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“Lovely relaxing holiday fantastic beach”

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Starfish Jolly Beach Resort
Ranked #2 of 3 Hotels in Bolans
Reviewed 2 June 2014

Just returned from a weeks stay at jolly beach and seen the last couple of reviews so wanted to put a few things across ... For 35 dollars each we easily arranged a late check out & enjoyed all the facilities including all inclusive until we left at 6 .30 def work extra to make most of last day and late flight.... Always use hotel safe we did no problem & bags left whilst enjoying sea perfectly safe.
Staff all friendly especially bar staff & Neil nothing was ever too much trouble. Food for all inclusive good and enjoyed & made most of the 3 lovely extra restaurants make sure you pre book loved Lydia's on the beach.
Did couple of trips ,yes quite expensive but Creole cruise worth doing you get to see island ,lobster lunch ,and a spot of snorkelling,if want a cheap trip to St Johns capital of Antigua catch local bus worked out about 80p and good experience & fun.
Beach is absolutely lovely a joy to walk on every day.
Yes hotel bit tired in few places, it's clean friendly and for the price you pay well worth a visit ---- thank you for a great holiday and the bottle of Sparkling wine left in my room for my birthday !

Stayed: May 2014, travelled as a couple
6  Thank Lynne00
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
JollyManager, General Manager at Starfish Jolly Beach Resort, responded to this reviewResponded 9 June 2014

Dear Lynne,

We love to hear you had such a great holiday and birthday at Jolly Beach!

Our beach really is a joy to walk on, as you mentioned, and I’m glad you were able to get out and enjoy it every day, as well as explore some of the other activities and sights that Antigua has to offer.

I’m especially pleased that you had such a great experience with our friendly staff, and will be sure to pass your comments along to Neil.

Hope to see you again!

General Manager
Jolly Beach Resort & Spa

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Reviewed 2 June 2014

We stayed at the Jolly Beach Resort in Antigua for 6 nights in May 2014. We booked a getaway for Memorial Day weekend through Cheap Caribbean. Having been to several other Caribbean islands and all-inclusive resorts, I have to say that this place was not very nice, and I do NOT recommend it to others.

The resort is a $24 flat rate taxi ride each way from V.C. Bird Airport, and takes 30-45 minutes. So add a minimum of $48 to your all-inclusive costs.

The front desk staff at JBR was extremely rude, scowling, and unfriendly, and we had to fill out copious check-in forms in a hot, non-air conditioned lobby, after many hours of travel, all of which could have been done electronically before we arrived.

Our room was not ready, though check in time is 3pm, and it was after 3:30pm. We were told to wait. When I asked if we could get information about the restaurants and make some reservations for dinner while waiting for our room, the front desk clerk told us that we would have to wait to get a piece of paper with information about the resort when we got our room assignment. Huh? Is the information about the restaurants a secret? We found this response rude and unhelpful.

We went over to the pool grill to get some food since we were starving, and I was promptly attacked by a flock of seagulls. Literally they attacked my head and hands while they were trying to get my food. There are NO warning signs to guests about the dangers from the birds. I was screaming loudly before a staff member came to shoo the birds away from me.

Finally our room was ready. The “resort” was built in 1979, and has not been updated since. We were shown 2 standard rooms where the air conditioning did not work and were stifling hot and we said “No”. In the third room, the air conditioner worked (barely) and we were so hot and tired from our travel that we took it. It was now after 5pm.

We tried to work out every night, but their “gym” is more like a fitness museum. Of the 3 treadmills (circa 1990), 2 had yellowing signs that said “Out of Order”. None of the tension settings on the 4 stationary bikes worked. The two stair climbers worked, but were old, and needed to be replaced with parabolic/elliptical machines. Also, the staff of the gym seemed to make a habit of coming in and either occupying the limited equipment (1 working treadmill!) or to sit on the machines and stare at us while we were trying to work out. It was really uncomfortable and weird. I did ask one of them how long the 2 treadmills had been out of order, to which I received a non- answer that a repair request had been submitted. When? 1994?

The food and drink was decent for an all-inclusive. The meals in the restaurants were also decent. The service at the breakfast/lunch buffet was not good. I often had to hunt someone down for coffee, as the servers seemed to be skilled at avoiding eye contact and scowling at us. The inside of the buffet is fenced in with mesh because of the vicious birds, but they still get in, attack, and poop all over the tables and chairs. Makes you wonder about the sanitation. I ended up with poop on the back of my shirt from one of the chairs. Gross!

