These days, the travel industry seems to be getting increasingly nuanced and niche-oriented, concerned with catering to the demands of specific demographics; couples, the eco-minded, brides-to-be, budding oenophiles, gourmands, soccer moms -- okay, that last one I made up. Consequently, there is no shortage of deals to the Caribbean in wintertime. We've scavenged the islands for the best, most unusual and unexpected deals available between now and into the New Year.
Across the Caribbean
If you're new to the crystal blue waters and white sandy beaches of islands and countries in this part of the world, start at The Caribbean Tourism Organization (www.doitcaribbean.com). The well-organized site is searchable either by destination or activity and provides maps, special deals and hyperlinks to tourism boards.
If you're thinking of honeymooning in the Caribbean, it might behoove you to investigate the Marriott chain. Some of the company's Marriott and Renaissance Caribbean properties are offering an "Anniversary in Paradise" promotion (tel. 888/727-2347; www.paradisebymarriott.com/anniversary). Guests who honeymoon at one resort receive twenty-percent off on their first anniversary stay at any participating resort. The deal also includes a bottle of champagne, daily breakfast and is good at the Curaçao Marriott, Aruba Marriott, Aruba Renaissance, St. Kitts Marriott and Frenchman's Reef on St. Thomas.
With resorts in St. Lucia, Antigua, Jamaica and the Bahamas, Sandals (tel. 888/726-3257; www.sandals.com) heavily and exclusively markets its all-inclusive beach destinations to honeymooners and couples. There are several specials running right now that offer a discount of up to fifty-percent off (www.sandals.com/general/specials.cfm).
- At Sandals Antigua Caribbean Village and Spa, save about 40 percent for travel January 1-February 9, 2006 -- the three-night, all-inclusive vacation starts at $666 per person based on double occupancy in a deluxe room.
- At the Sandals Grande Ocho Rios Beach and Villa Resort in Jamaica, the three-night all inclusive special is priced from $413 per person for travel up to December 26.
- The Sandals Royal Caribbean is priced from $558 per person for travel January 1-February 9 for a three-night, all-inclusive affair.
- Or opt for the Italian-styled Sandals Dunn's River Golf Resort and Spa, which has golf, a spa and get this, butler service, with a special priced from $452 for three-nights, all-inclusive, for travel January 1-December 31, 2006.
Anguilla for "Girls"
Catering to the bride-to-be is one of those growing areas of travel -- no surprise, as weddings themselves are huge moneymakers for resorts. To wit, the girls-only, three-night "Hens Night" getaway, at Anguilla's Arawak Beach Inn (tel. 877/4-ARAWAK; www.arawakbeach.com), designed for brides and her entourage before the wedding. The packages starts at $399 per person for travel January 3-April 16, 2006, based on two rooms for a group of four. The package includes a day trip to a secluded island complete with a picnic lunch and a car rental while you're there, daily breakfast and round-trip airport or ferry dock transfers.
Fifth Night Free on Aruba
La Cabana All Suite Beach Resort & Casino (tel. 800/835-7193; www.lacabana.com) in Aruba is now offering a fifth night free on all new bookings (four nights or more, room only) received through its newly revamped website. Bookings must be made by Dec. 31, 2005 for travel anytime now through Dec. 31, 2006. Offer does not apply to wedding, honeymoon and dive packages, which can also be booked through the website. Rates start at $182 for a Grand Suite Superior and $214 for a Grand Suite Deluxe, valid now through Dec. 16, 2005. From Jan. 2 -- April 16, 2006, rates begin at $292 for a Grand Suite Superior and $309 for a Grand Suite Deluxe. Rates are quoted per room, per night. They're also including daily breakfast in their room-only rates for bookings received between now and December 23.
Belize is Bursting with Offers
Many people when they travel want to somewhere less obvious. Well, add Belize to your list. The official Belize Tourism Board (tel. 800/624-0686; www.travelbelize.org) is a fine place to start, but budget-minded travelers should follow the link to the Toucan Trail (www.toucantrail.com), a marketing effort with links to over 160 small-scale accommodations such as guest houses, bed and breakfasts, some listed for as low as $60 per night. (Currently no deals or specials are listed.) It's an independent approach for adventurous but sustainable tourism. While you're in Belize, you can certainly swim and enjoy water sports, but with a rain forest, a barrier reef, and ancient Mayan cities, there is plenty to investigate; innkeepers play a large role in helping visitors find offbeat and less-touristy areas to visit.
