What is it? Sunsail Club Colonna

Where? Antigua, one of the Leeward Islands in the blue sparkly waters of the Eastern Caribbean

Description: [snapper_on_the_beach.jpg] A Caribbean break in the depth of the British winter was just the ticket for Kirsty, but this time, her son Luke had other ideas about allowing Mum & Dad a relaxing break to soak up the rays!

The website promised crystal clear waters, a private palm lined beach, stunning wildlife and happy, friendly people. Plus fantastic kids’ clubs and facilities beckoned for Luke

The resort centres around sailing – for both novices & experienced sailors, with sailing, windsurfing and other watersports’ courses and taster sessions for kids from aged 5 on special kids’ rigs. The sailing equipment is second to none. Plus a tennis court, bicycle hire, a fitness suite, aqua aerobics, and table tennis facilities means you can be as active as you like.

The hotel arrange for some in-house entertainment on most nights, such as bands or fire-eating limbo dancers! And there is at least one weekly evening excursion to the Shirley Heights Jump-up (see below). Whilst we were there it was the Cricket Twenty/20 Cup so they arranged taxis & tickets for us to go and watch a game, where the atmosphere was electric and the experience, unforgettable.

6 days a week there is a free kids’ club for ages 2 – 17 years & a paid-for creche for ages 4 months to 2 years. There is a varied and full programme of activities, including swimming pool games & sailing tasters (for ages 5+). It operates for the full day & includes supervised lunches. There is a free night creche & supervised video club from 7pm-10pm on most nights, but you must remain in the hotel complex. There are also paid babysitters available (usually kids club leaders working in their own time) to look after your children in your room if you wish to go off-site and/or if you wish to return later than 10pm. They have certainly thought of everything!

A beautiful spa for adults-only, which, although more or less next door to our apartment, we didn’t realise was there until day 5 of our holiday! They offer a wide range of treatments, using Elemis products and fully qualified beauty therapists, plus there is also a Jacuzzi , a steam room and sauna (which were closed for repair unfortunately!)

Local activities: Apparently there are 365 beaches in Antigua but don’t expect them to be well signposted. We only managed to find about 4 of them – although all were gorgeous and pretty much deserted. The usual day trip excursions included chartering a private yacht (very expensive) or evening/night group party cruises (not really for kids) and visits to the Dockyard Museum, Nelson’s Dockyard (a working Georgian Dockyard), Devil’s Bridge (a natural limestone arch), Rainforest canopy tours and Betty’s Hope (a restored Sugar Plantation). None of these seemed suitable for a young family, so we just did our own thing, but we were disappointed to find out on our last day (too late) that there is a place called Stingray City where you can take a short boat ride to pet and feed Southern Stingrays in their natural environment, or snorkel on the coral reefs to see the colourful fish life. And one of the party cruise boats does cater for families and children and departs from Redcliffe Quay in St Johns http://www.piratesofantigua.com/ Now this was more like it, but make sure you do your research before you go, because you’ll struggle to find the information readily available when you get there.

Wish we had known: About Stingray City and Pirates of Antigua!

Our top tip: If you book for the (fairly expensive) Shirley Heights excursion, be aware that there isn’t much to do for young children. Once you’ve seen the sunset and had a burger/drink, that’s about it. The steel band and the dancing is pretty boring for the little ones, and the land is rugged, so wear flat shoes & don’t bother taking a pushchair. Book for an early taxi back. 60-90 minutes is plenty!

Kids say: 

Getting There: Club Colonna is closed for refurbishment until October 2008 but you can book for their Autumn & Winter seasons on their website www.sunsail.co.uk The other resorts in Greece and Turkey remain open. Sunsail partners with First Choice Airways and direct flights are available from London Gatwick. The transfer was very smooth and being able to check-in our bags at the hotel on our departure day was superb service. There are special offers available on the website, and prices range from L799 per person in October to L2,017 in December.

About our stay: Looking back, I don’t think we were the typical family to visit Club Colonna at all, and if I was going to recommend it for anyone, I’d definitely say that families with outgoing school-age children and active parents would absolutely love it. But we were a bit of an anomaly! We booked with Sunsail because of the amazing kids’ facilities, and they have certainly thought of everything. The kids clubs are pretty big and very well used by the guests. Most parents drop them off in the morning & pick them up in the evening every day of their holiday. Then put them back in the creche/video club in the evening after tea & collect them at 10pm. Then the parents spend their days on the beach, sailing, windsurfing and playing tennis. The parents have an amazingly relaxing and fun-filled holiday & the children also appeared to have had a great time. It must work because there were many many families there who had been three, four or more times before and intended to book again as soon as they got home. [half_moon_bay.jpg] But that’s not the way we tend to do our family holidays. Especially when we go somewhere as exotic as Antigua. And I think this worked against us a bit. For the first time ever, I found Luke refusing to go to the kids club & because there were quite large numbers and we weren’t leaving him in there all day, he didn’t really have a chance to get settled. So this was partly our fault, but we had hired a car & not being sailors ourselves, wanted to do more than just sit in the hotel all week. We are explorers and quite independent, and love to look around the place we’re visiting and find out what’s going on outside of our resort. This appeared to be virtually unheard of at Club Colonna, and the kids’ club manager came up to me at the hotel on day 3 asking if everything was okay as they hadn’t seen much of Luke. So we persevered, putting him in kids’ club for few hours at a time, and in the end he tolerated it. Although the kids’ team were great, and I think it was also the age group that worked against him. He was in the ‘Snappers’ which caters for ages 2-4, and as you know, the toys/games a 2 year old likes to play with are vastly different from those at 4. So he was a bit bored, thought he was with the babies, but clearly wasn’t old enough for the Sea Urchins (aged 5-7) who were doing much more adventurous things. I had fully intended to try my hand at sailing. Being an avid swimmer, but never having really done any watersports, I was keen to have a go. Apparently Club Colonna is one of the best places to learn in the world as the bay is sheltered, the trade winds steady and obviously, the climate is beautiful. But as we started to wind down our sightseeing & just as I was picking up my nerve to sign up for a taster session towards the end of our week, the winds picked up a bit too much for a novice, and the watersports team only allowed experienced sailors and windsurfers out on the water. So I’d lost my chance, what a shame! [john_the_gardener.jpg] On the whole, the food wasn’t, as the brochure described ‘exquisite cuisine’ with buffet style food most nights. Although the barbeque event was fantastic and that food was definitely amazing. The children’s menus were a bit monotonous, but the separate early tea-times for the kids is certainly a good idea. The accommodation was in dire need of refurbishment and repair, and Sunsail have actually closed Club Colonna between April & October for planned upgrades to the rooms & restaurant areas. So hopefully that will greatly improve the facilities, and bring it up to Sunsail’s advertised standard of ‘world-class’. They also promote themselves as having ‘superb childcare’, ‘exceptional staff’ which I fully concur with, and ‘unbeatable sailing’, which the sailors all around us would definitely agree with. It’s not a cheap holiday, and whilst we weren’t the most typical of families that visit, I can see the obvious attraction for the countless repeat visitors each year. [Kirsty, founder and CEO of entertainthekids.com lives in Halifax with her husband and son Luke, aged 4]

Created: 2008-07-24 13:28:57.630

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