One other major issue was room security/safes. This is an All-Inclusive resort, yet they charge you extra for the use of the room safe. I have traveled to over 40 countries, and have NEVER been charged for the use of the room safe. It is ridiculous in my opinion, but we paid it anyway.

On top of that, our room was left unlocked by housekeeping FOUR TIMES. This leads me to believe that there is a SCAM going on here where the housekeepers “accidentally” leave the slider or door unlocked and ajar, and your room is robbed. We are vigilant about locking everything in the safe and double locking the room and slider. We reported this security problem about our room being left UNLOCKED to the front desk, but (surprise) they were unconcerned. When we asked to speak to the manager, he was “unavailable”. I asked the manager to contact us, and he never did. Also, be warned that the safe is too small for a regular sized laptop. See the other reviews - there have been lots of items stolen from rooms - BEWARE!

I could go on and on here – obviously we were just not happy with the place in general. I will boil it down to a Pros/Cons list.

PROS:
Beach sand and water are very nice, warm water.
Beach vendors were not as bad as other places we’ve stayed, and generally accepted a No, thank you.
Drinks and food is fine. The restaurants were nicer, and we received slightly better service than the buffet.
Dish/Cable for TV gets enough stations to satisfy.
Cab driver – we used King Jango Taxi for our trip to/from the ferry and to the airport. He is polite and on-time, and turns the air conditioner on, which we appreciated.

CONS:
Additional Charge for the use of the room safe + room left unlocked = high robbery risk
Additional Charge for Wi-Fi
Additional Charge for Airport Transfer
Room left unlocked 4 times by housekeeper. Once could be a mistake. 4 times seemed intentional.
Free Wi-Fi in lobby is unreliable, frequently unable to connect.
Mosquitos come in swarms at night, so trying to use the Wi-Fi or listen to the bands/DJ and you will be covered in itchy bites.
Attack birds/seagulls, even inside the mesh of the buffet
The pools do not open until 10am, despite there being no lifeguard.
Unfriendliness, rudeness, scowling of front desk staff
Harassed by reservation staff for the voucher that we handed over at Check-In time
Time consuming check-in process (Management: get the guest information electronically beforehand and have guest verify on arrival to cut down on check-in time.)
Absence of hotel manager, and lack of follow up with guests when there was a problem reported (room left unlocked).
Tiny, old TVs in rooms
Air conditioning in rooms does not work and/or does not work well.
Rooms were musty smelling, unacceptable, especially for allergies
Beds were uncomfortable.
There were no chairs in the rooms, not a single place to sit.
No hair conditioner, shower cap, or even tissues in the room.
Had to ask for more tiny soap
Coffee was terrible and in short supply. Coffee/Tea/Water should be available 24/7 at an all-inclusive.
Asked multiple times for mojitos at the bar, and they were always out of the ingredients. I wonder if they ever have them. It is a pretty popular drink.
Coconuts are EVERYWHERE on the resort - literally falling off the trees. How about offering them to guests? Offer the coconut water to drink and the meat to eat. We bought some from a beach vendor for $5 each.
No snacks at all (Chips, Pretzels, Popcorn, etc.)
The tours offered at the concierge desk were cash-based. We took the trip to Montserrat ($155 USD per person, plus $48 round trip taxi to the wharf). I do not know of anyone who travels with that much cash. The ATM in the casino had a $4 surcharge, plus the fees charged by your bank.
Stupid plastic wrist band to indicate that we have paid for all-inclusive had to be worn the entire 6 days. Gross and gave me a heat rash.

Bottom line: Stay somewhere else.

Room Tip: Test the air conditioner before the porter leaves.
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  • Stayed: May 2014, travelled as a couple
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2  Thank chernd00
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
JollyManager, General Manager at Starfish Jolly Beach Resort, responded to this reviewResponded 5 June 2014

Despite the fact that you weren’t happy with your overall stay with us, it’s great to hear that there were some elements of your vacation that turned out great! As you mention, our beach is definitely a highlight of the Jolly Beach experience, with beautiful sand and warm, turquoise water. I’m also glad you enjoyed the selections in our 5 different restaurants.

