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Barbados

Sandito Mojito, Cuba Libre OrlandoWe’re game to celebrate nearly every food- or drink-focused holiday (National Margarita Day, anyone?), so we’re excited that August is Rum Month. Rum is the elixir of both swash-buckling pirates and bleary-eyed Caribbean travelers alike. But some folks have rum misconceptions: They think only of umbrella-topped super-sweet frozen drinks or unimaginative soda mixes from their young-adult years. We’re here to open your eyes to a brave new world of this sugar cane-based liquid miracle. Beyond plain Bacardi, there are hundreds of varieties of rum — some as premium as any top-shelf cognac.

These 21 bars from coast-to-coast (and points in between) are serving up choice cocktails this month using rums you may not have heard of before. And don’t forget that Saturday, August 16 is officially National Rum Day. So raise a glass and say, “Aaar!”

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holland-america-68-night-south-america-cruise-620

Ever wanted to see all – and we do mean all – of South America’s coastline? Holland America’s newest Grand Voyage for 2015 will let you do just that. The 68-day journey will make a complete loop around the continent from Fort Lauderdale, with a few additional ports of call in the Caribbean, Central America, and, weather permitting, Antarctica.

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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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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

620x400_CobblersCoveBarbadosKnown 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.

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Barbados Free Tourism MoneyIf the approach of winter has you dreaming of Caribbean island escapes, you might want to consider Barbados. We have found November and December flights on American Airlines between New York City and Bridgetown for as low $398 round-trip. Read more

Cocktails for National Rum DayJust 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

Underwater Art GalleriesSure, 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

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

CuisinArt Golf Resort & Spa AnguillaIf 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

Elite Island ResortsNot 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.

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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.

WE’VE GOT MORE: For general trip-planning info, see our Barbados Travel Guide, then use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find the lowest rates and travel deals on flights to Barbados.

Rooftop Jacuzzi at The Bauer Il Palazzo in VeniceAlas, 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.

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The Cliff restaurant in BarbadosBarbados 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.

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