“Welcome to paradise” beamed Gilda - part of our ‘welcome team’ - as she handed my shiny new husband and I a chilled glass of champagne, toasting our arrival in sun-drenched Antigua.
It was impossible to argue with the description, glancing out across the clear blue sea set against a totally deserted sandy beach with hundreds of swaying palm trees.
Having spent the last year planning and stressing about our wedding, Anitgua was our planned ‘relaxation time’ - and from first impressions, choosing Galley Bay Resort & Spa for our honeymoon was the best wedding decision we made.
Tucked away in a secluded bay and miles from the crowds of honeymooners seeking sunshine and romance at the ‘big name’ resorts, Galley Bay offers a totally unique getaway.
A 20-minute drive from the airport through St Johns and across to the North-Western coast, the resort’s 40 acres of space gives it a totally isolated feel from the rest of the island.
And with so much space but only 98 rooms across the resort, even at full capacity it’s hard not to feel like you have the place to yourself.
“You’re now on Antigua time,” the manager, Chris, told us as we moved from champagne to rum punch.
“No one is in a rush here - your job is to come here and relax. Leave your worries at home, this is paradise,” he beamed, leading us to our suite.
The word ‘paradise’ isn’t used lightly at Galley Bay; stepping into our frankly-ridiculous beachfront premium suite - complete with balcony, jaw-dropping ocean views, a private lounge area and a bed big enough to sleep a family of four – I genuinely stopped in my tracks.
We had opted for full-on opulence for our stay, which was more than worth it – with the bathroom alone topping our expectations beyond belief.
Featuring his-n-hers showers and a monstrous double bath, our high-beamed bathroom doubled up as a huge wet room with luxury Gilchrist & Soames products to top it off.
Most of the resort’s rooms are spread out along their three-quarter mile of beachfront, with direct access to the sand, while those seeking total seclusion can stay in one of the beautiful Gaugin Cottage.
Set back from the beach with private gardens and plunge pools, the thatched-roof, Tahitian-style cottages offer a totally silent paradise with bamboo ceilings, louvered windows and a terracotta tile finish.
Those wanting to dip their toes directly into the sand upon waking can opt for a superior room, deluxe room or – like us – a premium suite, all scattered along the beachfront with sunset views.
Donning my ‘Mrs’ bikini (it had to be done), we headed straight down to the beach for a wander along the sand, glasses of champagne in-hand.
The crystal clear bay and white sandy beach is totally cut off from the rest if the island, meaning the resort can almost guarantee privacy from the outside world and making it a top choice for many A-listers.
Our visit was no exception to the rule, with Daniel Radcliffe and his actress girlfriend Erin Darke the first and only couple we passed on our first afternoon stroll.
Despite its ‘all inclusive’ status, Galley Bay isn’t what you’d expect from your usual ‘Antigua all inclusive beach resort’. Despite the ‘package holiday’ label, this is the crème de la crème of package holidays.
No request is too much for the staff, with Chris on hand to greet guests at breakfast by their first names and always there to wave goodbye at the end of each guest’s stay.
The resort prides itself on their personalised experience and word-of-mouth recommendations, meaning a huge number of guests are regulars.
Having spent a year at the gym and eating nothing but chicken and broccoli, I was devastated to discover there was no Nutella at breakfast. Putting the ‘no request is too much’ statement to the test, my husband duly asked Chris if there was anything he could do to help.
Fast-forward 24 hours and I was informed that there was a large jar of Nutella – just for me – on our breakfast table, and that it would be available, exclusively to me, every day going forward.
While the Nutella was an obvious honeymoon highlight, the resort provides plenty of other
gut-busting culinary delights throughout the day, with guests choosing from three main restaurants to dine at (the Gaugin being the most private and our personal favourite).
Those looking for something really special can book a candlelit dinner on the beach and dine with their toes literally in the sand. Only available for three couples per evening, the service includes your very own private waiter, Mike, and total isolation from the rest of the resort.
While most of our trip was spent walking from beach lounger or double hammock to restaurant and back along the surf, there are a number of more active choices for those in need of some extra thrills.
Complimentary water-sports, jogging trails, mountain bikes, a full size tennis court and plenty of snorkelling gear are all available for hire, while a fully equipped fitness centre will keep any gym bunnies satisfied.
After four days of gluttony, we eventually cracked and agreed we’d test our newly-formed family of two at some teambuilding, taking out a kayak on what would turn out to be an unsuccessful trip around the bay.
Having heard about a shipwreck some 700 metres away, we headed straight for the water, adamant that we’d nail the task.
But after a solid 96 hours of lounging like a jellied human in WALL-E, a 700-metre slug suddenly felt like a mammoth task; we sadly didn’t make it 100 metres before I had capsized the both of us.
Defeated, we splashed our way back to shore and booked ourselves in for an outside couples’ massage at the onsite spa to help our “aching” muscles.
Settling down next to my husband on one of the bamboo massage tables with the gentle trickling of water below us, it was the first time in a long time that the word ‘wedding’ didn’t cross my mind.
And that, I’ve learned, is exactly what honeymoons are for.
7 nights at Galley Bay Resort & Spa, Antigua, with Best At Travel on an all-inclusive basis with return flights with British Airways from £1595 per person (saving up to £350 per person), based on 16 April – 15 July 2015 departures. To book call 0203 733 6507 or visit: http://www.bestattravel.co.uk/galley-bay.aspx
Things to take:
One thing you will definitely need at Galley Bay Resort & Spa is mosquito spray for those dinner dates. Jungle Formula (Maximum), £8.15 at Boots, works a charm. Alternatively, you can try taking a vitamin B supplement every day (we actually swear by it).
Spending a full seven days in the sunshine means sun protection is vital, tan or no tan. Even when it's cloudy and humid, you should be looking after your skin. Ultrasun, £19 at M&S, offers superior protection against UVA filters (91-99% against the EU requirement of 33%) and will stay put even after towel drying, swimming, sweating or showering. Even better, its shelf life is two years, so it’s worth the investment.