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Trip Report TCI: Not what it's cracked up to be

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OK, maybe that’s not a fair title but I couldn’t resist the conch reference. However, my overall impression of TCI was not favorable due to the cost/value of the experience and bad weather for half the time.

We booked 5 nights at the West Bay Club in early March. I thought we could get by in a studio ($300 night plus $63 tax & service) vs. a Luxury 1 bedroom ($625/night plus$131 tax and service, but you get the 4th night free) Note: there are just a few standard one bedrooms for $495 but these weren’t available. However, after being shown to the tiny, dark first floor studio with no view or patio that smelled of ammonia (this is $300 a night?!!!), I knew I couldn’t survive 5 nights there since there was a rainy forecast for the next three days and no where else to hang out in the resort other than the beach or pool. So, we upgraded to the Luxury one bedroom for the four nights (to take advantage of the “free” night, and would move to a studio for the 5th night to reduce average night costs.

As an aside, it’s hard to believe WBC can’t find a better front desk clerk. She had the most unpleasant demeanor, never smiled, reacted with a blank look and no comment when spoken to, took forever to do anything, didn’t seem to know what she was doing, etc. Other reviews had spoken of a welcome rum drink. We didn’t receive anything, but
were invited to the Manager’s cocktail party that evening. Meanwhile, Renee, the concierge was very helpful and pleasant. We did get our free rum punch at the cocktail reception, but it didn’t seem the two managers were very interested in greeting or talking to guests.

The only luxury one bedroom we could get was on the ground floor, which meant we didn’t get the killer views of the water. We did look across the lawn and saw some water. However, this was famine to feast....the unit was so large that it was overkill. When researching where to stay, it seemed like this was the trend in TCI....you had to get a huge condo type unit with a full kitchen, which we didn’t intend to use, or your choice was a little old room in an older hotel. We did see a lot of families with little children here and elsewhere, so I guess they need the room. The decor was modern beachy, king four poster bed, double shallow square sinks, large tub and shower, granite everywhere, GE profile appliances, large flat screen TVs, surround sound, etc.

When the sun is out, the water is that incredible turquoise color, which changes to bands of dark blue over grassy or reef areas. At the horizon, we saw ever changing sprays of white as the water gushed over the outlying reefs sending huge waves into the air. My husband enjoyed trying out the Paddle boards...it was nice and calm and he was able to stand up.

The pool area was small but stylish and looked out through an archway to a grassy area that led to a wooden bridge to the beach. The boutique hotel Gansevort, which seemed to appeal to a younger, hip audience, was to the left and Turks & Caicos Club to the right. The beach was wider and quieter here,which was a plus. Complimentary paddle boards, hobie cats and kayaks were available and the beach staff was excellent.

An adequate if not exciting continental breakfast was provided each morning with one hot dish special each day: eggs, pancakes or french toast, which were good. The muffins, croissants and other pastries were bland.

That night, we ate at Bay Bistro at the Sibonne hotel since I wanted to eat beachside before the rains came. Lovely atmosphere, tried their award winning conch crepe, and a crab cake, and I forget what else but thought the food was merely good. I won’t repeat the litany that all the meals were very expensive.

BTW, we rented a car through Grace Bay Car Rentals. We had tried to book a standard car for $39/day, which I understood was a Corolla, but were informed that they only had premium cars available for $49/day....however, the car we got was a Corolla, with dings and dents, so need to follow up on that. Very easy rental process...guy met us at the airport and showed us to the car and we were off...returned it to the airport and left keys with the parking attendant.

The next morning, I had booked the half day snorkel and conch trip with Caicos Dream Tours. We were picked up on our beach at 8:30 by a large power catamaran and then made about 4 more stops picking up about 25 people. The further we went east, the rougher it got....so much so that one guy got completely drenched by a wave as we picked him up, and we couldn’t even get the last couple near Ocean Club...they had to be taxied to the back side of the island where we picked them up. Now, it was after ten and getting cloudier, cooler and windier. Conch diving was the next order of business, which we passed on. Thought we could snorkel while they dove, but there wasn’t anything to see here, and the water was cool. After that, we went to Half Moon Bay where the crew demonstrated removing the conch from the shell and started preparing the conch salads while we were supposed to walk around this deserted beachy area for an hour....but it started raining so we sat on the boat waiting for the salad. All got small bowls and chips and beer, rum punch, soda or water. Finally, it was time to snorkel, but the weather wasn’t good, it was cool, and we decided to skip it. So, overall a bust of a snorkel trip. So glad I hadn’t booked the full day one. We did get a lovely conch shell though.

That night, we went up to Magnolia Restaurant overlooking the Turtle Cove Marina for a sunset cocktail (great Mojito) and views...of course, there were none because it was raining, so no al fresco dining that night. The dining room was charming though and my husband raved about their signature dish, the Seared Ahi Tuna.

