Ask any still-stylish 55-year-old and they’ll tell you: looking good takes work. And the same applies to Caribbean resorts “of a certain age,” where sun, sea, sand and the passage of time inevitably take their toll, turning dazzling into dated. But Curtain Bluff, the Antigua all-inclusive resort that’s been around since 1962, has attempted to beat back Father Time with a top-to-toe overhaul that debuted this winter.
The renovation — the largest since the family-owned resort opened 56 years ago — extended to all the common areas beyond its 72 suites, taking six months and $13 million to complete. So do the changes become the island’s undisputed grand dame? We recently checked in to check them out.
The Porte Cochere
First impressions count, and Curtain Bluff’s new entryway appropriately sets the tone for a vacation that is both laid back yet luxurious. The driveway is now covered and illuminated with chandeliers; terracotta tile on the steps has been replaced with off-white Turkish stone; and the concierge counter has been swapped for desks that offer for a more personalized feel.
Make no mistake: This plantation-style breakfast and dinner venue was always a looker, with an open-air design centered around a sprawling centuries-old tamarind tree. But now its been given a facelift, with Turkish stone replacing terracotta floor tile; new furniture and lighting; and an updated off-white color scheme that offers a lovely contrast to the vibrant colors of the tropical gardens just beyond the courtyard.
Adjacent to the Sugar Mill Bar and Tamarind Tree is the Library, a relaxing spot that’s Curtain Bluff’s social center. Guests come here to read the resort’s selection of international newspapers (yes, they’re old-school like that); chat with friends; and for afternoon tea, served daily promptly at 4:00 p.m. And now the meeting point has gone mod, with a new neutral color scheme punctuated with pops of teal and blue prints. New furniture is relaxed yet sophisticated, just like the resort.
Belly up to this bar, and the first thing you’ll likely notice is that 30 years’ worth of dark varnish has been painstakingly stripped from the countertop, revealing the beauty of its decades-old whorls and natural markings. A combination of new chairs and stools, and illuminated floating wall shelves give the spot a more open and modern feel, and now that the drop ceiling has been removed, guests can fully appreciate the beauty of the former mill’s peaked roof.
The first time we visited Curtain Bluff we were surprised that we weren’t offered a room key. Sure, they were available upon request, but given the resort’s carefully cultivated homey feel and the in-room safes for our valuables, walking around keyless soon felt perfectly natural. The resort introduced modern credit card-type keys in 2014, and now guests also have the option of high-tech RFID rubber bracelets, which you simply wave in front of a sensor near the handle to unlock your room door. And because you wear them on your wrist the keys are never lost in the depths of your beach bag.
Among Curtain Bluff’s amenities is access to not just one but a pair of beaches: “Surf Beach” on the Atlantic side of the resort’s peninsula, is a wildly beautiful ¼-mile sweep with buoyant waters, while “Calm Beach” on the Caribbean side is (you guessed it) more calm and bordered by scores of coconut palms. And now there’s a new bonus on both strands. Surf Beach has a pair of curtain-draped Bali beds, perfectly placed for watching the sunrise. And on Calm Beach, concierges proffer scented cold towels and fetch fruity cocktails while you soak up the sun.