Regarding check-in, we do understand that any paperwork can feel tedious after a long flight, which is why we offer an online check-in option, which we recommend so you can get on the beach as quickly as possible :)

We also understand that the birds can be a bit off-putting for some guests, and since avian wildlife is protected by law in Antigua (as well as nests and eggs), we do our best to exist in harmony with the local wildlife while also maintaining our guests’ comfort. As you mentioned, we do offer indoor screened dining areas and also play a bird scare program through the speakers to minimize the presence of birds in the restaurant, though I’m sorry to hear about your experience with the seagulls at the outdoor grill.

As you mentioned, use of the in-room safe is an extra charge and is not included in the all inclusive package. This is clearly stated on our website. We charge for the safes separately so that only guests who wish to use the service pay for it.

Finally, I have to absolutely refute your statement regarding security and the “scam” to purposefully leave rooms unlocked. While I’m very sorry that you felt room security was lacking and that your request wasn’t treated with the attention you felt it deserved, all of our staff - including housekeeping - are highly commended by our guests for their friendliness and excellent service, and I can assure you that no such “scam” exists.

If you would like to discuss this matter in further detail, please feel free to contact me at vjeffers@jollybeachresort.com.

Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts about Jolly Beach Resort. I wish you all the best in your future travels.

General Manager
Jolly Beach Resort & Spa

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Reviewed 30 May 2014

Myself and my boyfriend stayed at Jolly Beach resort 5/14-5/20. When we arrived our room was not ready yet which if you have been traveling for several hours to get somewhere is not always the best thing to hear but we could deal just checked in got some food and our room was ready with in a couple of hours. We stayed in a Junior Suite. We could barely open our balcony doors they were all off track and falling off, bathrooms looked like cave with little bugs all over the place and furnishings were straight out of 1970. So if modern and luxury is your thing you will not be finding it here even in the most expensive rooms. But again we could deal it kind of felt more rustic and islandy which was cute also we are in paradise you could see the beach from the room and honestly not much time other then to sleep was spent in the room. Food was pretty good. Lots of birds flying around inside the buffet. I am an extremely picky eater and I found something at the buffet every time, they had a BBQ on the beach one night that was super fun, Lydia's honestly felt like fine dining with great food and super nice attentive staff and the beach grill was a really nice touch but beware of the seagulls they are not afraid to swoop down on you when you are walking away and steal food right from your hand! I got attacked! So scary!!! We were unable to go to the Italian because you needed pants which you really don't think to pack for a beach vacation but it does mention that on the website so that was our fault. Beach vendors can be a little pushy at times which can be a little annoying when you are just trying to relax but the beaches are public and they are just trying to make a living and most remember you after the first time you tell them you are not interested. They always had some kind of entertainment going on! Like steel drum bands and karaoke which was cool. Over all a fun resort a little different than a lot of the bigger kind of chain resorts on other islands and Mexico but it was a nice change from that. That brings me to our last day...which completely ruined the whole trip we had $300.00 stolen from our room while we were at Shirley Heights for the evening to go to a BBQ. Money which we were holding on to to rent a car for our last day there to see the rest of the island :( . The money was in the desk/vanity draw. In hindsight I really wish we had hidden it or paid the extra to rent the safe for the trip. I find it ridiculous that they charge you to rent a safe. Every resort I have every been to provides them for free. I will know from now on to just always pay the extra to get the safe no matter how nice an friendly the staff seems. It had to be some one in housekeeping or someone who worked there which is very disappointing because we had been more then generous with tips for all the staff including housekeeping :( . So security came to the room the next day (when we noticed it was gone) to look around and take a statement. They then told us all they could do was call the police have them come out and have us make an informal statement to them and we would then have to go to the police station on the island to make s formal statement. The process would most likely have taken up our entire last day and probably would not have resulted in us getting our money back and we would have lost the $300.00 that was stolen from us as well as the money we spent to be there for that day. So we deiced to not spend our last day in paradise giving police statements and sitting in a police station. The manager was so unsympathetic like he could not be bothered with us. At least security and the rest of the staff was shocked and felt bad for us but the manager could care less. He was extremely rude and basically said if we don't want to go the police station its not his problem. I am not an self entitled person but $300.00 is a large amount of money and when you work in hospitality and some one from your staff steals from guests who paid a lot of hard earned money to stay at your hotel/resort you should go out of your way to try to make things right for them and this guy was a complete jerk about it. The situation was handled so badly I would never go back or recommend it to anyone because of it. Even though we had money stolen from us I probably would not have given such a bad review if he had been a little kinder and attentive to us. Its unfortunate that a few bad apples ruined the bunch because everyone else was so nice and hardworking to ensure that you have a wonderful time. So to end my long review. Over all pleasurable vacation and minus the last day it was the definition of rest and relaxation! One of the most beautiful places I have ever seen (minus the décor) but just make sure to hide your money or pay extra to keep it in the safe because when its gone its gone and no one there really seems to care :/

