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"High-Touch, Low-Tech" - Cobblers Cove, Barbados
We're all too familiar with the rum punch at a hotel upon arrival, but when it's coming from the hands of the resort's General Manager, it seems that much more special. Ross Stevenson, General Manager of Cobblers Cove in Barbados, stood with seven rum punches in hand as our group arrived and immediately traded the drinks for our luggage informing us that the hotel was a "high-touch, low-tech resort." As an obsessive-compulsive email-checker, and someone who grew up in a house with seven TV's, I'd be lying if I said the description didn't scare me a little. To my surprise, not once in the entire stay did I find myself saying, "I want my MTV."
After personally bringing our luggage to our rooms (mind you there were seven of us with six being women so you do the luggage math) and ensuring we were comfortable with our accommodations, Mr. Stevenson sat with us over rum punches during the resort's daily afternoon tea to find out more about each of us. He told us that he makes it a priority to meet as many guests as he can while they're on property and claims to get to know about 95% of them. (We'll forgive him about the other 5% as he does have a lovely wife Annabel whom we were fortunate enough to meet along with their three beautiful children!) Since it was my first time to Barbados, he made sure to point out some of the things I shouldn't miss both at the hotel and around the island -- swimming with the turtles off Cobblers' beach and the Mount Gay Rum Distillery, the oldest producer of rum in the world. Needless to say, it didn't take much twisting of the arm for me to visit Mount Gay. (FYI when visiting, ask for Calvin and tell him Lindsay sent you. He is the best bartender there and, since he claims to be my future husband, he might even give you a deal! J)
While there are plenty of activities to do around Barbados, I spent most of my time on property. Cobblers exudes Caribbean charm - warm and friendly staff, cozy open-air suites overlooking lush hibiscus gardens, and cuisine to die for. No matter how full I left the resort's Terrace Restaurant, I found myself looking forward to my next meal! Barker, the resort's personal fisherman, catches fish daily and Executive Chef Neil Hitchen prepares it to your liking. I'm sorry I missed being there on a Friday night as I've heard they feature a Seafood & Caviar dinner weekly. Luckily, I was able score a couple of Chef's recipes, including the Chilled Champagne & Fruit Soup - perfect for when I'm melting in Miami!
Aside from eating, the watersports at Cobblers were one of my most memorable experiences. Captain Roy took my friend and me out to snorkel among the sea turtles, (We heeded Mr. Stevenson's warning and made sure to remove our red toe nail polish so that the turtles wouldn't nibble) and I even managed to remember my water-skiing skills from years back!
Looking back on my visit, there is nothing I would have changed. My only regret is that this was only my first trip and I'd heard that repeat guests receive freshly-baked sugar cookies in their rooms at turn-down along with the ingredients and recipe for Cobblers Cove's Classic Rum Punch. Perhaps my return trip will have to be sooner than I thought.
Best hotel I've stayed at
Good sized suites (bedroom, bathroom, living room, plus a balcony or verandah), ecxcellent service, good food in the on site restaurant, extremely pleasant gardens, good range of cocktails (but watch out for the rum punch - more rum than anything else!)
As there are only 40 suites, its fairly quiet most of the time. No problems getting a lounger, a table in the restaurant etc.
Plus it's only short walk down the beach to Speightstown if you want to get off site.
Watersports are included; snorkelling, waterski, windsurf and sunseeker. But no lessons are given. Scuba costs extra.
Turtles live a hundred yards offshore - swimming with them is also free, but if you go at peak times you have to fight through boats from all the other hotels!
The only problem I had during my trip was with the weather, but there's not much even the best hotel can do to fix that!
Intimate, but not a great value
First off, I couldn't agree more with the review posted by the New Yorker on 4/16/04.
Cobblers Cove is a very nice, 4-star-for-the-Caribbean resort. It could do a lot better.
Go if you like the British 'shabby-chic' sort of Caribbean resort where the atmosphere is relaxed, the patrons are friendly (but reserved) and the loudest noise you'll hear all day is the blender at the bar. This is the type of resort my wife and I deliberately seek out, and in this regard, we were not disappointed.
Don't go if you are expecting American "luxe" accomodation, or if you want a any night-time entertainment.
This is the only resort I've been to where the beachfront rooms are actually less desirable than the garden view, despite the obligatory extra expense. They certainly are a lot less private, and no more scenic. A second floor gardenview room is ideal.
My only real quibble is with the food. Not that it isn't excellent - it is - just that there is way too much emphasis on seafood. When you are paying that much for your meals at a Relais & Chateaux, you expect more than just whatever the local fisherman caught that morning prepared in a fairly pedestrian manner. I thought, frankly, that the hotel "cheaped out" in this regard.
