It is such a shame that I'm having to rate Sugar Ridge so low because there is so much right with the place; however a substantial problem we encountered and the lack of response from the hotel in dealing with the situation has left me feeling really disappointed and returning to Blighty feeling pretty let down.
Starting with the positives - of which there are many - the location is absolutely lovely. We were enticed by the fact that the hotel is not on the beach, instead it's nestled in the hills, with the rooms spread out around the grounds, all offering decent views to the bay, Jolly Harbour and beyond. The rooms are great; all of the amenities you'd need, a good size, stylish and the terraces - whether with or without plunge pool - are a nice asset. Staff are by and large extremely warm and friendly and those who appeared to be in charge of the various areas seemed to really strive to provide a good service. We read with interest that some reviewers felt that the staff let the place down; we certainly felt to the contrary and drew conclusions that, although some members were quieter and less forthcoming than others, this was perhaps simply a personality thing, rather than an unwillingness to assist. And hey, don't we come to holiday in the Caribbean for a slower, more relaxed pace of life, to escape busy day-to-day lives?!
Food in both restaurants - the Sugar Club and Carmichael's - was of a really good standard and we felt the all inclusive was definitely the best value plan, as we saw the receipts each day! If I had to offer some constructive feedback, I'd suggest a little more variation in the menus as, after nearly two weeks you do begin to get slight food fatigue!
Carmichael's was our favourite part of the hotel to relax by day and night, with beautiful views, a gorgeous infinity pool and a nice little bar with cocktails served up by Clifford. The hotel was pretty quiet during our stay, so the infinity pool was often deserted, giving you a feeling of being in your own secluded villa in the hills.
Our holiday package included a couples' back, neck and shoulder massage and, although this was the only treatment we took in the Aveda spa, the experience was lovely and relaxing. I'm ashamed to say that we didn't use the gym, but it looked pretty impressive from the outside!
And so to the huge blot on the landscape. (Apologies that this is rather long!)
The fact that the hotel was not situated on a beach was one of the things that drew us to Sugar Ridge. The idea of a shuttle that took you to a selection of three beaches throughout the day seemed like a great idea and a good way of ensuring we saw more of the island. It's certainly something the hotel widely promotes.
We first visited Turner's beach which was a very nice location, but the service at the bar wasn't the smiley, happy experience we'd become accustomed to at Sugar Ridge. We visited the Nest the following day, which was a beautiful location, with calm turquoise waters and silky sand. We'd been given the heads up from other guests that the shuttle driver 'preferred' to take you to these two beaches, but on the third day, we requested to be taken to the third location, Gibsons, which is further along from Turners. The shuttle driver told us the beach was closed. We persevered (due to the heads up we'd received) and said we'd still like to take a look - at which point he became a little confrontational and asked us why we didn't believe him, saying we were calling him a liar. We had no choice on this day but to be taken to Turner's, but my husband and another guest took a walk to Gibson's once there, to check things out. They were greeted by the owners and told that, although they were doing a few small improvements, they would always open whenever guests wanted to come. We arranged to visit a couple of days later.
On the arranged day, we once again requested to be taken to Turners, when the driver once again stated that it was closed. Our new friends insisted that we'd been invited down by the owners, at which point, the shuttle driver became pretty angry at us for wanting to go there. It transpired from his ranting that he'd had a personal fall-out with the manager there and refused to take guests to the beach because of this. We calmly let him get his ranting out, not wanting to antagonise the situation, but throughout the journey he continued to let his disappointment at us be known, for still wanting to visit the beach.
Unfortunately for him, the service here was fantastic and, in our opinion, Gibsons is by far the best beach experience of the three locations offered. Food was fantastic, sunbeds were cushioned (unlike the other two) and we felt the team there could not do enough for us. They seemed genuinely pleased for the custom.
On the next occasion we requested to visit, we received exactly the same behaviour from the shuttle driver. By this point, I was starting to dread the confrontations each morning, hating any conflict with this man and not quite understanding why he wanted to take his anger out on us. My husband and our new friends tried to explain to the driver that we did not want to get involved in his personal issues, but he insisted that we were making ourselves involved by wanting to visit this beach. He made some really accusatory comments on this trip, of which I won't repeat, by which point we decided we needed to inform the hotel, as this was genuinely starting to spoil our stay.
We hoped to bring up the issue with the hotel manager, Keith, but he was not on the island during the latter part of our trip - in fact, we saw him just the once on our first night, for a very brief 'hello', as he did the rounds at the weekly cocktail party.
On the third occasion in the two weeks, that we requested to visit Gibson's, the shuttle driver simply gave us a dirty look, as he let us in to the vehicle. He then drove extremely erratically, at much higher speed than usual, braking at the last minute and scared the life out of me. I was physically shaking when I arrived and the other couple we were with were equally shocked. This time, we'd had enough and immediately called the hotel to report what had just happened. We spoke with Marcia who, although sympathetic and said it would be dealt with, we heard no more from.
This was our final experience of the hotel shuttle and the last we heard from the hotel on the subject. We decided that for the last few days of our holiday we would use a taxi - at our expense - and wanted nothing more to do with the shuttle service. We expected hotel management to want to personally discuss the matter with us, but the invitation didn't come. There seemed to be nobody around who wanted to resolve the matter.
I'm annoyed at myself for letting these recurring experiences stress me out when we'd spent a lot of money to come and stay at this hotel for our one big holiday of the year. But I'm disappointed that the actions of one individual spoiled our day-to-day enjoyment of the holiday. To wake up and dread the inevitable conflict was, I'm sure you will appreciate, not an ideal scenario when on holiday, but nor was being dictated to on where we could and could not go because of personal issues. The hotel offers a service to three beaches, but because of one individual, most of the guests were unable to experience them all. We actually came across several guests during our stay who either commented that they were too scared to get on the wrong side of the shuttle driver, or were waiting for him to have his day off, to go to Gibsons! We were genuinely upset that one individual seemed to take such offence at us for simply wanting to visit a beach that the hotel offers a service at.
However, what disappoints us perhaps the most is the lack of personal acknowledgment by hotel management at what we'd experienced. I'm sure the manager would say that had he been on the island at the time, the matter would have been dealt with differently. However, we sat on our concerns for quite a few days to begin with, because we could not locate him, or any other staff member that we felt would address the issue. We also did not want to make a fuss unduly. And when we finally did, we may as well not have bothered.
It's therefore sad that I'm resorting to having to vent my frustration and upset on Tripadvisor, but I really do hope the owner is considering doing something about the situation. It is completely unacceptable that this should happen once, but to continue to overshadow our stay is pretty unbelievable. As previously stated, I really didn't want to rate Sugar Ridge so low; this hotel had so much potential to offer us an altogether more positive experience, but I do hope that those in charge will sit up and listen. As things stand, I would never contemplate returning, nor recommending it to others, which is a huge shame.
- Also Known As:
- Sugar Ridge Hotel Jolly Harbour
- Sugar Ridge Hotel
- Sugar Ridge Antigua/Jolly Harbour
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Sugar Ridge is Antigua’s most anticipated resort, opened in December 2009. Perched upon its namesake hillside bordered with sugar cane and lush flora and fauna, the resort features 60 rooms that wrap around the property, featuring panoramic views to the south and west of palm-lined beaches and the turquoise Caribbean Sea, plus the neighboring islands of Redonda, St. Kitts and Nevis. Sugar Ridge entertains guests with three swimming pools, the island’s first-ever Aveda Concept Spa. ... more less
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