Hotel Review: Grace Bay Club, Turks and Caicos

Posted by Brette in General | Travel

Before we went to Providenciales in Turks and Caicos, I read that Grace Bay repeatedly gets voted the best beach in the world by various travel sites. I’ve been to a lot of beaches, so I was ready to put this to the test. I was also interested to see if the Grace Bay Club met my expectations. We considered several hotels when planning our February getaway to T&C. The deciding factors for me were that the photos of the Grace Bay Club did not show that tight gaggle of lounge chairs you so often see on Caribbean beaches and the hotel had an adults only pool that is heated. I love to spend time at the beach and in the pool and I want to do so without 400 other people. The hotel’s location also was perfect, right in the heart of Grace Bay and close to restaurants and shops. Another important consideration was the hotel’s reassurance that they had gluten free toast for breakfast. We chose an oceanfront room with a balcony.

Getting Started

Our arrival at the Grace Bay Club was low key. The entrance to the hotel is unassuming. We entered reception and had an awkward greeting where I was directed to sit in a chair in front of the desk while my husband was left standing. We were both offered refreshments and enjoyed the fruit punch, as well as a cool cloth. The check in procedure felt a little weird as the woman assisting us kept coming around the desk and handing us things. My husband was signing things on the corner of the desk. It was just a bit strange.

We were then told we would meet our personal concierge who would show us around the property and to our room. The Grace Bay Club needs to do a much better job with their web site because there was absolutely no mention of a personal concierge on the site or when we called with questions about the accommodations. A personal concierge is not something I wanted as an amenity but it seemed like it could be useful.

Our personal concierge came and took us on a walk through the property which was nice, although she shared so much information at such a rapid speed that it was nearly impossible to follow it all.

The Room

Our room was lovely with a king bed, desk, chairs, and a huge unit that contained the TV, mini fridge, drawers, and hanging space. The balcony had chairs and a table. The view was oceanfront, but the ocean was just past one of the restaurants, so it was not a perfect view.  The bathroom had a separate shower and soaking tub and bi-fold shutters opened onto the bedroom over the tub. This was actually nice since it opened up the bathroom and allowed natural light in.  Our room had a fruit plate (lovely), bottles of water which were replenished each day (also nice), and a bottle of champagne (useless since we don’t drink).

The Resort

The view

The grounds of the hotel are lovely and green, with winding paths throughout. We had access to two pools. One was for everyone and contained a swim-up bar. The other was adults only with an infinity edge and a clear glass side. There was a third pool we did not have access to – the type of room you have controls your access to the different pools, so we paid a bit more for a room that included the adult only pool. The pools are staffed with gentlemen who will place a towel-like cover on the lounger for you and provide you with towels and water, and also take orders for drinks or food. There is a spa (which we did not visit), a business center (which we did use when our flight home was cancelled due to weather and we had to scramble to get another flight). The hotel also has bikes you can borrow at no charge. This is a nice amenity since you could easily bike to most stores and restaurants in the area, while they might be a bit of a hike if you walked. On the beach there are kayaks, stand up paddle boards, and hobie cats for use for guests. We tried the paddle board and the kayaks and had a great time.

It’s also good to note that if you plan to take any boat excursions (for parasailing, snorkeling, or just a tour), the Grace Bay Club is one of the three spots on the entire beach where people can be picked up. There are ropes in the water designating the swimming area all along the beach and one of the few openings where boats can pull up to the beach is right in front of the hotel.

The Beach

The beach was perfect in every way. The sand is soft and there are almost no shells. The water is that magical turquoise color so ubiquitous in the Caribbean. The water is warm and completely clear. Most days there was just a gentle breeze which kept things from getting too hot but was not enough to disturb you. You can walk long distances in either direction. I can see why the beach is rated so high because it was nearly perfect. The sand fleas were the biggest problem and we soon found we were covered in bites on our lower calves. In general we found the beach not to be crowded but we were there in early February before high season truly kicked in.

There is a shelf to put your shoes on just before the steps to the beach and there are foot showers there as well. The property has a lot of ocean frontage, so the chairs are nicely spread out. They are arranged so that there is an umbrella, two loungers, a table, and two low beach chairs at each spot. Some of the loungers have cushions but you have to get there early to get one. The same gentlemen who work at the pools will assist you on the beach and will set you up with chair liners and towels. Each sitting area has a red flag. If you need something, you stand the flag up in the sand.  While it was clear that many of the elderly hotel patrons enjoyed interacting with the beach and pool workers (who often sat and chatted with them), we go on vacation to be left alone. And the biggest problem with this system is there are only one or two guys working at a time so if you need anything, they are likely busy with someone else. We ended up just grabbing our own linens and setting ourselves up each day, instead of standing around and waiting for ten minutes each time. We learned to just bring our own bottled water from the room because it was about a 20 minute wait to get some. It also became clear that those patrons who brought cash to the beach and tipped these guys each time got great service. We didn’t and so were not in favor.