We found Cobblers Cove to be very similar to the Jamaica Inn in Ocho Rios, but the Jamaica Inn provides much better value, and has a far superior beach. CC also compares unfavorably to places like Blue Waters and Galley Bay in Antigua, as well as Palm Island in St. Vincent. I'm not sure if you can do any better on Barbados, though, for the same $.
Big on space, light on luxury
Just returned from a split week - four nights at Cobblers, 3 at the Royal Pavillion. Four nights of English shabby chic v three of fully-refurbished five star deluxe rooms.
Cobblers is small - 42 suites - and was only a third full in June. If you want peace and quiet, you've got it (at least until the English schools break up in mid-July). It is the only hotel on its stretch of beach, so you will be left alone.
The best thing about it is the huge suites - 70-80 sq metres, with a little kitchenette / dining area and living room. The suites are a little shabby in places, and not helped by the ugly terracotta floor tiles, but not bad. Ask for an upper level suite when reserving, as they have huge vaulted ceilings and better views. Don't waste your money on anything above a Garden View - you will spend all day looking at the water and the garden is very impressive. All rooms have the same furnishings in any event. (The two suites are in a different league and are very lovely - we had a look around both.)
Food is OK, but not exceptional. The free afternoon tea is good. The lounge, part of the old house, is a pleasant place to sit and read. You can also happily sit around the pool or bar if you want to avoid the sun on the beach.
At the end of the day, this is a quiet, intimate hotel, albeit still a little pricey at $349 inc tax in June. It is NOT, however, a Sandy Lane wannabe. If you want a marble bathroom, standalone shower, DVD player, top notch food and a less personal experience for the same money, try the Royal Pavillion. We were glad we tried both.
PS. Hamish Watson left Cobblers 10 months ago, to be replaced by the amiable Ross Stevenson.
One Further Comment on Cobblers Cove
Upon reading some further reviews from other guests, I have a few further comments on Cobblers Cove, to help clarify matters for other travelers. At the outset, let me note that my 5-star rating from October 2003 still stands:
--While I gave Cobbler's a five-star review in my October 2003 post, I would not pay $500+ a night to stay there. My five-star review recommends trying for shoulder seasons (outside high season) and/or any promotional or package specials you can find. While I would probably not spring for $500+ a night anywhere (just not worth it to me), I would require the height of extraordinary luxury if I did. Cobblers is small and elegant in a European fashion, but does not offer the level of luxury suggested by its high in-season prices.
--The four-star spring 2004 review from NYC is right on the money, in that it observes that Cobblers is a smaller, quiet hotel with a small beach. Barbados typically features narrow beaches, and Cobblers is typical in this regard. If you want a wide, unpopulated beach, do not visit Barbados. And if you want the ultimate level of luxury, I can't fairly recommend Cobblers. Cobblers is more geared to timeless, slow-paced, lower-key elegance. Think English countryhouse, rather than Beverly Hills. The style at Cobblers is upscale European rather than luxe American-- unless you opt for one of the truly opulent and pricey ($1,000 or more per night) specialty suites.
--I repeat my earlier recommendation to try for low season: October-November and perhaps early December in the fall, May-July in the summer. I have been told by the Cobblers staff that the property's popularity makes it quite crowded during the high season, and service during that timeframe might therefore suffer. My own visits have been in the mid-October to early December time frame, well away from the holiday rush. As a result, I have experienced good service-- and lower rates.
--If you do find service inadequate, I would strongly recommend a chat with Hamish Watson, the general manager. I am pretty sure that your concerns will be taken care of.
On numerous trips-- yes, in low season-- I have never experienced an unmet request, although I have found the occasional staff person abrupt. (Yes, even Cobblers can have flaws.) You should also be aware that Barbadian service is slower than that in the U.S. generally.
On dinner service-- I would characterize service at dinner as slower in pace, but my husband and I have found that to be a pleasure rather than a problem given the excellence of the food and the beauty of the outdoor setting. On multiple visits my husband I have never had the "hair pulling" experience cited by one reviewer. And I would note that dinner service in most Barbados resorts and in many of the better restaurants tends to be on the slower side.
I still give Cobblers five huge stars-- precisely because it is smaller, low-key and elegant in an understated European style. Do try for less crowded times of the year-- which will also give you more favorable pricing. And if you are after a more obviously opulent experience, yes-- you might be happier elsewhere, unless you opt for one of Cobblers' specialty suites.