Room Tip: Pay for the safe......
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  • Stayed: May 2014, travelled as a couple
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5  Thank JT12345
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
JollyManager, General Manager at Starfish Jolly Beach Resort, responded to this reviewResponded 5 June 2014

First of all, I just want to say that, while there were a few concerns, I’m happy you enjoyed so many aspects of your stay and had an overall pleasurable vacation. It’s great to hear that, even as a self-proclaimed picky eater, you enjoyed the options in our restaurants, as well as the BBQ on the beach, and that you felt your vacation was the definition of rest and relaxation in one of the most beautiful places you’ve ever seen!

Our entertainment crew will also love to hear that you enjoyed all of the different options - steel drum bands, karaoke, etc. They work hard to make sure our guest enjoy themselves.

With regards to your room - yes, Jolly Beach is a 3 star resort with an array of great, value-friendly amenities. Our rooms are cleaned daily and all amenities and fixtures are kept in good repair, so I’m sorry to hear that you felt this wasn’t the case with your suite. We would have been very happy to have maintenance address any issues, if notified and given the chance. I AM glad that you enjoyed the beautiful views of the beach from your room, though :)

Finally, I’m very sorry to hear of your money that went missing, though I refute the immediate assumption that a member of our staff stole from you. Our staff are extremely professional and trust-worthy, and without a proper police investigation, it’s impossible to know exactly what happened. As I’m sure you’ll agree, there are many scenarios in which your money could have gone missing.

It is distressing to hear that you felt the on-duty manager was unsympathetic in this regard, and for that I do apologize.

As you mention, we do rent out in-room safes, which are NOT included in the all inclusive price (and this is clearly stated on our website). The reason the safes are an extra charge is so that only those guests who wish to use the service incur this extra expense.

In any case, even though you chose not to proceed with a formal police investigation, we do take allegations like this seriously. We will be doing an internal investigation to ensure we’re doing everything we can to prevent a situation like this from happening in the future.

Regards,

General Manager
Jolly Beach Resort & Spa

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Reviewed 28 May 2014

The total indifference to us on arrival at Reception was only the start. We had to ask what to do with our luggage and were rudely told - over there. The room was in a state of decay - the toilet door resting against the wall, completely off it's hinges. The bed uncomfortable, the furnishings almost totally non-existent. When asked for a hair dryer, one eventually arrived with no plug and the maintenance man attempted to wire it live directly into a socket! The buffet food was dripping all down the sides of the containers. We only stayed the one night and left early the next morning!

  • Stayed: January 2014, travelled with friends
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3  Thank Miguel065_11
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
JollyManager, General Manager at Starfish Jolly Beach Resort, responded to this reviewResponded 29 May 2014

Dear Miguel,

As many other reviewers here have mentioned, our staff are usually a highlight for guests, offering friendly, helpful, and efficient service. Customer service is something that is very important to us, and we work hard to ensure all guests have a great service experience, so I’m very sorry to hear that you felt we fell short during your one night stay with us.

Our rooms do meet a 3 star standard, and they are kept meticulously clean. We appreciate that everyone’s tastes are different and, again, are sorry to hear of your disappointment.

Many of our guests seem to appreciate the incredible value we provide - from our stunning beach to our daily activities and nightly entertainment. It’s too bad you didn’t have the time to experience these features of the resort.

I hope you enjoyed the rest of your stay in Antigua or wherever else your travels may have taken you after you left Jolly Beach.

