The Crane. A top ten beach and fine cuisine at the Caribbean’s oldest resort

The Hamilton Spectator
By John and Sandra Nowlan

The rum punch at check-in was the best we’ve ever tasted. But perhaps that smooth and spicy Barbados welcome was appropriate at the resort that claims to be the oldest in the Caribbean.

The Crane Resort, situated on top of a rugged 40-metre cliff overlooking the open Atlantic Ocean, traces its origins to 1887. The prime attraction then and now is the magnificent, wide, soft sand beach that spreads out below the resort and slopes gently into the warm, azure waters of the South Atlantic that stay a constant 24 to 27 C. There’s nothing to the east but ocean … and Africa. The eye-popping beach has been listed as one of the top 10 in the world by Robin Leach of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous and the BBC.

Open ocean waves on this east side of Barbados can be dramatic and forceful, unlike the quiet and laid-back lifestyle of the resort itself. The marketing director, Joanna Robinson, told us that this gentle pace of life is not for everyone. “If you want a variety of water sports, a busy night life and lots of constant activity,” she said, “this isn’t the place for you.”

But apparently it’s that peacefulness and relative remoteness that makes it the ideal place for thousands of guests each year, mainly from Canada, the U.S. and Britain, who book one of the 200 generously sized suites for a short holiday or a longer time share.

Ranging in size between 800 and 4,000 square feet, all the rooms have full housekeeping facilities, elaborate mahogany furniture including four-poster beds and multimedia entertainment choices that include CBC Television. Several have private plunge pools at their front door and most of the newer buildings (the resort is constantly growing) have a two-storey penthouse with a personal, oversize rooftop Jacuzzi. The well-maintained property also has a series of cascading swimming pools.

In spite of its age and historic features (the oldest part is well-preserved), The Crane seems determined to remain a top Caribbean resort by adding innovative features like free WiFi throughout the property and a new area called The Village with shops, cafés and theatre.

It’s in The Village that a new Italian restaurant, D’Onofrios, sets a new standard for cuisine in this part of the world. The resort recently hired a top French chef from New York, Jean-Jacques Carquillat, to oversee and improve its culinary operation. His first focus was on D’Onofrios and, in our view, he succeeded admirably.

He may be French but his pizza was the best we’ve enjoyed outside Naples, and his antipasti was imaginative and flavourful. Our two main courses, fresh snapper and Chicken Filini, were infused with just enough herbs and spices to make our tastebuds sing. Delizioso!

Chef Carquillat told us he’s now going to work on menus for The Crane’s International/Caribbean restaurant, L’Azure, which is perched on the edge of the coral cliff with spectacular views of the beach and open Atlantic. The resort also boasts an excellent Japanese/Thai restaurant called Zen and The Carriage House, the former stable 100 years ago at the Crane Beach Hotel, which has a bar and grill featuring an island specialty, Flying Fish sandwiches.

Andree Steel and Don Adams of Ottawa first visited Barbados five years ago continuing their policy of never vacationing in the same place twice. They told us that policy changed when they visited The Crane and fell in love with the property, the rooms, the amenities and the view.

“Here on the east coast of Barbados we feel very safe and very comfortable in a warm, friendly environment,” they said. “We come here to relax, not to rough it. On the way from the airport we stop for groceries and some great bottles of wine at prices that are comparable to the LCBO.”

For them, and for us, that relaxation starts with a generous glass of the Caribbean’s best rum punch.