Jammin’ Caribbean Family Holiday Packages
By Melanie Reffes
It may just be the world’s finest family-friendly beach playground. From frequent flights to kid-centric add-ons at hotels and resorts, there are bargains galore on the many islands in the sunny Caribbean. With fruity cocktails for the grown-ups and a dollop of sunscreen for the wee ones, the tropics are the go-to destination for the whole family. “This holiday season is expected to be an improvement over the last couple, but booking windows are expected to remain short,” says Josef Forstmayr, president, Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association (CHTA) and managing director of Jamaica’s Round Hill Resort. “Families focus on the Caribbean because of the ease of getting to the destination, the welcome they receive and the variety of accommodations and activities for children to enjoy.”
In the north coast village of Oracabessa, Goldeneye will re-open on November 12th after a two-year renovation.
It’s Irie, Mon
For families, Jamaica leads the pack with a slew of fun stuff for the entire brood. “Visitors can revel with friendly locals in the lively activities, indulge in some of the island’s signature holiday dishes, and truly discover the distinctive culture and unbridled spirit of Jamaica,” said Tourism Director John Lynch. Marketing hype aside, an expanding attraction and accommodation sector keeps the prices down while December weather is reliably warm and hurricane-free.
Jamaican Olympic tri-athlete Iona Wynter is on board at GoldenEye (www.GoldenEye.com) where she teaches classes from Jet Ski Leg to Stretch & Snorkel. In the north coast village of Oracabessa, this historic resort is scheduled to re-open on November 12th after a two-year renovation that added eleven beach cottages, six lagoon suites and two restaurants. “GoldenEye is no longer an all-inclusive resort,” said Jason Henzell, president of Island Outpost’s five Jamaican properties. “We want our guests to go off-property and sample the restaurants, fishing markets and rum shops in the town.” For history buffs, the villa once lived in by spy novelist Ian Fleming is available for rent, complete with his original writing desk.
Active families like Beaches Boscobel where nature walks and a round of golf are as popular as the dessert buffet. (www.beaches.com). For Tiger Woods wannabees up to sixteen years old, Junior Golf Camp at the nearby Sandals Golf & Country Club comes with take-home notes from the coach. A humongous Pirates Island and the XBOX 360 Game Garage keeps teens occupied while the older folks chill out on a seaside beach chair.
Grown-ups aren’t the only ones who enjoy a rub-down after a round of golf or a romp on the beach. At the Sunset Beach in Montego Bay and the Sunset Jamaica Grande in Ocho Rios (www.sunsetbeachresort.com), kids can chill-out Jamaica-style with a host of pampering options. A clever menu of treatments geared to young spa enthusiasts and their parents include the ‘Mommy & Me’ package of blissful neck and shoulder massages and the ‘Daddy & Me ‘option that includes mini-facials for the boys in the family.
A short hop across the Caribbean Sea, the Radisson Aruba Resort is selling the “Endless Summer Savings “packages through December 21st.
Hilton Resorts are dishing up golf, spa and dive packages – through December 31st - at their properties throughout the region. “Diving in Paradise” at the resorts in Nassau, Barbados and Curacao include breakfast, two dives and equipment rental. For reservations visit
www.hiltoncaribbean.com/scuba with booking code DZ. Golf is the star attraction at the resorts in Barbados, Trinidad and Ponce, Puerto Rico where the “Tee-Off Time” package offers two rounds of golf, breakfast and caddy. Visit www.hiltoncaribbean.com/golf with booking code TJ.
The Marriot Curacao Beach (www.mariott.com) welcomes families with a “Stay for Breakfast” package for two adults and children under twelve years old. With rates as low as $139 per night, per room, the beach is too close to pass up.
A short hop across the Caribbean Sea, the Radisson Aruba (www.radisson.com) has extended the “Endless Summer Savings “packages through December 21st. Room rates starting at $178 per night include free meals for kids and beverage credits for parents. Fronting Palm Beach with a bonanza of shady palapas, top-shelf vacation amenities include the Larimar Spa and the nearby Tierra del Sol championship golf course. For bonding on the high seas, the Aruba Heineken Catamaran Regatta (November 12-20) celebrates its 20th anniversary this year with events on and off the water.
At Antigua’s all-inclusive Jolly Beach Resort, a creative calendar of activities from marshmallow roasts and cricket lessons to water sports and beading are included in the Jolly Family Program.
One Big Happy
Kids dive into Aqua School at the Elegant Hotels properties in Barbados (Colony Club, Turtle Beach, Crystal Cove and Tamarind; www.eleganthotels.com), which includes free instruction in kayaking, snorkeling, sailing, wake boarding and wind-surfing. “Families tell us they’re looking for a chance to enjoy new experiences and learn new skills together while on vacation,” said Sylvia Scholey, vice president of sales and marketing. “Parents want to be sure their children have a variety of options and our new Aqua School is the perfect answer.”
At Antigua’s all-inclusive Jolly Beach Resort (www.jollybeachresort.com), a creative roster of activities from marshmallow roasts and cricket lessons to water sports and beading are included in the Jolly Family Program. The Teenz Club hosts Moonlight Scavenger Hunts and for the junior foodies in the family, ‘My Jolly Little Chef’ is a cooking class taught by the in-house chefs.
