With picturesque surroundings, laid back Caribbean vibes and incredibly attentive service, St Lucia is the ideal destination for a break with a little one, even if things don’t go as planned. Amy Hopkins reports
Maybe it was the miniature bottle of wine I’d just drunk, maybe it was the altitude, but as I scanned the itinerary for our trip, I suddenly felt dizzy with excitement. I was on a flight to St Lucia with my husband and our 12-month old daughter, Annie, and the lineup of excursions we had waiting for us was enough to excite even the most jaded traveller. Our trip would take us through the island’s green valleys and up its volcanic mountains, via botanical gardens, secret coves and even a treetop restaurant. That was the plan, anyway. Instead we spent the best part of our holiday gazing out at the island from a hospital window.
We got our first taste of St Lucia’s world-class hospitality just minutes after landing. Staff from our resort, Marigot Bay Resort Spa and Marina, were waiting for us at the airport with warm smiles, cool flannels and bottled water. There are plenty of luxury hotels on St Lucia, but Marigot Bay is unique in providing a private concierge service. Every guest is assigned their own personal assistant, who will contact you before your trip to arrange transfers, stock your room with your favorite snacks and make reservations for you. Once you arrive, your assistant is personally devoted to you for the duration of your stay.
By the time we arrived at the resort, on the west side of the island, we were well and truly in holiday mode. Our eccentric taxi driver had spent the hour-long airport transfer dispensing cool bottles of local Piton lager along with tales of his former life as a Rastafarian (which ended abruptly when his mother made him chop off his dreadlocks and get a proper job).
Our first full day began earlier than we would have liked – much earlier – thanks to our little human alarm clock, oblivious to the four-hour time difference. By 4am we were up, building towers with plastic cups and wondering how to kill three hours before breakfast started. The silver lining to our ludicrously early start was standing together on our balcony and watching the sun rise over the jungly mountains in the distance and illuminate the impossibly beautiful natural marina below. The resort’s rooms are built into the mountainside and nearly all require you to climb a number of stone steps to access them, but the views are worth it.
Breakfast is served on the patio of Grill at 14⁰61⁰, Marigot Bay’s main restaurant. As we ate, small brown birds hopped cheekily from nearby branches onto our table. When one ventured onto Annie’s highchair she shrieked with laughter, spraying us with crumbs of creole bread.
The morning unfolded into a day that was close to perfection. We didn’t stray from the resort, but we were content just to feel the sun on our faces, swim in the pools and take in the wonders of our immediate surroundings – the sweet aromas of tropical plants, hummingbirds buzzing between blooms and lizards basking on sundrenched white walls. We strolled along the wooden boardwalk that runs the length of the marina and stole sneaky glances into the glamourous yachts moored there. It’s a little disappointing that the resort has no direct beach access, but for someone as nosey as me, the yacht-watching opportunities make up for it.
That evening, we put Annie to bed and left her in the care of Angie, the universally adored manager of Marigot Bay’s Kids Club. Angie exudes such natural motherly warmth, I defy anyone, big or small, not to fall in love with her. I wasn’t surprised to learn that guests regularly plead with Angie to leave St Lucia and become their permanent nanny. Thoroughly at ease with our childcare arrangements, Nick and I indulged in a rum tasting session at the resort’s Rum Cave. By offering experiences like this, Marigot Bay maintains a close connection to island culture and local experience. It helps that the resort is located in a town, so it doesn’t have the feel of a closed-off compound.
We went to bed feeling blissfully relaxed, thanks to a cocktail of rum and Caribbean sunshine, and whispered about our plans for the next day; a hike along the scenic Marigot ridge trail and an indulgent afternoon in the spa. Sadly, this dreamy day was never to be. That night we were woken by the sound that sends shivers down the spine of any parent – the cry of a sick child.
Our personal assistant was quick to send a local doctor, who advised us to take Annie to the emergency room. We spent the next few days in Tapion Hospital, near the capital Castries, while Annie was treated for a sickness bug. Her small body wiped out, Annie slept and slept – 15 hours straight at one point – leaving Nick and I to amuse ourselves in our new surroundings. Happily, Tapion hospital overlooks the picturesque Tapion reef. From the ward window we watched hungry pelicans circling and diving into the shimmering water.
Though we had unexpectedly absconded from Marigot Bay, the outstanding service continued. Our assistant called me, asking after Annie, and I was amazed when a basket of pastries, fruit and hot coffee was delivered to us in the hospital, from the resort, each morning. Likewise, on the day we were discharged, the resort insisted on sending a driver to wait for us all day in the hospital car park, despite my protests.
Returning to our room, I gasped when I saw what was waiting for us. Colourful balloons were tied to our wooden bedframe and carefully arranged leaves spelled out ‘get well soon’ on the bed, the message surrounded by petals, soft toys and a tray bearing a lunch for us. Beside the bed was a note from our room attendant, wishing Annie well, and on the desk, our freshly laundered clothes sat in a neat pile. I’d been quite stoic about our situation until now, but this display was so heartfelt and unexpected, I could not stop the tears coming.
The following morning I packed to go home. Annie sat on the floor beside me, helpfully removing every item I placed in the suitcase, a familiar cheeky glint in her eye. She was obviously feeling better. I felt a pang of disappointment as I refolded Annie’s holiday clothes – a collection of pretty little sun dresses, shorts and sun hats – all unworn. We may have missed out on our exciting excursions, but I left with a personal understanding of why St Lucia is special, thanks to the good-hearted islanders who had cared for my family when things went wrong.
These recommendations are not intended to take the place of professional medical advice. Always seek advice on medical matters from a doctor.