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The week between Christmas and New Year’s we usually spend at home, watching movies, going to New York City to see the Rockefeller Center tree, and visiting with friends and family. But since none of that was happening in 2020 (and we had spent plenty of time at home watching movies) we decided a family getaway was in order. We headed to the Caribbean island of Antigua, for six nights at the Royalton Antigua resort. Our trip was honestly so-so and we were very disappointed in many aspects of our stay. As with everything, I share the good, and the not-so-good regarding travel, so here is my review of the Royalton Antigua Resort & Spa.
As a full-service travel agent, I received a discounted rate to visit the Royalton Antigua. As always, all opinions are my own.
Royalton Antigua Review
Before I get into the details of our stay, both the good and the bad, I have to preface this review by stating the obvious – we traveled in December 2020 amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Because of this, I expected the resort to not be operating as normal. I expected certain amenities might not be available, or protocols in place to create social distancing etc. I understand properties need a little bit of a pass during these trying times, but I don’t think the pandemic is an excuse for the terrible service we had at the Royalton Antigua.
This also wasn’t the first all-inclusive resort I visited during the pandemic. In fact, it was my FIFTH! In October 2020, I visited Sandals Grande Antigua – which was amazing and one of the reasons I wanted to bring my family back to the island. In November 2020, I stayed at the El Dorado Royale by Karisma a few days after they were hit with their second hurricane, but the food and service was still top!
In early December, I went on a week-long FAM trip to Costa Rica, had did a site inspection at Planet Hollywood Costa Rica, which is owned by the same brand, Blue Diamond Resorts. The week before this Antigua trip, I traveled to Jamaica doing a split stay between Breathless Montego Bay (this was not a FAM trip, I paid, using an agent rate to stay here) and the beautiful Sandals Royal Caribbean. Both of those resorts also had great food and service even, amid the pandemic.
I’ve flown during the pandemic ten times, stayed in countless hotels during the coronavirus, went to Walt Disney World during its re-opening, and literally wrote THE ARTICLE about what it’s like to visit the Caribbean during Covid-19 – so I think I had realistic expectations!
As a full service travel agent, I have sold Royalton Punta Cana in the past to happy clients, and did a day pass last February to Royalton Blue Waters when we stopped in Falmouth, Jamaica on our seven night Disney Wonder cruise. We loved our day at that Royalton and for those reasons were eager to stay longer at their newest property in Antigua.
I do think the problems we encountered are unique to this resort, although going forward I will sell other Royalton’s with pause for sure. Keep reading to find out more about our recent stay at the Royalton Antigua.
Choosing an all-inclusive resort can be tough. Some are big, some are small, some are on the beach, some just near it. Some resorts have better food, more drink options, and more entertainment than others. Of course, there is your budget to consider as well!
For those reasons, it’s always best to consult with a travel professional to help find the perfect resort for you next vacation. And the best part? My services are free!
That’s right, you get full on, personalized, concierge vacation planning service, and it does not cost you a cent more! In fact, a package vacation with one of my preferred suppliers can often save you money on your trip!
PS If you are looking for a family-friendly all-inclusive resort in the Caribbean, consider Hilton Rose Hall in Jamaica!
Is the Royalton Antigua Open?
The Royalton Antigua only opened in the Spring of 2019. It’s much anticipated opening was met with horrible reviews of poor service and the consensus that it really opened before it was ready.
Reviews from the Fall of 2019 and early 2020 suggested that the resort got its act together and was on its way to becoming a sought -after destination for families.
But then of course covid hit and the resort was closed from mid-March until November 29, 2020.
I was a little nervous booking into a resort that had only recently re-opened but I figured we would be arriving after the property was open for almost a whole month, and that the service would be back to its pre-covid standards.
Plus, the resort had 8 months to prepare for guests!
But unfortunately, that was not the case. I am speculating here – thinking that the overarching problem was that the first few weeks open, the resort was at a very low occupancy. In fact, the wedding photographer we talked to said on December 10, 2020 the occupancy was around 19%. We arrived on December 26, 2020 and the resort seemed to be almost full (we were told 80%).
My guess is that they went from so few guests to too many literally overnight with the Christmas holidays and were not adequately prepared for the number of people.
The majority of our problems at Royalton Antigua had to do with poor staff knowledge, which I guess is a result of poor training. And the crazy thing is, there were plenty of staff on property. But they did not seem to be focusing on the guests (more focused on cleaning the resort), were generally not knowledgeable, and many staff members could not answer simple questions.
There was also no follow through on finding out information, which drove my husband NUTS!
Royalton Antigua – Why I would Not Recommend This Resort
I do hate to “bash” a property, but as of this writing, I cannot recommend this resort to my readers and I certainly would NOT sell this resort to clients.
I am going to separate this review into two parts – the good, and the bad. And I’m gonna start with the worst first.
I hope over time, I can update this review. Maybe Royalton will invite us back to show they have their act together, or I WILL be stalking the Trip Advisor reviews to see if things pick up. Until that happens, I would avoid making reservations here – if you are booked for this resort, keep reading for some tips we realized to make our stay better.
