attitude left us with a rather bitter taste overall. I would urge the management (Sandra and Tom) in the strongest possible terms to reverse this policy. I don't know who they are trying to appeal to with this resort within a resort mentality, but it is generally not a good idea to shove aside part of your clientelle to appeal to a smaller subsegment.

So, the Peter Island experience is a good one, though with a few glitches. Some are just part of a Caribbean vacation. I prefered Peter Island to Caneel Bay, although my wife feels the opposite. It is definately more upscale than Bitter End, and has overall better service. We will probably try some other resorts, such as Little Dix, but I do expect to return to Peter Island someday.

No comments :