Somerset on Grace Bay offers once-in-a-lifetime luxury
by KAREN DALY
The Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) are an archipelago of 40 islands and cays (only eight of which are inhabited), in the Atlantic Ocean, just below the Bahamas and about 550 miles southeast of Miami. Its also the location of The Somerset on Grace Bay, simply one of the finest resorts you may ever visit.
For those following along at home, the 2016 TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Awards named Grace Bay the best beach in the world—miles and miles of beautiful, white powdery sand and crystal clear turquoise water.
Arriving at The Somerset, I noticed a lovely chalk board to the right of the front desk, where I saw my name as well as two other guests’ names who were also arriving that day, written neatly on the board, with a message welcoming us. It’s the details.
The Somerset on Grace Bay is a luxury, five star, condo style resort with 53 spacious, tastefully designed, one to five bedroom suites and villas ranging in size from 1,400 to 5,300 square feet. Each villa features a fully equipped, gourmet kitchen with top of the line appliances and every gadget and gizmo imaginable. The marble and travertine bathrooms, replete with luscious and aromatic Molton Brown toiletries and plush towels make rooms feel more like day spas. Each suite and villa is conveniently outfitted with a washer and dryer (again, it’s the details), flat screen TVs, complimentary Wi-fi, iPod docking station, and a comfortably furnished outdoor terrace with views of the ocean, pool or garden.
There are two restaurants in which to dine at The Somerset. The Pavilion has an extensive, fine dining menu that will more than satisfy any palate. Their award-winning conch spring rolls and warm crusted brie were my favorites. Clearly their award was for a reason.The Pavilion is also where the continental breakfast—light-as-air viennoiseries, toast, yogurt, muesli, fresh fruit plate, juices, tea and coffee—or a choice of more hearty options were enjoyed every morning.
An alternative to the Pavilion for lunch is the LunaSea Pool Bar and Grill, a casual, open air dining area overlooking the fresh water, reverse current lap pool. Food and beverage service is also offered at the beach, because of course, trying to pull myself away from my lounge chair, was not something I wanted to get into the habit of doing.
The LunaSea also provided me with the best cheeseburger I’ve ever eaten. Ever. Ever.
Urmas Karner, the manager at The Somerset on Grace Bay manager, also hosts a cocktails and tapas meet-and-greet in the Pearl Bar each Monday evening. The affable and interesting Urmas takes the time to meet each of the guests, get to know them, and share his wealth of knowledge about the islands and area.
On Tuesday nights, The Somerset hosts their famous Beach BBQ and fire show with live music, a dance floor, and tables set up on the beach overlooking the ocean. A mix of resort guests, locals and vacationers from nearby hotels make up the patrons who queue up at the buffet to enjoy the succulent roast pork and prime rib, perfectly spiced and juicy jerk chicken, and sublime Mahi Mahi, among the main dishes offered the night I was there. Sitting under the stars with a full belly, listening to the gentle waves lap against the shore, watching the folks around me sway on the dance floor as I listened to a delicious mix of R&B, reggae and soul music, I was sure I could hear the sound of the Universe clicking perfectly into place.
The refinement of the resort naturally continues to the beach. Unlike with so many beach hotels, there is no mad early-morning rush to commandeer a place to sit. There are always comfortable lounge chairs available, and almost before you even notice, one of the friendly members of the beach staff team has set up your chairs with towels, towel pillows and an umbrella.
The riptide-free waters along Grace Bay make for terrific paddle boarding, kayaking, or sailing on Hobie Cats, all of which are naturally available at the resort. The warm, clear water is also perfect for swimming or snorkeling.
Turks is also well-known as one of the world’s best sites for scuba diving. Provo’s north shore includes a 14 mile barrier reef, and a dramatic 2,134m underwater wall just off Grand Turk island. The waters off the Turks and Caicos islands are also teeming with Wahoo, Tuna, Mahi Mahi and several other types of fish, should you desire to bait a hook.
The Somerset also offers bicycles you can hop on and use to discover the area. A short 10-minute jaunt into town will take you to the shopping and dining district where you can find unique souvenirs and gifts. One of the places I visit whenever I’m in Provo is the Potcake Place K-9 Rescue (www.potcakeplace.com) at the Saltmills Plaza, just a short walk from The Somerset. It’s an all volunteer-operated charity whose goal is to reduce the number of abandoned and homeless dogs on TCI. As these pups need socialization and affection, you can visit the shelter and take a puppy to the beach for up to two hours; Potcake Place provides you with everything you’ll need, all you have to supply is some you time.
Should one partake, The Provo Golf Club offers an 18 hole, par 72 golf course, where you can enjoy the challenging terrain and beautiful views at the same time. If history is/was your thing, a trip to the historic Cheshire Ruins, where you can visit the remnants of the 19th century Loyalist plantation, might be interesting.
The resort and area also offer plenty of activities for your offspring. Little Water Cay, locally known as Iguana Island, is one of the most popular attractions on TCI. Water Cay is a Nature Reserve, and a spectacular place to see the endangered Rock Iguanas. Both adult and child friendly, a trip to the National Environmental Centre and Children’s Park combines learning and fun. The Somerset itself also has a Kids Club onsite, where the delightful and kind Kaye-Anne organizes fun activities for the little ones.
The weekly Island Fish Fry every Thursday evening at Bright Children’s Park, an easy 5 minute drive from The Somerset, is a colorful, cultural explosion featuring dozens of local food vendors, cultural acts and entertainers. You can hear and feel the rhythmic beat of Caribbean calypso and smell the aroma of fresh fish frying before you even arrive at the outdoor venue. Add giant pots of boiling lobsters and conch salad masters, to the music, dancing, heaping tables upon tables of great souvenirs, and perfect weather and your vacation memory banks will be full.
There are so many positive things to say about The Somerset, but suffice to merely say that everything is enhanced and brought together seamlessly by the caring and kind staff that The Somerset has the privilege of employing. They go well above and way beyond what one is normally accustomed to, in order to make their guests feel welcome, like part of the family.
Call me Aunt Karen.