Royalton Antigua Review – The Bad
So many disclaimers, but honestly, I feel like me and my family are such easy going travelers. On our vacations we like to relax, eat good food, drink, and have a clean place to sleep at night. In fact, sometimes I think that’s my downfall as a TA because I find the good in everything and can enjoy a Carnival Cruise as much as a night at the Four Seasons!
So, for us to consider leaving a trip early – yes on the second day we thought about just going home, you know it’s bad.
In the end, I am glad we stuck it out and the last three days were far better than the first three, I think because we lowered our expectations and kinda figured out how to best navigate the resort but in the end, I give this place a thumbs down.
I actually started to type out details of each “bad” but this article would be 100,000 words long so I am going to bullet point and summarize. Again, would one of these things make me not recommend the resort? No, but the combo of all of the poor service made for a disappointing vacation and could not overshadow the beautiful property that this is.
The worst thing was that we were four people given a triple occupancy room! This was the worst part of the experience for me. Both being crammed in to a room way too small for four guests, but also the lack of response we received when we broached the subject with management.
I booked a Diamond Club Swim Out Suite. We were given room 11-111, which had a total crap view, but also only a King bed and a single sofa pull out. We had to add a rollaway to accommodate the fourth person and it was just not a comfortable stay.
The housekeeper actually told us we were in a room for three guests. When my husband asked a manager, he was told “when the resort is full, we cannot guarantee there will enough beds in the room”
I am not sure what the hell kind of answer that is, or how to even respond to it. I just know I cannot recommend a resort where guests might get stuck in a room way too small for their travel party with the resolution being to stick a random cot to fix it.
Royalton will upcharge you ($65+) to choose your room in advance (like you do on a cruise) so maybe that is what you need to do?
The crap room, and even crappier response really turned us off from day one, and I really debated demanding to change because I had already unpacked when I was told by housekeeping we were in a triple and would need a rollaway. In the end I figured it was easier to stay in our room instead of wasting precious vacation time packing and unpacking again.
But here is a bullet list of some of the other issues and oddities we encountered at the Royalton Antigua:
- On day 2 it took two and a half hours to get my kids lunch. We waited an hour at Scores for only then have the server to tell us they were out of French fries. We tried to order from room service, waited a half an hour only to be told it would be another half an hour because they had to change the oil in the fryer! After all that time, we finally got the kids fries at the beach side restaurant.
- For five nights of dinner reservations, only ONE that we made at the Diamond Club was at the restaurant when we confirmed. After six nights on property, I am honestly still not 100% sure where you are SUPPOSED to make your dining reservations. Each day around 3/4PM, my husband would go to the ACTUAL restaurant and beg the manager to squeeze us in, which thankfully seemed to work. Whenever we went to Diamond Club, they never “had the book” or whatever reservation we were given, was not communicated to the actual restaurant.
- We did ask several staff members if the specialty restaurant was open and if we could make reservations, but no one knew if it was going to be open. Or how much it cost! It was so bizarre – just tell us its closed, no big deal!
- Upon arrival, I asked about what alcohol we could get stocked in our mini bar (my resort fact sheet from February 2020 specified Diamond Club rooms would have in-room alcohol). I called the Diamond Club and they did not know. Someone brought us some beers and two bottles of wine and said that we weren’t supposed to have alcohol but it was nice of them to offer. I later saw this on the resort website, I guess it was updated, but I just want staff to know the answer to the question!
- On day 3 we went to try the buffet for lunch. It was supposed to open at 12:30. It didn’t open until closer to 1 at which time there was a huge rush of hangry people. Since the buffet is not self-serve, they did not have the staff to both serve food and cook things to order. This was a problem at breakfast too – one guy making one omelet at a time, with no one manning the line to serve guests. In general, the buffet was understaffed and so unorganized.
- None of the restaurants have kids menus, which is a real negative for families.
- On the first day, upon arrival, baby girl laid down for a nap. We had gotten up early to fly to Antigua and she was tired. Hubby and little man went to get a late lunch at Scores. Hubby said his fish was terrible and it took over a half an hour despite it being 3pm and no other patrons there. Since I was in the room unpacking, hubby texted me the menu and went to order me some lunch to go – and they wouldn’t make me food to take back to the room and told us we had to order room service. Have you ever heard of such a thing at all-inclusive????
- Twice during our stay there were no towels available at the pool (including one morning at 930am)
- I wanted to do a jet ski tour, booked through the excursion desk by the beach. I was told to come back 3x so she could confirm the time. She finally took my what’s app number to text me the time to confirm the tour. I never heard from them, and never got to do the tour.
- Never saw information about activities going on or restaurant times
- At Caribbean Grill, we were told we could only order one appetizer and one entrée per person. To me, this goes against the point of vacationing at an all-inclusive! Plus, the portion sizes at this restaurant were embarrassingly small!
- Several times there were no Pina coladas at the pool bar. Twice (we frequent the bar a lot) the bartender did not know how to make strawberry daquiris, which was just odd.
- Hot tubs did not work and were dirty. Very unsightly and there did not seem to be any attempt to fix them.