All the best,

General Manager
Jolly Beach Resort & Spa

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Reviewed 28 May 2014

Just returned from a one week vacation at this hotel and it was lovely and relaxing. My objective was to reset and relax while on vacation and this hotel was the prime location for it. Ive read reviews about comparing this hotel to 5 stars in other places and its just not justified. In my opinion you base your review on the experience of the current travel. I've great experiences in 2 star hotels but what made them great were living the moment. Travel with an open mind and don't netpick at everything because at the end of the day the positive outweighs the negative.:-) Having said this is my review and please feel free to message with any questions...

Arrival - It was prompt and friendly not to mention that "Rum punch" serve upon arrival was a good start to the vacation. There was no major surprises since the website provides you with information needed. Many complaing about the cost of the safe but that's nothing foreign since many hotels charge for this service. The reception staff were lovely and very friendly!

Room - The room were as expected and very clean! The housekeepers were also very friendly and welling to accommodate your request. The beds were comfy with plenty of pillows and balcony had a nice view. Bathroom was alway very clean and spotless! The only negative thing would be no water bottles in the room, we had go walk to the market to buy some. It was a 5 minute walk and the market had everything you can imagine. However, the hotel did have water dispensers so that you can fill up your water bottles.

Food - It was delicious and feasted with all the fish selections at the buffet! I would've love to have shrimp or lobster but none were available during my stay. If you're a picky eater your choices would be limited but since I'm not I put on some pounds!lol Loved getting my omelette with my choices of ingredients every morning and seating outside with a view of the ocean.... a great way to start your day! Look for Sandra as she's one of the best waitress in the buffet... she was always very polite and never did once my coffee got cold or pineapple juice warm! Tell her Mr. Coffee send you..lol Also, tall Sharon she was also my favourite and always sat at her section in the evening. These two ladies made my meals a pleasant experience.

Snacks - The burgers and the Jerk chicken at the snack bar by the pool were amazing! Just watch out for the seagulls ! lol Tea Time was also very pleasant in the afternoon at the courtyard! With a selection of finger foods and a good opportunity to check your emails or Facebook since you do get the free wifi on this area.

Bar -very friendly guys and welling to entartain you as you consume your beverages! Patrick was a gentleman and kept the "hitting on the women" more tasteful. One thing I couldn't understand was how people ask the guys to change the music (reggae,etc) to rock n roll! You're on an Island the music is part of the experience! lol

Beach - Jaw-dropping and stunning! You have to see it for yourself in order for you to believe me! The sunsets were breathtaking.. One of the best beaches I ever seen in I am from Costa Rica!

The Negative - my only issue was people getting up at 6am and leaving their towels on chairs on the beach and at times they never made it to the beach. Please be courteous to others and if you're not going to make it to beach don't place your towel... thank you!

These are views and I'm sure people would contest them but we are all entitled to our opinion. I get asked if I ever go back... my answer YES I will return soon!

  • Stayed: May 2014, travelled solo
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11  Thank Marvelas73
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 28 May 2014

We have just returned from a weeks all inclusive holiday at Jolly Beach. This was a deal we found on BA Holidays web site. The hotel was excellent value for money. The food and drink was good and the beach fantastic. The only down side was the size of the 'super saver room' it was very small but did not spoil our holiday. We spent very little time in it, only sleeping there. I would definitely go back again if we found a similar deal.

  • Stayed: May 2014, travelled as a couple
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4  Thank jwts49
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 25 May 2014

I guess our following opinions have been formed from having stayed at some very plush hotels (Evason and Sarann in Thailand) and Secrets Maroma (Cancun), among others. Hence, we’re a little harder to please.

Right, firstly I’d say this is a 3 star resort so it’s cheaper than others on Antigua. Bear that in mind – you get what you pay for. I also think it best to break down the review into bullet-point nuggets because I, like most readers I suspect, prefer to scan a review. So, here we go… Prepare for a long one.

THE SYSTEM
The hotel I believe has three tiers of accommodation: All Inclusive, Half Board and B&B. We went all inclusive through British Airways. On arrival, we were greeted cordially and signed in only to be given an immovable blue plastic wrist band denoting All Inclusive. This made us feel as if we were on some kids’ excursion. It also advertised to others outside the resort that we’re happy Jolly Beachers! How quant. Thankfully, it can be cut off by reception if going out for the day. The next surprise was the $3 a day fee to use the safe in the room. This really made me laugh because although the safe is already installed, there’s a big hole in it where your purchased lock fits. It just doesn’t make sense. It’s like having a bed where the linen is extra. Surprise number three was the $10 per day charge of wi-fi in the room. Thankfully the wi-fi was quite fast. Surprise four: we were handed two cards for the use of beach towels. If we lost a towel it’s a $10 fine. All this smacks of Ryan Air-style penny pinching and it sets the guest off to a bad start. It’s not what I would call ALL inclusive.

