Fiona Sanderson escaped to the Caribbean to stay in two hotels and experience a little romance….
An invitation to escape the grey English skies in the depths of Winter and fly to the Caribbean island of St. Lucia to stay at the Rendezvous Resort was an invitation not to be turned down! I was also intrigued to see whether the world’s first couples-only, all-inclusive boutique resort in the Caribbean really lived up to its name as “the ultimate setting for romance – a place to re-discover life’s pleasures together in an intimate and elegant beach-front setting.” As a single guest journalist with images of commercially romantic Valentine’s cards on my mind, I was bound to be a little skeptical. But I was not to be disappointed….
Flying by helicopter over the lush rainforest is very exciting, and when you arrive at the airstrip, your senses are bombarded with the smells and sounds of an island that’s truly alive. The Rendezvous is only moments away and is situated within a seven-acre tropical garden with a two-mile stretch of white sandy beach on St. Lucia’s north-west coast. The transportation away from city life had already begun!
Rendezvous is owned and operated by the Barnard family, who took the decision to open their St. Lucian family home as a hotel over 40 years ago. Extensively refurbished in 2009, Rendezvous has 100 guestrooms, including 18 new Verandah Suites, 8 Seaside Suites and 21 Luxury Ocean Front Rooms. My room overlooked the sea with a verandah, extra large bed, fridge, air conditioning and plenty of room to hideaway with your partner at any time of the day. The décor as in the rest of the hotel was homely, comfortable and highly relaxing. No marble or fussy interiors pretending to be 7 star luxury here, as so often seen in other parts of the Caribbean. The gardens were spectacular, particularly around the giant samon tree where many of their wedding guests are photographed.
With many years experience, the staff have finely tuned the ultimate wedding package and will take care of the arrangements every step of the way, with pre-travel planning, personal onsite wedding planner, marriage document preparation, champagne breakfast, bouquets, wedding cakes, reception, specially designed wedding menus and a couple’s massage, as well as a decorated honeymoon room. The whole experience seems an ideal opportunity to escape the stress of organising your own wedding at home. My fellow guests and I were treated to the “romantic wedding dinner on the beach” with candles, fine wines and local cuisine in a stunning sea-front setting. A must, even if you are not getting married! The following day, I talked to a new bride who was lying on a double sunbed with her husband and a cocktail in her hand, who said that if wedding bliss was possible, this was it! Rendezvous has recently introduced their new wedding packages. Whilst the Rendezvous Romance wedding is complimentary with your stay, if you prefer, you may choose from the “Premium Ever After” Collection with beautifully themed wedding concepts, including “Island Romance,” where you will whisked off to be married on a private island. From a sunset cruise along the St. Lucian coastline to the pampering couple’s massages, the customised collections offer tailored experiences to personalise each couple’s special celebration.
For me, a huge plus was the fact that this resort is all-inclusive, offering all meals and drinks, which means you don’t have to think about the cost (or even what you are ordering!). The champagne bar always seemed to be overflowing but my friends and I preferred the assortment of Caribbean cocktails. For the more ambitious, you can learn the art of “mixology.”
Most of the meals are served from the buffet on the open Terrace Restaurant overlooking the ocean and the food was themed nightly, offering beach barbeque and Caribbean menus. As an alternative, try Trysting Place, the resort’s air-conditioned fine dining restaurant serving a French à la carte menu with a West Indian twist and all wine included. Note that the dress code is smart and reservations are required. Each night in the hotel, a wide variety of live entertainment is provided on the terrace – limbo dancing, fire-eating, romantic smooching and the traditional steel band. Pretty much everything is thought of, down to the “evening love notes which are placed on your pillow.”
After a few days, I was pretty chilled, having tried out a range of body and beauty treatments, including a ginger and lime body scrub and the cooling stone body and facial therapy. The Spa in the Water Garden features three treatment rooms, including a couples’ massage suite. The luxury treatments use Elemis products and St. Lucian organic oils, herbs and flowers. All I wanted to do afterwards was laze on the beach!
The more energetic of us, however, did try out all the other activities which were on offer, including an extensive range of water and land sports such as archery, windsurfing, water-skiing and scuba boat dives with personalised instruction, unlimited tennis with the on-site tennis coach and of course, beach volleyball and Calypso dance classes.
I was particularly impressed with fitness expert Pauline, who pushed me through my paces in yoga and tai-chi in the fully equipped gym. I think she had genuinely managed to improve all our postures by the end of the week. This individual attention and friendliness is something that is a real plus point and a real credit to the management and owners. Having traveled all over the world and stayed in many hotels from high-end luxury to affordable, a measure of real luxury is when the staff and service are impeccable. This hotel really has all the essential ingredients to smooth away the cracks of city life, without feeling that you have to be on show all the time. And for couples, all the encouragement is placed in front of you to soak up a little sample of “Caribbean spice” and pep up your romance!
I was able to again appreciate the management’s level of service when I visited the family’s other hotel, TheBodyHoliday, on the Northwest tip of the island (voted Best Destination Spa In The World at the Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Travel Awards 2011, and Best Spa In The Caribbean at the 2013 Spafinder Wellness 365™ Readers’ Choice Country Awards). Completely different to the Rendezvous, it sits directly on Cariblue’s crescent beach and is literally a temple to body fanatics, offering every kind of treatment that you can think of! Famed for its unique approach to health, fitness and wellbeing, they make a bold promise: “Give us your body for a week, and we’ll give you back your mind.” I only stayed for two days, but even in such a short space of time, they certainly managed to achieve that!
There are thirty treatments rooms and fitness classes of every type are set high up in the beautiful gardens above the hotel. Literally, a temple-style building dedicated entirely to your health, beauty and fitness. But the piece de résistance of the hotel is the private Hammam, featuring a marble-slab heated massage bed and the steam room with mosaic curved bench and rain-head shower, offering guests a unique, in-room spa experience in their very own exclusive space.
With its range of treatments, therapies and activities, this 155 room resort offers everything from scuba diving to spinning classes, Aurvedic treatments to Reiki. Unlike the Rendezvous, they also offer Family Bootcamps for family bonding and fitness, to suit all ages between June and September.
For me, however, the highlight was the food in the resort’s restaurants, which offered well-cooked, fresh ingredients, served in lovely surroundings. The award-winning TAO restaurant is a fine-dining, formal dress affair, serving some of the most delectable dishes I have tasted. Cariblue restaurant is situated right on the beach, offering an inclusive tasting menu. Try the blackened Mahi Mahi, grilled steak with passion fruit aioli, or the local snapper cubes escovitch with lemon. All delicious!
After 40 years running hotels, the Barnard family really has found the right ingredients! I would spoil yourself and try both hotels.
Rendezvous, Malabar Beach, PO Box 190, Castries, St. Lucia, West Indies
Phone: +758 457 7900 or +758 452 4211
Fax: +758 452 7419
In the UK & Europe: For bookings, reservations and rates, please call your tour operator or contact Clear Marketing International on +44 (0) 845 867 7921 or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
TheBodyHoliday, Cariblue Beach, Cap Estate, PO Box 437, Castries, Saint Lucia, West Indies
Phone: +1(758) 457-7800
Fax: +1 (758) 450-0171
In the UK and Europe: For bookings, reservations and rates, please call +44 (0) 203 096 1605.
For those venturing out to visit the island and the World Heritage Site of the Pitons Volcano (and mud baths), try Cosol Tours as they really look after you.
Phone: +1 (758) 719 6697