Thursday we were taking it easy.
That meant we woke up “late” — 8:30 — and ate breakfast at the restaurant overlooking the beach.
We swam in the ocean, playing on the round tethered floats.
We took waterskiing lessons.
We idly wondered if 11:30 was too early to celebrate my successful ride around the entire bay without falling by ordering a St James’s Club Special with rum from the adults-only swim-up bar.
We floated in the pool while the kids walked back to the beach to rent a kayak and stand-up paddleboard.
When we finally sat down to our buffet lunch at the Palms Restaurant, the kids had already compiled their list for the afternoon.
“Definitely sailing,” said the teen boy.
“Yes, definitely sailing,” echoed the tween.
“Should we do the Banana Boat?” I wondered.
There was no question of what we would do at 4pm. That’s when the beach volleyball game would begin.
The luxury all-inclusive
When you hear about all-inclusive resorts where even drinks are free and the staff organise group activities you may – like I did – wonder if it’s really for you.
Will the food be mass-catered blandness?
Will the organised activities be painfully awkward?
Will you end up stuck miles from anywhere, with only a kiddy pool and ping-pong table for company?
The answer is an emphatic no. We discovered that a holiday at St James Club Morgan Bay — while good for families, with a kids club for younger children — was particularly good with older kids, like our 16-year-old teen and 11-year-old tween. We could do loads of activities together as a family, experimenting and doing the ones we liked — such as sailing and waterskiing — over and over, at no extra cost.
There were other teens there, taking part in the organised activities. In fact, visitors of every age seemed to get in on the act and enjoy the fun. (The midday water aerobics class was always packed. The hotel toyed with the idea of replacing it with something a little less…’80s…but there was a revolt and so it remains a popular part of the schedule.)
We visited St James’s Club Morgan Bay in St Lucia for a week in October half term, as part of the BritMums #EliteIslandFamilies project. Along with Mummy Travels and A Modern Mother, Jenography went to try out a resort and report on its appeal to family travellers.
St James’s Club Morgan Bay resort is located right on the beach on northern part of the island, on the western coast, about an hour and a half from the airport via shuttle. It is part of the Elite Island Resorts group, with properties on Antigua, Tortola, Barbados and the Grenadines.
It’s organised around a central family pool and an adults-only pool as well as entertainment pavilion where music and shows take place nightly. There are 6 restaurants. All of the restaurants – from buffet-style to a la carte — are family-oriented, save for Le Jardin, which is over-12s only, and serves French Creole cuisine with a surcharge of £35 per person.
Besides the centrally located pools, there is also a family pool with small slide, and the casual Plum Tree Bar & Grille just next to the gym. On the other side of the complex, there’s an adults-only pool with a view of the bay and a spa. (Both this pool and the spa were being refurbished during our visit. We still enjoyed an incredibly relaxing couples massage by a couple of therapists in the spa’s temporary headquarters in several hotel suites.)
Activities for the whole family at St James’s Club
The beach sports are fantastic but they aren’t the only things on offer.
At the tennis courts you can sign up for free lessons (children’s and adults’, provided free every morning) or court time. You can take a morning stretch class or afternoon spin class or join in the water volleyball in the afternoon or set and bump in the 4pm high-energy beach volleyball game.
(Prepare yourself: it might make you feel a little uncomfortable to be a grown woman resenting mere boys but when a particular sweet-looking teen playing opposite you on the net is ridiculously tall, and has freakish spiking abilities, you won’t be able to help yourself.)
Getting out of the resort
There are loads of excursions you can book directly from the resort. We went to Hotel Chocolat for a tour of their chocolate plantation and made our own chocolate bars. We went on a rainforest tour during which it bucketed down and our guide cut large leaves which we used as makeshift umbrellas.
But our favourite excursion was on the resort’s Calypso Cat. We went down the coast to Soufriere, on a full-day outing. We visited the Morne Coubaril Estate and learned about how the old plantations used to work, tasting fresh coconut and cacao beans right from the pod (you could also do the zipwire on the estate).
We dipped into the hot (very hot!) mud at the famous “drive-in” volcano. We stood under the Toraille Waterfall (a prime photo opp), swung round the posh Marigot Bay and went snorkeling at Anse Conchon. We arrived back in Morgan Bay at 4pm with pulsing music, dancing with the staff before wading back to the beach.
The Calypso Cat does several different excursions, from a sunset cruise to an excursion to Pigeon Island and more, all bookable at the concierge desk, with discounts for children under age 12. Once onboard, drinks and food are included.
Our resort favourites
Our trip was relaxing and exciting in equal measure. We enjoyed our entire stay, but several things did make our “best of” list:
- Best resort restaurant for breakfast: Bambou Restaurant – right next to the beach, with a brilliant buffet of fresh fruit, cereal, pancakes, bacon, chicken or fish goujons (yes) and eggs cooked to order
- Best restaurant for a quick meal: The Palms Restaurant – a quick buffet with drinks brought to your table by friendly staff
- Best restaurant for special celebrations: Le Jardin (which requires a reservation and per-person supplement). Dress up for dinner in air-conditioned comfort and a live pianist. Several diners had their tables set with decorations, celebrating their anniversaries or weddings
- Best evening celebration: The Wednesday night dinner on the beach, with fires, a steel band, dancers – you can even get a drink served in a coconut
- Best mocktail: St James’s Club Special, made with coconut cream, grenadine, a banana and milk
- Best cocktail: The Dirty Banana, which includes a banana, rum, milk and coffee liquer
Things we didn’t love
There wasn’t much we could find fault with. The grounds were well-tended, the staff friendly. My stepson was delighted to find they even organised a special lunch one day around a key Rugby World Cup match (sandwiches, drinks and snacks served in the open-air TV room).
But there were a few niggling items:
- The mattress on the fold-out bed in our suite was comfortable enough for kids, or possibly an adult for 1 or 2 nights, but sagged in the middle and could use an upgrade – something Elite Island Resort says they are addressing throughout the resort.
- The entertainment takes place every night, which means music til about 11pm. We were always so wiped out that it didn’t stop us from dozing off, but light sleepers or people with small children should request a room behind the stage closer to the tennis courts, rather than up on the hill.
- Occasionally our favourite beach volleyball game got very heated, with the older teen boys and staff dominating – something I imagine that’s down to the lineup on the particular day you play.
6 tips for your trip
- Head to the watersports cabin every morning to sign up for the activities you want to do that day
- Go in the shoulder season – the weather is still warm, the rain is intermittent and it’s easy to get the activities you want. We were able to try everything we wanted to do
- Take advantage of the motorised sports onsite. Often they aren’t included in “all-inclusives” but here you can do them to your heart’s content
- Book your restaurants when you arrive. You’ll want to try them all, from the Tree Tops Pizza and Pasta to Morgan’s Pier Restaurant
- Want girl-time with your teen? Book in for one of their teen treatment specials together
- For a real Caribbean experience, get your braids done at the small hair-braiding stand, but do it early in your visit so you can enjoy fuss-free plaits while swimming and doing sports
My star rating (out of 5): ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
St James’s Club Morgan Bay
Corinth Grand Riviere Rd, Corinth, St. Lucia
Disclosure: Jenography’s stay at St James’s Club Morgan Bay is part of a #EliteIslandFamilies sponsored editorial project with Elite Island Resorts. The resort stay and excursions were covered as part of the project. Flights were partially covered by Virgin Holidays.
All opinions are my own.