The Caribbean is one of the most coveted cruising destinations in the world, with millions of vacationers sailing into the wild blue wonder for an adventure on the high seas. Big boats mean big business with some cruise ships wider than the wingspan of a Boeing 747, and suites larger than many apartments in Manhattan. Rivaling amenities at a six-star resort, perks run the gamut from wine bars and chocolate buffets to casinos and rock-climbing walls. Yes, a cruise liner may be your client’s fantasy home away from home but the authentic Caribbean experience is in the towns where the ships drop anchor.
The largest trade show in the Spanish-speaking Caribbean, DATE (Dominican Annual Tourism Exchange) was held this year in Punta Cana. Celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Meliá Hotel chain with properties in the DR including the host resort Paradisus Palma Real, the convention center was action-central for buyers and sellers. “It is more than an honor for us to welcome top tour operators and industry marketers worldwide,“ said Conrad Bergwerf, General Director of Paradisus Resorts.
A perennial favorite for destination weddings, selling romance in the Caribbean is a breeze. With weddings the biggest ticket in June, couples are looking for creative ways to keep the spark alive while travel agents are looking to say “I Do” to their share of a lucrative market.
Cuba - land of Castro and 55 years of communist rule. Cuba conjures up images of vintage US cars, cigars, rum and Ricky Ricardo. Long a forbidden fruit to the US traveler, things are changing quickly.
Rules for travel by US citizens to Cuba have been relaxed and it is projected that scheduled air service from the US to Cuba will resume in November of this year.
The French Caribbean overseas islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique became easily accessible from Baltimore, Boston and New York with the inauguration of direct flights by Norwegian Air in December. One of Europe’s best budget and most environmentally friendly fleet, Norwegian’s new Boeing 737-800s carries 186 passengers safely to the two islands. In April Norwegian Air added Sunday flights to its existing thrice-weekly service.
Sprawling on twenty-seven acres, Sandals Grande Antigua Resort and Spa is all-inclusive at its finest fronting Dickenson Bay Beach on the northwest coast. On the island that lays claim to 365 beaches, this long stretch is the favored one with legions of devotees who come for the white sand and gentle surf. Fifteen minutes from the cruise pier and the V.C Bird International Airport and ten minutes from St. John’s; the island’s capital city, the adults-only resort is a two-for-one experience with 180 suites in the upscale Mediterranean Village and another 193 in the adjacent Caribbean Grove with splashes of red bougainvillea and the islands only ‘Rondoval’ cottages that get a sunny thumbs-up from privacy-seeking honeymooners.
On January 8, 2016 a handsome Skip Marley walked out on the stage of the Sandals Montego Bay Resort and sang a remix of his grandfather’s classic song Three Little Birds to an exuberant audience who accompanied him singing, “Don’t worry about a thing, Cause every little thing gonna be all right.” The crowd didn’t need prompting to join the “No Worry Movement,” the new slogan for the 2016 Sandals Resorts. They became members then and there.
Much-awaited and well-attended, Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) hosted the Caribbean Travel Marketplace this year at Atlantis, Paradise Island. Getting off to a rousing start, the opening ceremony didn’t disappoint with performances by The Royal Bahamas Police Force Band and the Colors Junkanoo Group, with keynotes by the Hon. Obie Wilchombe, minister of tourism for the Bahamas and Rt. Hon. Perry Christie, Prime Minister of the Bahamas.
A time-honored Caribbean tradition, chowing down at a Friday Fish Fry comes from the centuries-old religious practice of abstaining from eating meat for one day of the week. Although not adhered to as strictly as it once was, many of the islands still keep that tradition alive with Friday night fish frys that celebrate the catch of the day. A beachy vacation is an easy vacation to sell, but for clients who want to explore the island and not just the swim-up bar, suggest a tasting tour of the tastiest Fish Fry feasts under the starry skies.
The largest of the Leeward Islands, Antigua and its petite pretty sister isle Barbuda are a wonderland of the finest beaches under the Caribbean sun. Attractions include historical sites like Nelson’s Dockyard, an unbroken wall of coral reef that attracts divers from all corners of the world, and a potpourri of edible delights like black pineapple and pepper pot stew.