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Babygoes2 interview: Spotlight on Club Colonna, Antigua, with Sunsail Clubs

Cassie Pollock travelled to Club Colonna with her husband and 21 mth son Angus for 2 weeks in February 2004. She told us how much she loved it, so we contacted her to find out why it was such a perfect holiday option for her.

Why did you choose Club Colonna?
Because we wanted somewhere warm (but not too hot for a child, i.e. between 22 and 28 degree Celsius); not rainy; with watersports (sailing and windsurfing); 3 - 4 star accommodation and good food; good childcare - and we discovered on greater research that although many hotels will say kids clubs, kids pool, etc. many of them do not do children's mealtimes let alone children's food; and not somewhere extortionately expensive.

Why did you choose a holiday with childcare?
Because I look after Angus fulltime with no other support other than my husband and although I love my time with Angus every mother will agree that they sometimes need a break from an energetic toddler for a while. We had had a stressful time moving house and we both needed to unwind. Also we wanted a holiday for ourselves to remind ourselves that we were husband and wife and friends as well as parents!

What was the childcare like?
Excellent. Nadia the kids club manager was full of enthusiasm, support and understanding of both parent's guilt and nervousness of leaving their child with them all day! They were fantastic for all ages - the little ones did not go out in the sun until after 3pm although they were taken for shady walks/pram rides. If your child did not settle in the club, a member of staff would come to find you. Angus took a few days to settle down, having never been apart from me before, but he had a keyworker (i.e.one person assigned to look after him all day every day with just one other toddler as they were under 2 years old), but Denise was so good and patient with him.

I would pick him up at lunchtime to ensure he had a good sleep before returning him (you can take them in and out of the club as often as you want) for the afternoon session. One lunchtime he would not settle down with me and I asked if he wanted to go back to nursery to sleep in his cot there (cots provided) - he said 'yes' and he went back to Denise without a murmur and straight down to sleep in his cot in the kids club. We never looked back after that and he would ask to go to nursery in the morning. The older ones had a great time playing tennis, swimming, sailing, surfing etc. They were meticulous about hygiene.

There was a good and balanced variety of children's food at each meal so there was always something for even a fussy eater. They would also provide pureed food. There was a baby listening and babysitting service available in the evenings. There was a 24 hour kitchenette for guests to use with microwave, bottle steriliser, fridge (with milk provided). However, the milk was long life and some children did not like it. We had a daily report sheet for nappies, food, play and at the end a pile of all the painting he had done! The swimming pool had an area closed off for children. There were plenty of highchairs for tinies at mealtimes.

What was the holiday like in general?
We really enjoyed the spacious seaview apartment (sitting area, kitchenette, large bedroom, private terrace) on the ground floor - private and quiet yet only a few seconds walk from the main hotel complex. The food was very good - mostly buffet style and on each day either inclusive lunch or dinner.

We hired a car (did not take Angus but could have had a car seat) - very easily arranged through the hotel reception - for a day and wished we had taken one for a few more days as we loved exploring Antigua. However Antigua is not an island for those enjoying the highlife, apart from all the hotel complexes, the island is very rural with no big towns (St Johns, the capital can be walked around in 1/2 hour). The hotel also arranges tours for the less adventurous.

The sailing and windsurfing facilities were excellent - a huge number of perhaps half a dozen different dinghies and again of windsurfers. All the equipment was well maintained and cared for - no worries about rigging up, just pop down to the beach and one of the beach staff would prepare a dinghy/windsurfer for you and then off you go. They ran workshops for the novices and would take novices out - all this at no extra cost. They have little motorboats you can take out to go snorkelling and they also run diving courses. The snorkelling was great fun as was zipping around in a motorboat (albeit not that fast!). Their safety procedures could not be faulted - if a squall was coming through a red flag would go up and everyone had to come back to the harbour. Every 1/2 hour (if not more frequently) there would be a count of boats and windsurfers to ensure no-one was missing. There were several very vigilant rescue RIBs (rigid inflatable boats) at sea with the sailors always keeping an eye out for those in potential trouble - and we all had to keep within a certain grid (but very large) for safety reasons. The club is situated on the Northeast corner of Antigua and therefore gets the prevailing trade winds. The winds are a steady 3 - 5 which keeps all levels of sailor happy. The hotel would also arrange for you to charter one of their yachts kept at English Harbour for the day or longer. We met some people who had spent a week on a charter and then a week on shore.

What were the staff like?
Very helpful, friendly, professional, even if it was not their department, they would try to help out. The managers were on the whole English but the rest of the staff and kid's club staff were local - all again professional and helpful. Although day events (dinghy races and tennis competitions) and evening events were organised, the staff encouraged you to join in but did not push you. Some members of staff would eat with the guests each evening which was a great idea. In the event of any drama - whether adults, children or a problem with your room, it was dealt with promptly and effienctly.

What was the best thing?
Wow. Sailing facilities, kids club. Spending time together and apart (him windsurfing, me reading) but knowing the Angus was well cared for and happy in the kids club. It was great having so many other children around, an instant social life for the only child and you never felt that your child was playing up or making a nuisance of themselves.

And finally...
The holiday was excellent value for money - albeit expensive for us, but far cheaper than anywhere else in the Caribbean and we could not have asked for better childcare or sailing facilities. Of course the fresh sea air and stimulation ensured Angus slept long and deeply from 6.45pm until 7.30am! We met some very nice people - through our children becoming friends and we are still in contact back in the UK, planning another trip together in a couple of years time.
The beach area is small, but it is very sheltered and safe for little ones to paddle around in the water. It really is a holiday for those who like boats or who would like to learn to like boats and who have children (well, don't go in the school holidays if you don't!). There were very good rstaurants not far from the hotel to make a change. It really was the perfect holiday for all of us Alastair for the sailing and windsurfing, me for the sailing and reading, Angus for a fantastic time with other children and all of us for the family breakfast and children's teatime. It was a very special holiday. My most poignant memory is of the time after children's tea when all the little ones would go down to the beach and make sandcastles together, chase each other up and down the beach and paddle in the sea (some more adventurous than others) in the light of the setting sun - while the doting parents looked on fondly!

To request a brochure, get a quote or make a booking at Club Colonna contact us here.

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