In bad need of renovations!
Let me begin by saying that the lush grounds of the hotel are gorgeous - flowers and amazing foliage everywhere. That unfortunately, is where the compliments end. THE STAFF - Aloof and apathetic is how I would describe their attitudes. I have never met such a large group of people who could seem to care less about their jobs, guests, you name it! Maybe the British don't mind arrogant and unresponsive hotel staffs, but as an American you will be annoyed and can probably recall better customer service you received at a Holiday Inn. THE FOOD - Quite good but you really can't eat there more than a few nights because the service is so slow you literally want to pull your hair out and service your own table just to get out of the restaurant. Every night we ate there we had to ask several times to get our check to no avail - except once. We even resorted to asking for it when we ordered dessert just to give them plenty of time to generate it and it still didn't work!!! THE ROOMS- The size of the rooms is good but they are soooo dated and shabby (NOT SHABBY CHIC) looking. The hotel badly needs to be refurbished! Again, the Brits don't seem to mind this but Americans who like nicely appointed rooms and modern amenities will find the rooms disappointing. The bathrooms are equally in bad need of updating. POOL/BEACH - We did like their beach but found all of the chairs and smelly cushions at both the beach and pool to be very cheap. These also need to be updated and upgraded. The pool is small, has a constant smattering of left over kids toys floating in it and needs to be resurfaced. OVERALL - This hotel is not luxurious AT ALL. I would not stay at Cobblers Cove again nor would I ever recommend it to friend or foe!!!
Definitely not as luxurious as we hoped, but it really grew on us
I felt like I had to post a slightly more lukewarm review of CC here after reading these raves made us book our own vacation. It is a lovely but SIMPLE place, not a luxurious over the top experience. For that, you should go to Cap Juluca on Anguilla, which is only a bit more expensive, and is similarly intimate in scale, but is the most opulent place we have ever stayed. CC kind of paled in comparison.
I'll start with the drawbacks: the beach is extremely small, eroded and narrow, so that your beach chairs are pitched on a 45 degree angle bank right up against some trees while the waves come right up to you at times. The other area overlooking the ocean is a threadbare patch of grass near the smallish pool, which is very crowded with chairs, and right underneath the most expensive oceanfront rooms. I definitely would have been disappointed with my lack of privacy if we had paid up for one of those rooms... again, they're the same price as Juluca, where there's a huge beach for the same number of guests, so you don't see anything but ocean from your terrace.
We found the manager very welcoming. The rest of the staff was fine.
Not great, not terrible. Not as wonderful as others have posted. We asked for extra water in our minibar four times and never got it.
Ordered a lemonade on the beach and never got it. Had to ask for children's menus repeatedly at times. Service in the restaurant can be very slow. The food is good to very good, not over the top. I expected more variety, more risk-taking, and better presentation from a Relais & Chateaux chef. But there are plenty of restaurants nearby, as we discovered.
The rooms are very comfortable but not luxurious. The only a/c is a window unit in the bedroom, and there is no ocean breeze, for whatever reason, so it was very humid and I wished we had more efficient a/c for the whole suite. the suite layout is great, especially if you have a child with you, since you can enjoy your evening in the living room and on your patio/terrace after the baby is in bed. (That's when I was wishing for a/c in that room though... but maybe that's a spoiled American thing)
I think those are my criticisms. The good things: we were the only Americans there, and the English and Irish guests were SO friendly and so nice to our young son. Our first floor room opened right out onto the gardens, so our son could run around in the garden and right back into our room. The small scale of the place meant you were always only steps from your room if you needed something. When we first checked in, we were dismayed at what seemed like a lack of privacy, since everything is quite compact and all the rooms are right together, near the pool and restaurant. But it is a quiet clientele, all the European children were VERY well behaved, and the intimacy of scale became a great plus for us.
I think it's a great place to be with very young children for that reason. Except for the beach. the beach was so narrow that our son was too afraid to go on it, the waves were so close. So if you're looking for vast expanses of white sand, CC is not the place. Maybe the whole island is the same way, I can't say.
WE enjoyed dinners at The Cliff and Lone Star nearby, and our driver was Earvin, someone we found through the hotel, who was great. We had a lovely babysitter as well, I think her name was May, who came two evenings.
We really did enjoy ourselves, but there was something about it that felt like we were at a very nice 3-star resort, and yet we were paying over $500 a night. and the rooms go up from there. So I just felt obliged to report that. But maybe that desire for luxury is an American thing- all the Brits who had taken that endless flight all the way from the UK were repeat customers.