When it came time to check out, we asked whether we could keep our room till 4pm. As the hotel seemed less than half full we figured that wouldn’t be a problem. ‘Of course’ said the polite lady at reception, ‘that’ll be $35 each’. It’s understandable that they charge for it, but given the quietness of the hotel – it was low season after all – I think a little discretion would have been a nice touch. Our wrist bands were cut off at 12pm and we were given one hour to eat a complementary lunch. It felt a bit ‘thanks for your money, now sling your hook’. My wife mistakenly got a drink from the bar and five minutes later was approached by ‘a manager’ who asked where her blue band was. When she explained she’d checked out, she was told in no uncertain terms that she was ‘not allowed the drink and not to do it again’. Slap, Ouch. Naughty wife. Write 100 words: ‘I must not attempt to cadge a free drink once my blue wrist hand has been removed’.

HOTEL
Yes, it’s run down in parts but all the paintwork on the walls seems freshly applied. However, the passageway floors to the rooms are painted red which has mostly worn down to the bare concrete giving a slightly shabby appearance. But, hey, you soon get used to it. The propensity of plastic is a major minus. I guess the overall style is Spanish in flavour with arched balconies for every room. A little like something you’d see in Tenerife. The propensity of coconut palms all around the complex is a major bonus. We’ve never seen so many. The sunsets are stunning, too. As is the beach.

ROOM
Décor is, well, tasteless IMHO. But then we have stayed at Six Senses resorts so I guess we're spoiled and comparing a little too much. Our Standard room was small but ok and it had a huge king size bed with a mattress and pillows as hard as the hardest foam. Not comfy at all. No coffee or tea facilities and no kettle (I woke at 6am every day and went to the restaurant to fill up two plastic mugs of horrid coffee). But it has a hairdryer, so that's ok. Crucially, the room was spotless and very well cleaned by the maid. In fact, their cleaners are better than at many other hotels. A thorough job. Commendable. Give them a pay rise! Finally, the view from our balcony was quite stunning, offering a glimpse of the sea between a profusion of gorgeous coconut palms. If only the giant, noisy air conditioning units on the roof of the adjacent block hadn't spoiled the ambience quite so much. Really, it's like standing on a runway with the constant sound of jets warming up. It was a relief when they switched off – for five minutes at a time.

BATHROOM
Small but very decent. Extremely clean with no mould anywhere. Great shower with plenty of pressure and excellent temperature. Soaps, shampoos provided. No quibbles here but exactly stylish.

FOOD
A very mixed bag. Some dishes (BBQ ribs, fries, rice) very nice but so many other horrible dishes. We had a steak in the hotel’s Italian restaurant that was tougher than the sole of a shoe. We got fed up with seeing the same basic salads day after day. I loved the hot and spicy jerk chicken at the BBQ hut by the main pool – lunch only. Breakfast comprised of vaguely crispy bacon, scrambled eggs (good), pancakes and cheap corn syrup. Plus the usual breads, cereals and the same fruit everyday (melon, melon and melon). Basically it was all a bit bland and by week two we were already starting to eat out at Jolly Harbour’s thoroughly excellent Melini’s restaurant, a 10 minute walk from the resort.

EATING AREAS
Outside was fine, apart from the plastic chairs and tables. Lots of birds flying around waiting to nab food off tables, including noisy seagulls. We liked them, others didn't. When it rained we had to eat in the school room. Well that’s what it’s like – really utilitarian and thoroughly unpleasant. Needs a complete overhaul. We ate at the Italian which was very poor – revolting, my wife says. We also had a BBQ at the resort’s rather lovely Lydia’s on the beach. However, they served those same salads again! My favourite eatery was the BBQ hut at the main pool. Amazing jerk chicken. We never got a chance to eat at the Indian restaurant as, like Lydia’s, it’s only open once or twice a week. How weird is that? You have a resort with different restaurants and half of them are closed! The bars serve cocktails in plastic glasses (understandable) and they’re not remotely strong – unless you find the right bar tender. Bizarrely you can’t smoke at the outdoor restaurant or the bar near the beach. Yet you can smoke in the courtyard right near reception. The courtyard serves tea and bad coffee (in fact the coffee throughout the resort was weak and not very pleasant) from 4.30pm. This area was our favourite. Has free wi-fi too.