- Most mornings the resort only had ONE type of cereal (corn flakes) and on the last two mornings also had Frosted Flakes. Every time I tried my kids’ cereal it was stale!
- Housekeeping never gave us more coffee (or cleaned the coffee pot I used on the first morning). I am also convinced that although there was a 4 cup pot in the room, the packet was a single serve dose. Its a small thing, but shows lack of attention to detail.
- No vegetarian lunch options by the pool, and I heard others complaining about this as well. I also would definitely not consider this resort if you have any food allergies or food preferences, since no one seemed willing to help with accommodations. I also would not trust with cross contamination. Everything I ordered for breakfast tasted like bacon.
- In general, the food at Royalton Antigua was mediocre at best. I had a few items that were literally inedible, and there is little variety across the restaurants – I actually heard someone at the pool joking about this. Every restaurant had fettuccine alfredo on the menu (including at the buffet) and it was gross.
- Every day we had to go to the Diamond Club to get more water and juice. It was unclear who was supposed to restock the mini bar, but we were thankful the Diamond Club was willing to help.
- On the second night, we were heading to dinner at Grazie Trattoria which is down by the beach. Unsure if there was a bar at the restaurant, we stopped at the Diamond Club lounge for a pre-dinner drink. We asked the staff if there was a bar down by Grazie and they told us there was a sports bar. We asked if they meant Scores (which is up by the lobby) and they assured us no, a different one. Needless to say, there is no sports bar by the beach.
And lastly, I think the biggest complaint I have about this resort and our experience here – no one at this resort went out of their way to make our vacation special. Honestly the staff seemed annoyed by the guests.
There were no fun bartenders, no engaging servers at the restaurants, no staff coming around the pool with water or specialty cocktails, fun things that are common place at other all-inclusive resorts I’ve been to.
At other ROYALTONS I’ve been to!
And sadly, there were a lot of grumbly guests and people complaining by the pool, in the Diamond Club, and at the restaurants.
No one was making it FUN, or trying to create that incredible vacation. It’s such a missed opportunity I hope they turn around because there were good things about this resort.
Looking for a family friendly all-inclusive, then check out the Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta.
Royalton Antigua Review: The Good
Okay, so I am super glad we stuck it out because this resort is gorgeous and definitely has potential to be amazing once the staff can get trained up and maybe with some better food options. Here I am going to list the things I liked about the Royalton Antigua and why I will be looking forward to when reviews are up to par and I CAN recommend this resort.
- Beautiful beach. Quiet, calm, warm, Caribbean water. Located on Deep Bay, this beach was perfect for swimming! Also, it’s a protected cove, so very few peddlers, because all beaches in Antigua are technically public.
- Beautiful pool area with infinity pools, swim up bar, and Bali beds on a first come first service basis. Comfy pool chairs as well!
- I had an amazing massage on the beach. Definitely recommend doing this.
- I personally liked the size of the resort. Small enough to walk around but large enough to have what you need.
- Lifeguard on the beach (although not at the pool)
- Well-appointed room with lots of outlets, drawers and an amazing rain shower.
- Staff was constantly cleaning up around the pool
- Security presence on beach to keep public off the resort – we also felt safe letting our kids walk around (together) day and night
- My kids did love the little splash park – perfect for little ones as well
- I enjoyed the wine and drinks. The spirits selection is not as good as other resorts, but I really have no complaints about the drinks.
- I have heard that if you book an overwater bungalow, you will have an amazing stay.
Tips for Visiting the Royalton Antigua
Like I said, our last three days were definitely better than our first. We sort of figured out who to ask for what and I think we lowered our expectations around the service and food.
If you are booked for an upcoming trip to the Royalton Antigua, I would honestly look at seeing if you could change resorts. Depending on how you booked, you might have the flexibility to change – I would first inquire if this is possible.
If you cannot change your trip, and are headed to the Royalton Antigua, here are some tips to make your stay more manageable:
- Consider booking (or upgrading) a butler level room. We were Diamond Club, but no butler. I think the butler gives you a point person to help with dining reservations, special food requests, and gets you lunch by the pool.
- If you don’t do butler, Diamond Club is a MUST – you will have a much nicer, less crowded pool and beach section, you can get drinks at the Diamond Club Lounge (which we enjoyed) and at least try to find assistance there.
- We found it best to go to the restaurants around 3/4pm and confirm or make a dinner reservation. I would NOT show up at the restaurants without confirming with the venue that there is a reservation for you.
- Order room service for breakfast and call in your order. They can make you what you want. The wait at the buffet was long. Worth noting options for breakfast were only the buffet or room service, or you could get small pastries at the coffee shop.
- Don’t go to the buffet for lunch right when it opens. Go after 1pm, after the initial rush.
- The pastries at the Coffee shop were delicious – try the cheesecake for sure! We also loved the gelato here.
- Order a pre-dinner cheese plate from room service. The goat cheese was delicious.
So that’s it! The good and bad from our recent stay at the Royalton Antigua. I do hope this property can work out it service kinks and up the food offerings, because it really is a beautiful resort. Have you been to the Royalton Antigua? Leave me a comment as to your experience there and be sure to reach out if you need help planning your next family vacation!
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