Nature gets a standing ovation in the Bahamas, with unruffled beaches and beaucoup fishing and diving. The undisputed boating epicenter, the Abacos islands are a necklace of cays more than a hundred miles long. North of Marsh Harbour is Treasure Cay with one resort, one golf course and plenty of sandy beaches. Too good to miss, the “WTF” package or “When Turtles Fly,” running November 1 – 22 and November 28 - December 17, starts at $499 per person. This price includes roundtrip airfare on Continental Airlines from Fort Lauderdale (FLL) to Treasure Cay (TCB) or on American Airlines from Miami (MIA) to MHH (Marsh Harbour (MHH), three nights at the Green Turtle Club and a golf cart commute to the beaches on the Atlantic side. Visit www.greenturtleclub.com. Visit www.bahamas.com.s
A Summer Wave of Caribbean Savings
By Melanie Reffes
When the temperatures plunge in North America, winter-weary Americans pay top dollar to flee the cold and the Caribbean gets crowded. When the temperatures heat up at home, prices in the tropics dip by as much as 60 percent, with flights that don’t have to be booked six months in advance to confirm low fares and hotels that pile on incentives like bonus nights and free massages. In short, your clients might be missing out on smoking deals and cool trade winds by overlooking the Caribbean during the low season.
On the southern fringe of the hurricane belt, Curaçao is a cosmopolitan mélange of Caribbean charm and European flair. A “Top 10 Destination for 2010” as chosen by Microsoft’s Bing, and the only Caribbean destination to make the list, the Dutch island tempts with gourmet eateries, unspoiled beaches and the pastel-pretty city of Willemstad. Brand new on the hotel horizon, the Hyatt Regency Curaçao opened in April with introductory rates starting at $199 per room. Wooing the summer market, the island’s largest property is full service with the Atabei Spa, Camp Hyatt and Pete Dye-designed 18-hole golf course. “We have made a special effort to preserve the natural surroundings,” said Diego Concha, general manager, “with local elements from building materials and décor to landscaping.” Visit www.curacao.hyatt.com
Adjacent to Rif Fort, a 19th century landmark designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site, 237-room Renaissance Curaçao is selling “Escape! Romance” which includes a couples massage, breakfast for two and an in-room bottle of Veuve Clicquot champagne. Nightly rate for an ocean view room in low season is $309, compared to $422 in peak season. Visit www.renaissancecuracao.com
AGENT TOOLS: www.BookResortTravel.com is a website for travel professionals with current incentives to book both the Renaissance Curacao and Renaissance Aruba, including cash rewards and free nights. “Working closely with travel agents, the common theme we kept hearing was the importance of the personalization of the client experience,” said Janien Huistra, director of sales and marketing for both resorts.
Often considered a pricey island, Anguilla is also on sale during the summer with the “Friends and Family” package at the swishy CuisinArt Resort & Spa. Advertising “the more, the merrier,” one room can be had for $400 per night and the second one for $200 per night for a savings of 50 percent, regardless of how many people are in each room. The summer sale requires a minimum five-night stay. Visit www.cuisinartresort.com
According to John Lynch, director of tourism for Jamaica, summer travel means an affordable holiday. “Visitors will not only enjoy the more than 150 attractions Jamaica has to offer, but also unbeatable summer deals from our many hotels and resorts.” Dishing up an array of romance perks, 524-room Holiday Inn SunSpree in Montego Bay, the only all-inclusive in the brand portfolio, is offering gratis Caribbean Wedding packages with nights booked. “Our heavenly Couples Beach Massage at sunset is quickly becoming a ‘must-do’ for our brides and grooms,” said Nicola Madden-Greig, director of marketing & sales, referring to the medley of massages offered in the just-opened Sol-Mer Spa. Couples receive 10,000 Priority Club points, which can be converted into frequent-flyer miles. Visit www.caribbeanhi.com
In what may be the best bargain on the beach, Ritz-Carlton is rolling out the red carpet with a bevy of good deals throughout the summer including the Club Level Experience package. “Book 4 nights, Pay for 3” starts at $379 per room at the Ritz-Carlton Rose Hall in Montego Bay and “Book 5, Pay for 4” starts at $529 at both the Grand Cayman and San Juan properties. Valid through the end of June, a Club Level vacation comes with a personal concierge and breakfast. Visit www.ritzcarlton.com
Breezes Resorts is picking up the tab for checked luggage at their properties in Jamaica, Curacao and the Bahamas. The “Baggage Fee Included” promotion offers a $100 spa credit per room to travelers who trade-in their baggage fee receipt during seven-night minimum stays through October 31st. Super-Inclusive rates start at $120 per person, per night throughout the summer. Visit www.breezes.com
“Cayman Summer Splash” kicks off on May 15th in the Cayman Islands. Children stay free at many family-friendly hotels, eat free at a variety of restaurants and receive free admission to top attractions including the perennial kid-pleaser Stingray City. Visit www.caymanislands.ky
It may be better in the Bahamas with the “Sunsational Savings” package at the 694-room Sheraton Nassau Beach Resort. The 4th night is free when five are confirmed - $219 per room, per night, including breakfast for two, snorkeling and wind surfing. Visit www.sheratonnassau.com
For something completely different, “Voyage to the Volcano’ on the tiny island of Montserrat is a six day package in one of three villas and includes a boat tour to the now buried former capital city of Plymouth, car rental and meals. Rates start at $885 per person with a dip to $785 per person when four or more book the same package. Visit www.divemontserrat.com