Shermanstravel Blog

Dominican Republic

SilverseaA few beads of moisture had collected on a marble tabletop at the outdoor Panorama Lounge aboard Silversea CruisesSilver Spirit. Seconds later, a waiter appeared out of nowhere with a white rag. “Here, madam. Let me just take care of that,” he said, wiping away the droplets. That’s one example of the service level passengers can expect on a luxury ship like this. On the Silver Spirit, there is one crew member for every 1.4 passengers – that’s half the ratio offered by most premium-category ships.

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 MofongoWhen visiting the Caribbean islands, odds are the restaurants, food stalls, and street vendors are peddling snacks and dishes you’ve never heard of, let alone eaten. But don’t avoid them because you’re nervous. After all, exploring the local cuisine could become the highlight of your trip. Here are the items you’re most likely to encounter, plus info on how much they typically cost, and how to order like a local. Now, dig in!

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Chesapeake Bay

Depending on the size (or existence) of the check coming your way post taxes, you could be looking at extra vacation money. And if you’re anything like us, money like that burns a deep, deep hole in your pocket. We thought you’d appreciate a few tips on ways to blow your tax refund on a trip in late April/May. Consider it a reward for getting them done in the first place. Read more

BeachIf a change of scenery is the goal for your next getaway, these stunning shores along the Caribbean Sea ought to fit the bill. Try a cruise stop-off in the Dominican Republic’s dreamy Samaná Bay, or spread out along a 2,000-foot long coastal stretch in Anguilla; wherever you go, plan on letting out a great, heaving ‘Aahhh’ as soon as your toes hit the sand. Here are ten of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean to visit now.

boat being built by hand with petite martinique in backgroundThink you’ve seen everything the Caribbean has to offer? Thankfully, 2014 is shaping up to be an exciting (and change-filled) year for this blockbuster destination. We already told you about what’s new in Nassau. Here’s more of what’s on the horizon… Read more

Crested ButteIt’s the first day of the rest of the year, and for us, that means only one thing: time to start making new travel plans! We’ve got about a million and one ideas cooking, but to narrow the playing field a bit, we’re taking a closer look at where we can go on the cheap. Here, a sampling of the best deals to be had to kick off 2014 – better hurry, though, some of these expire in just a few days! Read more

620x400_HyattZivaThings change. Those words are particularly apt when talking about the current hotel expansion happening in the Caribbean. On Wednesday, we showed you photos of the still-in-construction 1,000-acre mega resort Baha Mar, set to open on New Paradise Island in the Bahamas in late 2014/early 2015. Of the resort’s four hotels (totaling 2,200 rooms), one will be flagged as a Mondrian, the design-forward brand normally associated with urban destinations like New York and Miami.

With its trendy cocktail bars, pool cabanas, and “Sunset Strip vibe,” the Mondrian will be specifically targeting fashion and nightlife crowds. This signals a 180-degree shift from the Caribbean’s usual family-oriented, mid-range hotel offerings. But this could be just the tip of the iceberg. Read more

Hurricane Season Caribbean Travel DealsNine months out of the year, Caribbean islands are a postcard-ready panorama of blue skies, swaying palm trees, and cocktail-sipping, hammock-lounging bliss. But from September to November (as in, right now), they are associated with another thing: hurricanes. As we speak, reports are showing that the season’s first tropical storms are already forming.

But for those willing to roll the dice, hurricane season can also yield up some incredible bargains. Flights, cruises, and hotels often go for a fraction of their peak season rates, at a time when most travelers are too spooked by the thought of having their trip washed, blown, or flooded down the drain.

And if you’re worried about showing up to a ghost town, rest assured: of the 25 million tourists who visited the Caribbean in 2012, roughly a fifth of them were brave enough to travel between September and November, the peak of hurricane season.

To give you a head start, we logged onto Expedia and CheapCaribbean and chose some hotel-and-flight packages for a range of dates in late October and mid-November. All packages are priced per-person, based on double occupancy, with flights from Miami. Other departure cities are usually available for more.

Clearly, none of the following destinations can provide guarantees on anything weather-related (otherwise they wouldn’t be offering the deals in the first place!). But with prices this low, you can afford to have your trip cancelled and still have extra cash lying around to re-book the whole thing from scratch. Now, get out those bathing suits! Read more

Blue Flag: How Clean is That BeachYou’ve saved your money, packed your bags and are ready to embark on a new adventure. Through all the planning, the same image came to mind: the perfect beach. Whether rocky, sandy, tropical, or wild, beaches conjure up images of vacation and relaxation. But how do you know if your perfect beach is clean? Read more