The next morning started off well with welcome sunshine. Took a long walk up the beach to the Regent Palm, past a very crowded and yucky looking Beaches resort. It really is easier to walk barefoot in the soft and cool sand.
Then, headed off to the south side of the island to see Sapodilla Beach and Chalk Sound. We had just put down our beach towels, turned our faces to the sun, when it disappeared and huge clouds came rolling in again. So, packed up and headed back to our unlocked and windows down car (recommended by the car rental place so no one smashes your window) and went to lunch at Las Brisas, overlooking powdery aqua, Chalk Sound, which would have been more beautiful if the sun was out. Had a great Blueberry Mojito, Mussels in a white wine cream sauce, good, and conch fritters, OK. Afterwards, we drove along Chalk Sound Road, looking over the lovely homes to that incredible sound,

About 4pm it poured, monsoon style. Think they got their years’ worth of rain that day.
Some roads were half flooded when we drove for our “sunset” (hadn’t seen one yet) cocktail at the acclaimed Infinity Bar and Lounge at Grace Bay Club. We were the first ones there at 5:50 (sunset) and took the last dry seat that was closest to the water yet undercover. The sofas at Lounge looked lovely except for the puddles of water standing on them. I’m sure on a dry night this would be a stunning location. Loved their Infiniti Martini (Hypnotiq, Rum, and pineapple juice)

From here, I had booked Lemon Cafe because I knew it was indoors. Lovely, tent-like Moroccan atmosphere with decorative hanging lanterns and a couple of red chandeliers. The Lamb Moussaka and Chicken B’stilla were excellent as was their two chocolates pie (more like a flourless chocolate cake) with ice cream.

That reminds me, we visited Island Scoop earlier after reading it’s homemade with island flavors. It was horrible... icy with little flavor.

The next day finally was sunny and beautiful! Took a long walk in the opposite direction to Smith’s Reef. At lunchtime, walked back to Somewhere on the Beach at Coral Gardens and ate on their second floor deck with a magnificent view of the reef. Had one order of great fish tacos, guacamole and chips and a frozen margarita and a Turks Head...$60 with tip for lunch. That gives you an idea of the prices.

We tried snorkeling at the reef in front of Coral Gardens, but the current was so strong, I had to hold onto the ropes and try to pull myself around. I didn’t seen anything exciting or beautiful.

I wanted to get a massage and Spa Tropique had better prices but they operated out of a small room in back of the fitness center at WBC. I had read that the Regent Spa at Regent Palms had gotten great reviews from Travel & Leisure mag, so decided to go for the whole spa experience. The setting in an old stone mansion behind the resort was lovely, with a long reflecting pool and gurgling fountains where you rested before being led along a path to individual treatment rooms in the gardens. I settled on a Thai massage for something different and my masseuse was Thai. It was good, if a bit scary at times, hoping that she wouldn’t push my body too hard in a way it wasn’t used to moving. I have to admit that I did like the massages I actually got in Thailand better, and the price here was steep ($182 after the mandatory service charge)

This night, we were going to the highly recommended Coco Bistro, and I was thankful it wasn’t raining so we could enjoy the palm garden ambiance. But first, we went to have a sunset cocktail (let’s change that to twilight cocktail) at The Deck at Seven Stars so we could see NaDa perform Seven Stars is a newer huger resort and the Deck was packed. Wouldn’t you know, large clouds came rolling in and it rained for a bit. By the time we got to Coco Bistro, everything was fine and were seated in it’s magical garden. Based on prior reviews, I ordered the Simply grilled Lobster with snow peas and jasmine rice and it was simply wonderful with three good size spiny lobster pieces. My husband was debating between the Black Angus steak and the Rack of Lamb, and our waitress steered him to the latter. But, there wasn’t that much meat once you locate and remove the fat, so we think we would’ve enjoyed the steak more. It did taste good though. For dessert, their coconut pie was exceptional. FYI, you must make reservations well in advance...several people we talked to couldn’t get them four days in advance. You need to email your concierge to call and make them as they don’t accept email reservations. We thought the prices were fair here.

Our last full day in TCI dawned sunny and warm again, so took the hobie cat out for a sail. Then it was time to downgrade and move back to a studio for the last night. I had asked for one on a higher floor, so at least got the second floor, which provided a little more light. But, the furnishings in this unit was almost laughably bad. Oh well, it’s just for a night. I still can’t believe the cost for it.

For lunch, we drove to the Blue HIlls and ate on the beach at Da Conch Shack. What a great setting, inexpensive and delicious conch (had cracked conch and fritters),tasty rum punch and chocolate rum cake...all serenaded with a guy guitar player. Delightful.

Last night, it clouded up again and looked like rain, but didn’t. Despite my doubts, we went to Hemingway’s at the Sands, and wish we hadn’t. I knew when they handed my a drink menu with pictures of the premixed ocean’s isle cocktails, this wouldn’t be good...so had a glass of wine instead. The place was reasonable, but seemed a little tacky. My grouper vera cruz was actually quite good, but the Thai chicken stir fry wasn’t and even the homemade brownie with ice cream wasn’t good. But, we did sit outside under the stars. I really was more in the mood for mexican so we should’ve walked to Somewhere again.

Anyway, I’ve been to many islands in the Caribbean and I really wouldn’t recommend TCI, although it is a quirky little island. I only think they get away with those rates because they attract so many from New York and Boston where expensive prices are de rigeur. Yes, the water color was gorgeous but it was too cool to want to swim in and the currents were strong. Yes, the suites are huge, but I don’t need or want that much space. The island itself is scruffy and not particularly scenic....didn’t see much local color...reminded me of a quieter Miami Beach without high rises or shopping.

Will post the link to photos soon.

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