POOLS
Two pools. The main one is huge, busy and noisy with swim-up bar and volleyball net. Water’s quite cold. My fave was the smaller, quieter pool that goes 8 feet deep! In fact this area is the loveliest looking spot in the entire complex, with bougainvillea and humming birds flitting about. Also very quiet and close to the beach. Warm water, too. Top marks – were it not for the ugly plastic loungers!

STAFF
Excellent. Friendly. Accommodating. Helpful. Efficient.

ACTIVITIES
Free hobycat and kayaks on the beach. Also beach volley ball nets.

BEACH
This is why we booked. Five stars! Beautiful palm-lined beach with soft whitish sand and water that looks like aquamarine milk. Not clear (because of sand and shell silt) but very clean. More palms than other beaches on the Caribbean side of the island and that makes it look and feel more like classic paradise (there are 365 beaches in all on the island). It’s a prime spot though we dreamed of having booked instead into the lovely-looking Coco’s boutique hotel on the headland to the left when facing the sea. Maybe next time.

BEACH VENDORS
Bit of an irritant. They’re friendly and chatty but remember, they’re there to make a living. They can be a little pushy, but in polite fashion. Better if they would just have a sign with prices instead of regaling us with chit chat for minutes on end before giving you a price. We liked Cornell, the old Rasta (good man) and Cloud, who might be a little too OTT for some. The old bloke with a limp is a pain. We felt sorry for him and offered him EC$20. He then asked for more, gesticulating towards the change in my wife’s hand. Nooooo, mate, wrong way to do it.

JOLLY HARBOUR & NEARBY RESTAURANTS
This is a lovely place just five minute's walk from the resort – and a very pleasant walk it is too. Jolly Harbour is a lovely spot. Big supermarket there (Epicurian) plus quite a few small shops and car, boat, apartment hire offices. Plus bank and cash machine. Also a small pharmacy with pharmacist. About four restaurants there including Melini’s (superb – try their amazing prawn dish with Pernod) and Castaways on the Jolly Beach side (cool beach restaurant with interesting looking food – we didn’t eat there). We also took a ten minute boat ride to the D-Boat (free, from outside Crow’s Nest restaurant in harbour). Fab idea with good food – my Mexican hamburger was wonderful. The anchored boat has a whopping inflatable slide off the side and a giant trampoline floating on the water. Very cool. However, if you suffer from seasickness you won’t like the constant rocking. Lunch is quiet, dinner’s quite noisy and raucous, so I’ve heard.

EXCURSIONS
We went on the Wadadli catamaran (arranged through Cornell the beach guy) and it was worth every penny. We chose the snorkelling trip on the calm Caribbean side. Very smooth trip. They pick you up on the beach at the resort and head north to the top of the island, picking up others on the way. Then we all sailed down (engines off part of the time) to the south of the island to snorkel for 45 mins at Cades Reef. Brilliant staff, superb captain (Hi Sheldon!) and very well run. Decent food and plenty of drink on offer. Interesting to see the beaches from the water – Jolly Beach was one of two of the best we saw on the entire trip. Highly recommended excursion. Top marks all round.

We also took a bus (about EC$3) to St Johns. Well, not exactly a bus, more a mini bus. The bus is a really cheap way to go and fun, as it stops to pick up locals on the way. They all greet fellow passengers on boarding – that doesn’t happen in London. Can’t say we were enamoured of St Johns. Nothing to see there or do. Duty free shops ok but nothing special. Had decent espresso at Hemmingway’s. Stayed one hour then left.

We also booked a trip to Shirley Heights ($20+ entry fee +BBQ) using one of the nine-seater cabs always outside reception. We chose the famous BBQ Sunday time to go and glad we did. BBQ food was great, the views are stunning but it’s the superb Halcyon steel band that impressed the most. What players!