Dining

The property has several restaurants, including one right on the beach where all the food is served on skewers. The hotel’s bar has the longest beach front bar in the Caribbean. There was a nice fire pit area near the bar where people congregated at night and although our room was near the bar, we didn’t hear loud music at night. The main restaurant serves Italian food and we go to the Caribbean to eat fish, so we did not partake, but it is generally rated highly. There was a beach buffet one evening that was characterized as Caribbean food. We skipped this as well given questions about what was gluten free and because I just don’t want to eat buffet food.

Breakfast was included each morning at an outdoor restaurant next to a pool, facing the beach. The view is lovely from here. Breakfast was a buffet but eggs could be ordered. We found our servers were generally on island time, not interested in taking our egg orders in a timely way and giving us a little attitude when we asked for service. The food was fine with fruit, cheese, pastries, juice, yogurt, cereal, meat, vegetables, and some hot dishes including bacon, sausage, grits, fish and other items. The first morning there was gluten

free bread (as promised). The second morning there was none (when we asked we were told they didn’t have that). The third morning we had to ask for it and the fourth morning it was left out on the buffet. Not exactly consistent or what we were promised.

Breakfast view

Afternoon tea was also included (and this was not something mentioned on the web site or in our conversations with staff on the phone). We were told they would have gluten free items there. More on that in a minute. The tea was a self-serve affair at the breakfast buffet area with coffee and tea and a few plates of cookies and crustless sandwiches. Not many people seemed to be partaking in it.

Services

Longest bar

Our private concierge Tranay gave us a very strange little inexpensive cell phone we were supposed to use to contact her if we needed anything. This sounded great – immediate access. She offered to make dinner reservations. We called her soon after checking in with a dinner reservation request. She told us the place we wanted was not “the best of the best” and wanted us to dine at the hotel instead. I knew I wanted to go there (and it was a lovely meal) so we insisted ( couldn’t help but feel she was got a kick back if we ate at the hotel). Things went downhill with her from there.  She told us afternoon tea would have gluten free options. We stopped in the first day and they did not. We mentioned this to her and to her credit she made sure they did have options moving forward, however she called us the next day and pressured us and basically told us we “had” to go since she made sure they had options for us. When we said we weren’t sure we would go, she insisted on bringing a plate of food up to our room. When there was no gluten free bread the second day at breakfast we let her know and she took care of it, but it took many phone calls with her.

She was not able to get us a dinner reservation at a popular restaurant and she called us three or four times a day on that little cell phone for various reasons – often just to check in (it seemed to me the concierges must be mandated to make contact with each guest each day). We left it in the room since we had no need to be constant contact with her. One day she told us that when we didn’t answer she went looking for us at the pool and the beach (we were not on the property at the time) which felt over the top. We found her to be pushy and aggressive. I went on vacation to get away from constant phone calls and people who want things from me.  It seemed that she was trying NOT to be a laid back island person, but she went too far in the other direction and became an annoyance. That being said, if you are a person who wants to have someone managing your vacation for you – telling you where and when to eat and scheduling activities for you, this might be a good situation. We were looking for rest and relaxation and not complicated interactions with people on our trip.

My final beef is she told us to leave for the airport four before our flight. The airport is about half an hour away and we needed to drop off the rental car and ride a shuttle to the airport. It is my experience that Caribbean airports often have ridiculously long lines (for no good reason), however there were no lines at all at this airport and we ended up sitting at the airport for three hours before our flight. I would expect a concierge to have a handle on what the wait times are like.

We encountered a few problems with other services.

Housekeeping left dirty dishes in our room several times. We requested a bucket of ice from room service be delivered at a specific time and it arrived half an hour later than we asked (island time apparently). I understand that having an ice machine down the hall is tacky, but I would so much rather buzz down the hall to get some ice myself than have to make phone calls and wait for people who don’t show up.

Despite my picky grievances (which mostly have to do with the service), this is a lovely, wonderful property on a magnificent beach. The facility itself is completely top notch – it was the staff that caused some bumps in the road for us. I would highly recommend a stay here simply because it was so gorgeous and perfect.

Fire pit

 

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