ArubaIn a tough economy, it becomes more difficult to sneak away from the office, but also less realistic to spend your savings on a big vacation. Given the constraints on travelers’ time and checkbooks, few options are as ideal as a quick jaunt to the Caribbean – direct flights are readily available from most East Coast airports to most island hubs, and the variety among the islands means there’s a destination for everyone – from the nature enthusiast to the luxury-demanding mogul. Unfortunately, no destination is without at least one drawback, and in the case of the Caribbean, this drawback is hurricane season. Typically running from June 1 to November 30, the Atlantic Hurricane Season has been known to put quite a damper on many vacationers and cruisers on the Caribbean islands. On the other hand, the unpredictability of the hurricane season also means there are great deals on travel to the Caribbean during these months. While there is no guarantee that any destination will be totally safe during the season, the editors at VirtualTourist have put together a list of “5 Caribbean Islands less likely impacted during Hurricane Season.” Read more

New United flights to CaribbeanWith temperatures soaring across most of the country, it’s hard for some of us to think about baking in the Caribbean sun. However, cold weather will be here before you know it, and with it a slew of new flights from the East Coast and Midwest to take advantage of tropical destinations.

Booking now for new JetBlue service from D.C. to San Juan (daily) and JFK to Samana, Dominican Republic (twice weekly) will score you big savings. Launching August 23, one-way fares on the San Juan route will be as low as $129 for travel through November 14 if you book by July 13; this will be the only non-stop flight between the U.S. capital and the Puerto Rican capital. Similarly, book by this Friday to secure one-way fares to Samana starting at $169 for flights from the November 14 launch date through February 9.

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Aerial View of Lodge Kura Hulanda on CuracaoAs the Caribbean heads into its shoulder (April-June) and low (July-November) seasons, the region’s resorts are offering up some romance packages that are a great value and full of fun extras. So if you’re planning a just-the-two-of-you escape over the next few months, here are four options worth considering:

Curacao Couples Getaway Package: If you’re looking to try a new island, I can recommend colorful, cultural Curacao, where this five-night package from the Lodge Kura Hulanda Spa and Casino (shown above at left) is a great value. It includes five nights’ accommodation in an Oceanfront Studio or Oceanfront One-Bedroom Suite, a three-hour romantic snorkel trip to a nearby reef, a poolside cabana couples massage, buffet breakfast daily, complimentary transport to sister property Hotel Kura Hulanda Spa and Casino (in photogenic Willemstad), and taxes and service charges, from $1,450 per couple. Valid April 8 to October 31, 2012.

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Costa RicaThere is no shortage of deals to sunny destinations in the summer months, but once winter rolls around hotel prices typically skyrocket. Not so this year at Barcelo Hotels in Mexico, Costa Rica, and the Dominican Republic. The premise: the farther in advance you book your stay, the great the discount. Reserve a room more than 120 days in advance for 35 percent off; 90 to 119 days in advance for 30 percent off; 60 to 89 days in advance for 20 percent off; and 31 to 59 days in advance for a 15 percent discount. Reduced rates are available in Mexico and the Dominican Republic from November 1-April 30, 2012, and Costa Rica from December 24-April 30, 2012.

THE VALUE: All-inclusive rates at some of Mexico and the Caribbean’s top resorts start under $100 per person, per night.

THE CATCH: You’ll have to nail down your plans pretty far in advance in order to secure the best discounts. However, there’s no cancellation fee if something comes up closer to the date. There may be minimum stays around the holidays, and rates are much higher during those periods.

THE DETAILS: Go to www.barcelo.com to book, or call 800-227-2356.

WE’VE GOT MORE: Use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find the lowest rates and travel deals on flights.

For general trip-planning information, see our Mexico Travel Guide, Costa Rica Travel Guide, and Dominican Republic Travel Guide.

It’s deals season in the Caribbean, and with good reason: Hurricanes and tropical storms swirl through the region this time of year, squashing many bargain-hunting beach-goers’ plans. This week, Hurricane Irene is causing trouble in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, and seems to have her sights set on southern Florida. To compensate, some airlines are issuing ticket-change waivers for those areas on select travel dates; here’s what you need to know:

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Bring the family to the beaches of Mexico or the Dominican Republic and enjoy the Kids Stay Free Summer promotion at select Palace Resorts. Rates start from just $166 per person, per night with up to two children (12 and under) per room staying for free when accompanied by one paying adult. The promotion is valid at eight Palace Resorts, including the 4-star Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Punta Cana and the Moon Palace Golf Resort & Spa in Cancun. All resorts are all-inclusive, featuring fine dining, top shelf drinks, 24-hour room service, non-motorized watersports, all taxes and gratuities, and more! Book by August 27 for travel now through August 31, 2011.

THE VALUE: This promotion can save hundreds on a family vacation.

THE CATCH: A three-night minimum stay is required.

THE DETAILS: Visit www.palaceresorts.com to book your vacation.

WE’VE GOT MORE: Use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find great, low rates on flights to Mexico and the Dominican Republic.

Use our Mexico and Dominican Republic Travel Guides to help plan your trip.

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