SO, HOW THEY CAN MAKE THIS HOTEL BETTER?
My wife – a designer – and I – a consumer journalist – discussed this at length. Aside from a complete rebuild – or selling it to an international chain – the easiest and cheapest method of improvement would be to replace all plastic with wood. That goes for the beach loungers especially.

Employ the services of someone with a taste for high quality interior design and make changes to the room’s furnishings. Change the balcony furniture from plastic to wood and, for heavens sake, please cover the soft outside bed in better material than cheap, sticky plastic. And add a pump cushion while you're at it. As for the bed… Nice size but needs a quality mattress and soft, plump pillows. Remember, the most important part of any bedroom is the bed, the pillows and the bedding. That's why we book a room. To sleep eight hours in. Train the chefs to make more appetising food, including a better variety of salads. Make it all inclusive only so we don’t have to wear a stupid wrist band. Free safes and wi-fi in all rooms. Tea making facilities in all rooms. Knock all the smallest rooms into two and do away with the Supersaver ones altogether. Finally, redesign the naff Butlins-style logo for the sign at the entrance. I'd pay extra for all this. And you'd have a stylish, top-class hotel.

FINAL WORD
I'd say the hotel is mostly good value for money but just not we expected. If you don't mind average food, hard beds, small rooms and so-so decor then go for it. But if you hanker after a little more sophistication for your hard-earned money, look elsewhere. I should have taken more notice of the negative reviews. But, hey, you live and learn. Live and learn.

Room Tip: We stayed on the fourth floor of the pink block (St Martins?). No lift but nice views over the palm...
See more room tips
  • Stayed: May 2014, travelled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
9  Thank Rumpleproofskin
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
JollyManager, General Manager at Starfish Jolly Beach Resort, responded to this reviewResponded 26 May 2014

Thanks for taking the time to write such a thorough review. It’s great to hear you loved our coconut palms, the beach, and our stunning sunsets - as well as our popular Jerk chicken!

As you point out, we are a 3 star resort, and we do appreciate that this style of vacation may not be for everyone. With that being said, we do offer incredible value on Antigua for an affordable price - and on the most beautiful beach on the island :)

Yes, we do have all inclusive and room-only options at the resort. While we do understand that some guests may not wish to wear a wrist band to denote all inclusive service, this does help us differentiate to provide more efficient service to guests.

I am sorry that you felt surprised by some of the extras, such as in-room WiFi charges, the safe, etc. We do our best to clearly identify these charges on our website under the All Inclusive section.

And while you didn’t find the décor in the rooms to your taste, I’m delighted to hear that you found your room spotless and that you enjoyed the view from your balcony. It’s also great to hear that you found our staff to be helpful, efficient, and accommodating, that you felt the resort was good value for money, and that you enjoyed your many excursions on the island.

We appreciate your constructive criticism, realizing that everything good can be made better, and wish you all the best in your future travels.

Thank you,

General Manager
Jolly Beach Resort & Spa

Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Additional Information about Starfish Jolly Beach Resort

Address: Bolans Village, Bolans, Saint Mary's, Antigua (Formerly Jolly Beach Resort & Spa)
Region: Caribbean > Antigua and Barbuda > Antigua > Saint Mary's > Bolans
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Beach Business Centre with Internet Access Casino and Gambling Fitness Centre with Gym / Workout Room Free Breakfast Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Children Activities (Kid / Family Friendly) Restaurant Spa Suites Swimming Pool Wheelchair access
Hotel Style:
Ranked #2 of 3 Hotels in Bolans
Price Range: £140 - £392 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Hotel Class:3 star — Starfish Jolly Beach Resort 3*
Number of rooms: 464
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Set among 40 acres of tropical paradise, Starfish Jolly Beach Resort is Antigua’s largest all-inclusive resort, featuring 464 rooms with private balconies or terraces surrounded by the stunning white sand and turquoise waters of Jolly Harbour, and lush tropical gardens. Enjoy the warm sun and the Caribbean Sea breeze, sail along the stunning waters, or explore the nearby golf courses and marina for an unforgettable stay in paradise. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Jolly Beach Hotel Bolans
Jolly Beach Resort And Spa
Jolly Beach Resort Antigua
Jolly Beach Resort All Inclusive
Jolly Beach Antigua
Starfish Jolly Beach Resort Antigua, Antigua And Barbuda

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