Always up for a blast of tropical sunshine, and keen to get an off-season bargain by travelling in May, we scoured the internet to find the best hotel for me, my pregnant wife and our son, Leo (who was two at the time). We settled on Cotton Bay Village, a condo-style resort on the East (Atlantic) coast of St Lucia because 1) we could get a 2 bedroom apartment, meaning Leo could have his own room and we could fix some food if we needed to; 2) there was a complimentary creche offering childcare for up to two hours per child, per day, that accepts toddlers still in nappies (most in the Caribbean request that they are potty-trained); and 3) the food sounded good. When you have a little one, you are going to be eating in resort most of the time, so quality of food is particularly important. Finally, there are direct flights to St. Lucia from Gatwick, minimising travel stress (no layovers or changing planes). Plus, St. Lucia is a very beautiful place!
What was good?
I had read all the reviews on TripAdvisor and was concerned about speed of service (a problem throughout the Caribbean); the wind; and the lack of shade by the pool. Fortunately, none of these issues proved to be a problem for us.
I think our experience could have been very different had we been there during peak occupancy times but, as it was, the hotel seemed half-empty and we had consistently warm and relatively prompt service. The staff were, in fact, delightful and always entertained or humored our curious and energetic son.
The beach is not the stuff of Caribbean dreams – the sand is greyish, not white, and, being on the Atlantic side of the island, the sea is not as blue as you might like. However, it is gently-shelving and perfect for toddlers. Set in a curving bay that protects it from the worst of the waves, our son loved playing in the moderate surf. The constant breeze was not a problem. In fact, it was most welcome. Sheltered areas, such as the pool, were far too hot to lie in during the heat of the day. There was a lot of seaweed that got washed ashore, somewhat blighting the scene, but the landscaper did a good job of cleaning it up every morning (a relentless task). A horse-riding school is located at one end of the beach and you do have to beware of horses that come thundering past, but it wasn’t generally a problem and any horse poo was soon cleared up.
The food was a highlight. Both at the casual Beach Restaurant and more formal Piano Piano, it was excellent. I strongly recommend going half board because the deal is very good and you save money. Plus, there’s nowhere else on walking distance to eat at! In either restaurant you can choose any three courses from the menu with no annoying supplements. We ate at Piano Piano a lot because the hotel threw in one hour’s free babysitting if you dine there. Babysitting was excellent and cheap – just US $10 per hour. Breakfast was a buffet, with a few a la carte options (I recommend the eggs florentine). We were happy about this as it meant we could feed our son immediately – no hanging around when he wanted his morning cereal.
The accommodation was of a high standard. All the furniture was relatively new and it was kept spotless by the housekeeping staff. We were on the ground floor, in a two-bedroom Calabash suite. My wife and I enjoyed a four-poster bed, whilst Leo had a twin room to himself. There was a lounge area with TV which provided useful extra space for Leo’s toys. My only complaint was that it was a little dark; but it did mean it kept fairly cool.
We had no complaints about the kids club. Juan, the nanny, was brilliant with Leo – very creative and kept him busy, he loved it. Due to low occupancy, however, he was often the only one there, so got one-on-one attention.
Whilst we were on St Lucia, we visited another hotel, Calabash Cove, for lunch. This is a beautiful place on the Caribbean-side of the island, with stunning views and a lovely white-sand beach. Being there, however, made us realise just how perfect Cotton Bay Village was for us. At Calabash, we felt on tenterhooks, surrounded by couples and honeymooners, and worried every time Leo cried or ran off. We couldn’t wait to get back to CBV and relax.
All in all, we had a lovely holiday, it was near-perfect for what we wanted. I can see how the experience could be different at other times of the year and cannot vouch for service levels at peak times like Christmas. But for an off-season tropical break that genuinely offers some R+R for Mum and Dad as well as the kids, this is a great option.
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