A Paradise on the Beach
Visit and fall in love. This small hotel is a slice of paradise. Enjoy the small, elegant beach, the delightful open-air dining pavillion, the lovely gardens, an attentive staff and an interesting mix of guests: British, German, Canadian and U.S.
My husband and I have visited Cobbler's Cove five times over a 15 year period, and have never been disappointed. We've also sent friends who have loved the experience. Do shop for favorable pricing and book well in advance. If you see a rare special (check the Best of Barbados options), grab it and enjoy. That said, Cobbler's Cove is an excellent value for its guests, especially in the shoulder seasons.
The better of the standard suites are those on the upper level-- more airy. A sea view is nice, but the garden view is delightful as well.
Don't get fixated on the need for a sea view, as the ocean is just steps away from each room. The suites are well-appointed and roomy, and you will enjoy your private balcony (upper level) or patio (lower level). If you are searching for the ultimate romantic experience and have a taste fir the ultimate price level, book the Camelot Suite atop the main house.
The cuisine at this property is splendid and features fresh fish and local produce. Enjoy the outdoor dining pavillion, especially at breakfast and at dinner. The dining pavillion is open to the Caribbean and the rush of the waves provides an enlivening backdrop in the morning and a soothing backdrop at night.
This is a boutique property-- if you want extensive facilities you might be happier elsewhere. If you are looking for intimacy, quiet, relaxation, elegance and romance, stay at Cobbler's Cove.
No, I am not affiliated with the hotel-- just a discerning and highly satisfied guest. Should management-- a superb team headed by the discerning Hamish Watson-- see this review, however, I would be most grateful for a heads-up on the date of the next Best of Barbados special for American visitors.
One of those very special places that withstands the pressures of time and unnecessary modernity. Returned here after a 10 year absence, to find that the wonderful hospitality of Hamish and his staff is undimmed. We even re- acquainted oursleves with restaurant staff from the previous visit. Food remaisn suberb, service and attention to detail excellent, its said to be a little bit of England in the Caribbean, don't let that put you off, this is a very Bajan sport of welcome. Low key but quality entertainment some evenings, a beautiful beach and a view to die for. Not the greatest place for children, although we did bring one 5 year old, who was thrilled to be the genuine centre of attention. Rooms have been improved and the garden are a delight.
Cobbler's Cove is everything we go on vacation for...beautiful beach....a small, quiet resort where they treat you like family!
Impeccable, friendly service....the dining room staff is outstanding!
(especially Tony) Afternoon tea served at the pool....reading on the beach.....walking through the lovely gardens - it's like a dream come true! Quiet and relaxing, but just a short hop to the festivities in Holetown and Bridgetown. PERFECT!
TripAdvisor Reviews Cobblers Cove Barbados
Travel Blogs from Barbados
... on the sun lounges for the rest of the day. The staff were really friendly and quickly started recognising us. Since we were having breakfast and/or lunch here they let us use the lounges. Everywhere we went we were surrounded by Englishmen – Barbados seems to be a very popular destination for the Brits! The great thing about that was that I was able to have a decent pot of tea with breakfast each day (can be impossible at times in the US). We saw some people each ...
... luckly some beach vendor came up and sold the obviously unburnt tourist (i.e. us) some fresh aloevera which he bottled on the spot so hopefully that will help.
Tomorrow we're going to visit the Atlantic coast at Batsheba where the currents are too strong to swim, but apparently the landscape is very different so that will be nice to see. By that time we have almost been around the whole island by the time we're going back to Miami so cheers to us!
... out at St Lawrence Gap the night before. We've enjoyed lots of beach time, a visit to Bridgetown (the capital), a tour around the local rum factory (with plenty of early morning free samples), learning how to surf (surprisingly its easier than I thought it would be!) and I enjoyed a trip to the Kensington Oval to check out a local charity called Sport for Life! All in all, the travelling part to our elective has been ...
... Carlisle bay where we snorkled over a couple of wrecks. We let off the 3 hour tour people then moored for a great lunch on board. A bit more swimming - and a few more drinks- then we sailed back Bridgetown. Chatted with a family from Goderich on the way back home. Time for a shower and a nap I think! Oooh but the bell just rang for happy ...
... complements the climate. It must have rained while I was having my massage as the road was wet and it was a few degrees cooler.
Took a taxi to the little fishing village of Oistins about 5pm which is only a 10 minute drive south of the Bougainvillea. I missed the famous weekly fish fry (held every Friday night) but my driver assured me that every night is fish fry night in Oistins – the only difference is the number of tourists that attend.