The Crane Life
by Michael Baginski
A Barbados beauty…There’s nothing mundane about a stay at The Crane
Guests no longer arrive by horse and buggy as they did in the early days of The Crane, but an historic colonial fee still pervades the famed Barbados property, which is billed s “the Caribbean’s first resort”.
In fact, 18 rooms from the original structure, a railway hotel not dissimilar to Canadian Pacific Hotels, are still in use (though modernized, of course).
Today’s Crane boasts 252 rooms, ranging from standard to oceanview suites with plunge pool, to a three-bedroom penthouse – all scattered through multiple unit blocks that have been mainly since the year 2000 and which cater to a higher-end clientele befitting the property’s iconic status, famously perched on the clifftop above Crane Beach, (photo page 3) and once named one of the world’s 10 best by Lifestyle of the Rich & Famous.
“People’s eyes light up when I tell them I’m from The Crane,” says the resort’s reservations manager, Sophia Gunney. “We may not be a brand like Hilton, but we have become a contender for being known and recognized,” she adds.
Indeed, the image of pink-sand Crane Beach dotted with blue umbrellas from the hotel’s L’Azure Restaurant is a money shot for both the hotel and Barbados tourism.
“We market the beauty of being here,” says The Crane’s owner Paul Doyle. But equally importantly, he adds, is the relaxing and friendly nature of the resort.
Doyle, an ex-pat Canadian who bought the resort in 1988 and has been developing it steadily since, believes Canadians especially will feel right at home at The Crane, citing the low-key atmosphere and understated friendliness of the Bajan staff – friendliness that’s “not scripted.”
Guests, moreover, are rarely “snobbish” – many of them having fractional ownership of rooms in the resort, meaning it truly is home away from home for them for a week or two a year, which adds to the amiable atmosphere.
Adding to the ambience is The Crane’s unique Caribbean village, the hub of the resort, which includes bars, restaurants and shops.
“The village is a part of the whole Barbadian concept of the village with a rum shop etc.” explains Gunney. “It’s like a hive of activity.”
At the same time, it gives guests a place to go without needing to venture out from the resort if they don’t want to, though its located only 10 minutes from Grantley Adams airport, and less than 30 minutes from Bridgetown and Oistins (and its famous fish fry). The Crane is found on the “secluded” southeast coast, not the busiest west side of the island.
Yet, The Crane is busy enough, though still somewhere “guests have their own space,” says Gunney.
Canadians have certainly taken to the resort, both as occasional guests and as (RCI fractional ownership) “members,” ranking second (after the US and before the UK) as The Crane’s top market. The resort is represented in Canada by Canlink (www.canlinktravel.com) and offered by tour operators such as Air Canada Vacations, WestJet Vacations and TravelBrands. Gunney says Canada has also shown substantial growth through OTA’s like Expedia.
The beach, which offers a completely different experience to the pools, is accessible by elevator or stairs. Located on a stretch of water where the Caribbean meets the Atlantic, the surf is perfect for wake or boogie boarding, or simple body surfing.
New to the resort is the kids club, opened last summer, and an all-inclusive meal and drinks plan, though Gunney is quick to state: “We’re not an all-inclusive!”
She explains, “We don’t want to be an all-inclusive hotel, we can’t compete with Sandals. We believe a person should come to Barbados and go out, dine out… But we have an all-inclusive option.”
She adds that she believes that the kind of guests The Crane usually attracts aren’t necessarily looking for an all-inclusive anyways.
And to that end, the resort has other meal plans and pay-as-you-go options at its three main restaurants and two beach/poolside grills. Two of the restaurants – L’Azure and Zen (Thai and Japanese), – are rated among the best on the island. (The third is a more casual Italian trattoria.)
Rooms also have kitchens for self-catering , and there is a grocery store in the village.
With a new room block under construction and the spa moving to new quarters in 2016, The Crane will continue to develop at a suitable “organic,” low-key pace, says owner Doyle. After all, he says, “You let it evolve. That’s part of the magic!”
TravelBrands’ Wayne Noseworthy is clearly a fan of resort, going as far as to call Doyle a “visionary.”
The tour operator’s senior director of product Development says he has stayed at The Crane many times, both for business and pleasure, and considers its location “fantastic” for exploring the island.
His favourites at the resort, he says, include “the first level two-bedroom unit with your own pool,” which is ideal for a family of four or two couples travelling together, and the rum punch at the 1887 bar in the village – “the best rum punch anywhere!”
He also cites the spectacular Atlantic ocean backdrop for weddings.
Overall, he says, The Crane is “one of my favourites… I love that property!”