Your only destination to all things CARNIVAL
For most people, kicking off your holiday in the wee hours of the morning can be an exhausting, curmudgeon-inducing thing.
But then we'd surmise that most people haven't enjoyed the bewildering life experience of what it's like to walk straight into the 3am hubbub of Antigua's hyper-colourful, wonderfully chaotic and overwhelmingly inviting 12-day Carnival.
So much rum. As celebrations start early most mornings, you'll find that there's always an ample thimble of rum to accompany the kick-off. Antiguan's definitely know how to party bigger and better than you - and the quicker you realise that, the better. The first day of the Parade starts at 3am with a kaleidoscopic blast of live music, dancing and drinking in a vast field overlooking the picturesque city of St. John's.
All good things come in twelves (the Disciples, the Days of Christmas, we're guessing the Fast & Furious franchise), and so it's fitting that the Antigua Carnival lasts a whopping 12 days, culminating in Juvet - the most colourful, vibrant, musical street party you'll ever see, with costumes so eye-poppingly elaborate that it makes Lady Gaga's wardrobe look as staid as David Cameron's.
A heady warning for those of a rather PG disposition - head to Antigua Carnival and you're going to see a lot of skin in not a lot of clothes - barely-there bikinis made entirely of diamantes, feathers and a whole heap of imagination is the vibe.
You may think you've seen embellished and outlandish costumes before, but you'll only realise how inclusive and accepting the Carnival is when you see a 90-year-old local lady wearing all the above. Along with the pet dog she's holding, who's also wearing a mathcing outfit. YAAAAAHS QUEEN.
Antiguans take eating seriously, so know this in advance - you're going to eat. A lot.
On every corner, in every alleyway, you'll see someone's Grandma crying out to feed you freshly cooked spicy rotis or sweet and satisfying ramarind Balls. Here's our own MTV NOM tip - try EVERYTHING. It’s cheap, packed full of flavour, heaped with deliciously unnecessary calories and guaranteed to put a smile on your face.
No matter how old or able you are, you’re going to dance. There are no rules, there’s no routine, there’s no inhibition. It’s bliss. You’re also going to download 30 new artists on Spotify a day; the local music is infectious.
It's a unique, life-affirming moment to let your inhibitions go, surrounded by tens of thousands of partygoers - singing the same lyrics to the beat of a steel drum band playing from the top of a lorry - through a maze of gloriously sun-drenched colourful Antiguan streets.
Every carnival around the world has its reason for being. Some are the pure celebration of everything that makes life great - dancing, food and good times.
The Antigua Carnival has all the above, but it's a party layered with genuinely affecting historical feels - a celebration of the emancipation of slavery in the country (2016 was the quite literally all-singing, all-dancing 60th anniversary).
In summary, you’re not going to feel super-proud when you take your first post-holiday step on the scales – but by jeebus, it’ll be worth it. Every smile, wave, dance, kiss and taste of the Caribbean you receive from the Antiguan locals will last with you long after. Best carnival ever? Quite possibly.