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Known for warm weather and beautiful beaches, Caribbean resorts aren’t usually thought of as true foodie destinations. Discerning travelers, however, are increasingly demanding good cuisine, and tropical resorts are happily answering their culinary prayers. From cooking classes to bespoke menus, these Caribbean hotels go beyond conch fritters and strawberry daiquiris, offering true tastes of their respective regions.
Just a few weeks ago, we were celebrating National Tequila Day. But that isn’t stopping bars from charging head-on into yet another booze-filled national holiday: National Rum Day falls on August 16 (a Friday, in case you were wondering), in honor of…well, no one’s exactly sure. But who cares? It’s an entire day of sanctioned drinking – and we’re OK with that. So don your pirate hat and grab a sprig of fresh mint. Here are our picks for the best rum cocktails around. Read more
Sure, some art galleries are musts if you’re in the area – the Musée du Louvre in Paris, The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Museo Nacional del Prado in Madrid, to name a few. But when it comes to Barbados, no galleries particularly come to mind, until now. Read more
In 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
If you’re thinking of heading to the Caribbean for a romantic, week-long winter getaway, here’s an idea: Instead of spending all seven nights on one island, why not split your time between two? Island hopping is easier in some destinations than others, so here’s a roundup of five two-island options that are not only easy to combine logistically, but also feature varied landscapes and ambience. Note: Caribbean resorts do command premium rates until mid-April or so, but if you check deal-finder sites, including ShermansTravel.com’s nifty price-comparison tool, you may be able to score some last-minute price breaks. Or, if you want to see multiple islands, you can always take a cruise. Check back next week for details on my favorite ships and itineraries. Read more
Not sure what to do with that $100 Sears gift card you got for the holidays? Now through February 29, you can pay for a Caribbean vacation at Elite Island Resorts with your unused gift cards. Walmart, Home Depot, Amex – whatever you’ve got, Elite will take it, up to 25 percent of the cost of your stay.
On top of that, Elite will donate the gift cards to children’s charities including Ronald McDonald House, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, the Make a Wish Foundation, among others.
Snag a sun, surf, and sand vacation on the cheap, with this popular Barbados beach hotel featuring great-value promotional rates from just $80/night. A perfect remedy for de-stressing in the midst the hectic holiday season, travelers who jet off to the Sunswept Beach Hotel by December 18 will be rewarded with slashed rates that represent as much as 57 percent off savings on standard room rates (they’ll spike up to $185 per night as soon as the promotion expires). Rates are valid in one of 23 studio rooms, each equipped with a private balcony or patio that boast views of the beachfront Caribbean Sea. Cool off at the on-site pool when not frolicking on the beach, or set out scuba diving, hit the tees at a nearby golf course, or shop till you drop at the numerous area shops; plus, the hotel is set just 25 minutes from the capital at Bridgetown.
THE VALUE: These low rates represent a savings of 57 percent off for travel between December 15 and December 18 (the start of their high season), or 36 percent off for travel now through December 14. What’s more, the discounted rates from just $80/night are even inclusive of taxes!
THE CATCH: Payment for this Last Minute Getaway promotion must be made in full when booking and is non-refundable; the promotion expires on December 15.
THE DETAILS: Book through the hotel’s website at www.sunsweptbeach.com.
Alas, my stint as the Romantic Getaways blogger has come to an end: After 90-plus blogs, I am giving up this weekly freelance assignment to take a full-time job. But I want the romance to live on, so I thought I’d list a handful of my Ultimate Romantic Getaways must-dos – each with two suggestions, one a splurge and the other a steal. I hope you’ll find the time to get away soon and enjoy some of the places I’ve loved writing about.
Enjoy a Private Jacuzzi Rendezvous
Splurge: If you want to feel like you are the only two people in Venice, stay at the Bauer Il Palazzo, and book the private rooftop Jacuzzi (shown above at left) for one hour just before sunset. You’ll get champagne, strawberries, and 60 amazing minutes to soak in the sexiness of La Serenissima – and each other. Rates start at $853/night (private Jacuzzi bookable at an extra charge).
Steal: Every suite at Excellence Playa Mujeres, an adults-only all-inclusive located on a white-sand beach just outside Cancun, Mexico, has a private Jacuzzi with both indoor and outdoor access. Plus, the décor is contemporary chic, with polished marble floors and a dramatic four-poster bed. The beach and the meandering freeform pool may beckon, but the top spot to relax à deux is just steps from your bed. Rates start at $375/night, all-inclusive.
Barbados has long been known for its stellar restaurant scene (it’s the only Caribbean island with a Zagat guide), but now it has an annual festival celebrating the island’s culinary scene – with the help of some well-known American and international chefs. The second annual Barbados Food & Wine and Rum Festival (www.foodwinerum.com) will take place from November 18 to 21, 2011 at a variety of venues around the 166-square-mile island.
