Thursday, March 15, 2012

Don’t Break the Bank : Selling Luxury for Less in the Caribbean

If you’re in the mood for vacation but don’t have a lot of extra cash to spend, the Caribbean is ripe with high season bargains that won’t break the bank. From air and hotel packages to gratis room nights and generous add-ons like complimentary weddings on the beach, a reasonably priced winter respite can easily become a reality for couples looking for a break from the blustery winds at home.

(credit: BTA) 

Swap the taxi rides for a bicycle and ditch the fancy spa for yoga on the beach and you’ll discover a vacation under the sun doesn't mean taking out a second mortgage.  From St. Lucia to the Bahamas and Grand Cayman to St. Maarten, a tropical getaway can easily become an affordable winter reality.

Seven Mile Beach Grand Cayman ( credit: M. Reffes )

Guavaberry Emporium St Maarten ( credit: M. Reffes) 

Sun-Soaked Bargains

Choice Hotels International is big on low prices with generous discounts at several of their Caribbean properties. A rate slice of up to twenty-five percent with a minimum stay of four nights invite at properties in the Cayman Islands, Curacao, Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.  " This is the first time we've rolled out region-wide promotions like these," said Bill Clegg, regional vice president, “ for those who stay fewer than four nights , they can earn twenty  percent off all Caribbean properties once advanced booking requirements are met." 

Ascend Collection Puerto Rico ( credit: Choice Hotels ) 

 With nightly rates as low as $119.00, Comfort Suites in Turks & Caicos may be the best bargain on the turquoise island.   Upscale without the price tag, the hotel shuttles guests to the beach in a golf cart and stages impromptu steel pan concerts in the lobby. “We offer a resort feel without resort prices, “explains David Crofts, manager, “We’re a big hit with travelers who appreciate our little extras like free Wi-Fi and Miss William’s famous triple layer coconut cake on our breakfast buffet.”

Comfort Suites Provo ( credit: M. Reffes) 

Sitting pretty on the shoreline, Aruba Marriott hugs the calm waves of Palm Beach and tempts with delicious suites, fine eateries, all-night casino, Mandara Spa and health club. The Sand Dollar package is a tempting winter deal with a ‘book three nights, get one free” offer that includes a daily $50.00 resort credit for travel through December 21. For sports fans, Champions Restaurant at adjacent Marriott Ocean Club is a win-win crowd-pleaser with thirty big screen television screens and enough Balashi beer to keep the gang happy all night.
 Aruba Marriott (credit: M. Reffes) 

This writer hard at work at the Aruba Marriott ( credit: Diamond PR) 

The luxury road less traveled often means lower prices and at Rosalie Bay resort in Dominica, daily rates include yoga classes and breakfast with a bounty of healthful choices made from fruits and vegetables grown in the organic garden.    A twenty-eight room eco-luxury property, the wind and solar powered resort is big with nature lovers from March through October who come to see three species of endangered turtles who nest and hatch on the Bay’s protected black sand beach. Through October 31, a saving of thirty-three percent is offered with room rates starting at $149.00 for suites oozing luxury with chi-chi bathrooms and relaxing rain showers.

Rosalie Bay ( credit: RBR)

No haggling required in St. Lucia where rates at the Fond Doux Plantation are discounted during the winter season.  In the picturesque French town of Soufriere, ten cottages sit on a 19th century plantation along with two restaurants and a collage of swimming pools.  "It's still Christmas in St. Lucia," said Eroline Lamontagne, manager, “we want to ensure that guests visiting in 2012 can allow us to pamper them at a fraction of the regular cost. “Warm Winter Retreat" packages include seven nights, breakfast,  airport transfers,  bottle of  bubbly and two spa treatments at the new Mamma La Terre Spa with a menu of massages that use  organic products from Fond Doux's grounds.

Abaco Beach ( credit: Bahamas Tourism) 
Luxury never had it this good with rates for a two-bedroom villas starting at $300.00 per night at the Bahama Beach Club on Great Abaco Island. From snorkeling in the sea and beach barbecues on the sand to exploring the underwater caves and deep sea fishing for blue marlin and wahoo, the ‘Warm Winter Savings” package is too good to pass up with one night gratis when three are confirmed, unlimited long distance calls to the USA, on-site concierges who whip up gourmet meals in the villas or pre-stock the kitchen with Bahamian treats.

Steak Me Home Tonight

Smack dab in the middle of Simpson Bay in St. Maarten, the ‘3 Palms On The Rocks’ is the latest eatery on the culinary horizon.  Owners Phil and Patty Lennox are all about a Caribbean chill-out with the tables painted in Rasta-inspired yellow, green and red and two dollar mugs of beer.   A magnet for yachties and the women who like them, the funky eatery is action-central for the Heineken Regatta taking to the sea this month.

 3 Palms on the Rocks (credit: Simpson Bay Resort) 
Even if you can’t afford caviar and foie gras, a treat once in while is the stuff of luxury vacations. Fronting the famed Seven Mile Beach in Grand Cayman, Westin Casuarina is revered for the trademarked Heavenly Beds, hip lobby bar and Wine Dinners in Casa Havana, the island’s only Cuban eatery. Big tickets include the “Tapas and More ‘dinner on March 23 and ‘Tour de France ‘on May 25 that brings ooh-la-la French flair to the beach.

With a staff so friendly you’d swear you’d met them before, Pelican Bay in Provo, Turks & Caicos excels with mains like a succulent lobster so fresh it’s still angry. Ask for the house pepper sauce to take home as a souvenir that is more memorable than a fridge magnet or a t-shirt. South Beach meets the tropics at Vino Tiempo, a hip and happening yet reasonably priced wine bar in the swank Regent Village. Owned by wine connoisseurs Tony Garland and Murad Mohamad, the bar tantalizes with fine wines, minty mojitos and potent cocktails, shaken or stirred, with local Bambarra rum. “Tourists flock to the bar as a reminder why they booked a vacation in the first place, “says Tony Garland whose knowledge of wine (and vacations) is legendary.

Another Day in Paradise ( credit: M. Reffes) 

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