The Inn at Robert's Grove (tel. 800/565-9757; www.robertsgrove.com) in Placencia, Belize, is located on the beach in the southern part of the country. Their "2006 Winter Beach Odyssey package" includes round-trip airfare between Belize City and Placencia (you're on your own to get there), accommodations, all meals, full day snorkel trip, a trail walk, and other outdoor activities. Prices range from $1217 for a five-night trip to $1,597 for seven nights. The deal is good from December 1-21 and January 5-May 31, 2006.
A Resort Reopens on Grenada
The Blue Horizons Garden Resort in Grenada (tel. 800/448-8355; www.grenadabluehorizons.com), which reopened in July following some renovations, has put together an Adventure Package for seven nights priced at $588 per person (excluding airfare.) the price is good through December 15. The package includes accommodations in a deluxe, one-bedroom suite, a hike through the rain forest, a hike through a waterfall or hot springs, nutmeg body oil (this is the spice island after all), bay rum, water sports, daytime tennis and other incentives. If hiking doesn't suit you, you can substitute both of them for a full-day adventure safari Jeep tour, including lunch. Hikes and tours are all guided affairs.
A Treehouse in Jamaica
In Negril, Jamaica, Sunset at the Palms (tel. 800/234-1707; www.sunsetatthepalms.com) just went through a total makeover and is offering its guests $100 off its rates. They offer "treehouse-style" rooms and the rates between now and December 23 are $250 per night per room -- this includes the $100 off. The accommodations have a private balcony, and include all meals, bar beverages, afternoon tea, snacks, all non-motorized water sports, tennis court, entertainment, taxes, service charges and tipping.
Sunburst on St. Lucia
If St. Lucia is your choice, Sunburst Vacations (tel. 800/SUNBURST; www.sunburstvacations.com) is running a special to Coconut Bay Resort and Spa from $999. The resort was refurbished earlier this year and is situated 85 tropical acres along the Atlantic coastline. The prices are based on double occupancy for January 2 through March 10 for departures on Monday through Thursday. The six-day trip includes round-trip airfare, hotel, resort taxes, dining. Booking deadline is November 11, so you must move quickly. A quick search for a flight from New York-JFK on January 2, for example, yielded a price tag of $1,051.68.
Virgin Islands Vacations
In St. Thomas, U.S.VI, the Bolongo Bay Beach Resort (tel. 800/524-4746; www.bolongobay.com) is offering a multitude of specials, including the VI Keys package, five nights priced at $1,147 per couple through December 15; the rate goes up to $1,717 December 23-April 16, and back down to $1,395 from April 16-August 31. The package offers visitors "keys" to some of the area's attractions including Coral World Ocean Park, and tickets to the island's Skyride to Paradise Point. You can also choose from an island tour of St. John, an excursion on St. Thomas with Tropic Tours, and all sorts of other deals. Airfare is not included.
Water sports enthusiasts might want to know about the Water Adventure package, based on $1,247 per couple through December 15, $1,817 December 23-April 16; $1,495 April 16-August 31. Rates are quoted per room, based on double occupancy and don't include airfare. Two tickets to an Atlantis submarine dive around buck Island, a two-tank dive to the wreck of Cartanser Sr., parasailing, a Hobie cat sailing tour and a half-hour guided wave runner tour.
Finally, the most unbelievably indulgent deal (is it really a deal when you spend thousands of dollars?) has to be the $50,660 price tag of a five night's stay at the exclusive, 1,800-acre Peter Island Resort (tel. 800/346-4451; www.peterisland.com) in the British Virgin Islands. With the name, "Women on the Edge . . . of Paradise Package," includes accommodations for up to eight women, one spa treatment per day, a spa therapist on call, daily private yoga and meditation therapy, an 18-hour-a-day attendant to meet all needs, and 24-hour private chauffeured vehicle on standby, and other incentives such as special meals and a celebration party on the final night of your stay. The price quoted is good for trips through December 19; from January 4-April 30, the rate is $64,750; either way, it's based on eight women.
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