This makes it an appealing time for food-centric couples to visit Barbados and not only sample the temptations of its top restaurants – among them The Cliff (shown above at left), Champers (www.champersbarbados.com), Scarlet (www.scarletbarbados.com), and The Fish Pot – but also attend special festival events, which are co-sponsored by Barbados Tourism (www.visitbarbados.org) and American Express Publishing’s Food & Wine, Travel + Leisure and Departures magazines. Attendees will be able to participate in cooking classes with and savor dishes prepared by visiting chefs during tasting events.
Summer is off-season in the Caribbean and Mexico – so it’s the perfect time to score a great rate (starting at $230/night) at a five-star resort you might otherwise not be able to afford. Yes, it’s hotter and more humid at this time of year, but you can generally expect good weather for at least the next eight weeks, as hurricane season doesn’t typically kick into gear until late July. Here’s a sampling of what’s being offered at 10 luxurious resorts ideal for a honeymoon, anniversary, or special romantic getaway.
Four Seasons Resort, Nevis: With the “Stay Longer – Third Night Free” package (valid until September 30, 2011) at this newly renovated 196-room resort, set on Pinney’s Beach (shown above at left) on tranquil and historic Nevis, room rates begin at $345 per night for a king-bedded Deluxe Mountain-Side Room (that’s just $230 a night after the free night is applied). Rates on Deluxe Ocean-Side Rooms are $545 per night, or $363.33 per night with the free night applied. The resort also features four restaurants and a relaxing, colonial cottage-inspired spa.
This Thanksgiving, forgo the family tradition of turkey, stuffing, sweaters, and shopping, and instead relax poolside on the Norwegian Dawn as it sails through the emerald waters of the Southern Caribbean. Rates for the nine-night cruise start at just $429, a 73 percent discount off rack rates, and include a free $50 onboard credit per cabin as well as a free bottle of wine on select categories! The Dawn will set sail from Miami on November 19 before calling to port in five locales, including Samana, Dominican Republic; Tortola, British Virgin Islands; Antigua; Barbados; and Saint Kitts – all of which boast stunning natural beauty. Travelers will then have two carefree days at sea before returning to Miami.
THE VALUE: The starting rate of $429 comes out to just $48 per night!
THE CATCH: Airfare to Miami not included.
THE DETAILS: To book your cabin onboard the Norwegian Dawn, visit www.vacationstogo.com.
WE’VE GOT MORE: Use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find great rates on flights to Miami, Florida.
Foodie couples should circle these two fall festivals on their travel calendars to savor gourmet cuisine paired with fabulous wines (and more) – all while enjoying soothing tropical settings that epitomize romance.
Barbados Food, Wine and Rum Festival From November 19-22, 2010 you can be the first to sample the unique flavor combos on offer at the inaugural food festival on this charming, Zagat-rated Caribbean island (shown above; courtesy of Barbados Tourism) that also happens to be the birthplace of rum. The four celebrated chefs invited to show off their skills are acclaimed New York chef and “Top Chef” judge Tom Colicchio, award-winning international innovator Marcus Samuelsson, Asian-cuisine impresario and “Simply Ming” host Ming Tsai, and talented Texas chef/restaurateur Tim Love. Events range from a moonlit mingle wine- and rum-tasting with the chefs to hands-on cooking demos to an epicurean extravaganza featuring the invited guest chefs plus top restaurants, such as The Cliff from all around this food-centric island.
Lounging by the pool or on the sand, where with one wave of the hand you can summon a chilled Chardonnay and club sandwich or a piña colada and nachos, is the ultimate state of vacation bliss. No matter where you are or how many stars the hotel has, I don’t think the transportive indulgence and pleasure of poolside service ever wears off.
And then there are the hotels that up this game with amenities to make the experience even more luxurious – and yes, make us all lazier in the process. But hey, it’s vacation. A crowning example is the sunglasses washing service offered by top-tier hotels such as Sandy Lane in Barbados, One & Only Palmilla in Los Cabos, and aboard SeaDream yacht cruises. That’s right, we’re talking about a poolside staff member (sometimes referred to as a sunglasses concierge) discreetly Windexing your shades free of charge. Totally unnecessary and over the top, but also kind of awesome at the same time.
What is this summer’s sunglasses concierge? I think I may have found the answer. Read more
Luxury beachfront villas tucked away in remote oases are known to bait Paris Hilton and her officious paparazzi, but starting June 15, the rest of us can get our pictures taken too. Wimco Villas’ 72-hour Caribbean villa sale features savings of up to 50 percent on weeklong (or longer) bookings, in addition to a free car rental (worth $400), with rates as low as $92 per bedroom, per night, for star-studded, five-bedroom accommodations in Anguilla.
THE VALUE: Receive free round-trip airfare from Barbados when booking a villa on the private island of Mustique.
THE CATCH: Weeklong bookings are required.
THE DETAILS: Visit www.wimco.com between 10 a.m. on June 15 and 1 p.m., June 18, EST, to book a villa. Travel through December 14.
WE’VE GOT MORE: Check out other Luxury Hotel Deals.
Read our Caribbean Travel Guide.
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