Where in the Caribbean can you get the most for your money?
David Seeberger: Some people have the mistaken impression that the Caribbean is only for the luxury traveler. There are nice moderate accommodations on almost every island in the Caribbean basin. The Dominican Republic has several all-inclusive properties that are a good value. The Caribbean has lots of all-inclusive resorts (and not just the heavily-marketed resort chains), which for the budget traveler often provides more bang for the buck.
Jamaica and Puerto Rico are known as having good values for the budget traveler. The Caribbean is a very complex market compared to many other destinations, and while it’s easy for any agent to book resorts in the Caribbean, you’ll usually find that a specialist with a thorough background in the Caribbean can find you a better and more memorable experience for your money.
When is the best time to go to the Caribbean?
David: The Caribbean has become a year round vacation destination. The peak travel season is December to March. This time frame has the highest prices and coincides with the worst weather back here in the mainland US.
The official Caribbean hurricane season is June 1 to November 30. Many resorts offer hurricane rebate guarantees and many tour operators require travel insurance purchase during this time. The travel insurance will insure refund in the rare reality of a hurricane hitting your destination during that time. Your travel agent will have the most up to dated travel protection ideas for your vacation. Many travelers don’t realize how massive the Caribbean region is, and it is highly unlikely that a single hurricane will affect devastatingly a large area of the Caribbean. If a hurricane is headed to your vacation island, the airlines will generally suspend additional travel to the area and evacuate as many vacationers as possible before the hurricane arrives.
If you’re going to be honeymooning during hurricane season, and can’t take the chance of being visited by a hurricane on your vacation, there are some wonderful islands like Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao which lay beneath the traditional hurricane belt, and are rarely if ever touched by hurricanes.
Best rates for travel generally occur during the low season, but some properties close some of their facilities during that season. Working with an agent who specializes in the Caribbean will help you pick accommodations that will provide the best experience for your holiday. Legend has it that “once you visit the Caribbean, you will return again and again.”
Do you have any favorite “hidden gems” in the Caribbean?
David: Hidden gems exist all through the Caribbean. Some of my moderate favorites include the Bucuti Beach hotel in Aruba. Below the hurricane belt in Aruba, this hidden boutique hotel jewel is family run and has the widest sand beach in Aruba.
Another moderate hotel that helps you get much value for the dollar, is booking the Comfort Suites in Paradise Island. If you stay at this hotel adjacent to Atlantis Resort and Casino, you get to use the facilities of the amazing Atlantis.
Anguilla is one of the most popular islands for celebrity watching now. One of my favorite moderate hotels is on that island. At only 35 rooms The Anguilla Great House Beach Resort is a good value. All the rooms have a nice view of the Caribbean Sea and it’s a great spot for romance.
My current favorite world-class property in the Caribbean is the Four Seasons Resort on Nevis. Although it is a little bigger at 196 rooms, it is still a low-rise resort, and is small enough to still feel intimate and pampered. It has one of the Caribbean’s largest sports facilities and one of its best golf courses.
If you want to splurge a little, two of my favorites for romance are both intimate properties. The Horned Dorset Primavera in Puerto Rico is considered to be the most elegant, romantic inn in Puerto Rico, with private plunge pools and tubs for two. I also love the small Anse Chastanet on St. Lucia. Some of the plantation villa style rooms have one wall missing, opening to a freshwater pool, helping the lucky guest become closer to nature.
What makes the Caribbean a special destination when compared to Mexico or Hawaii?
David: The most important difference is air distance. Clients just don’t want to fly as far as they used to. The natural travel market for the Caribbean region is the midwest and east coast of the U.S. The southern states’ natural travel market is Mexico, while the west coast loves to visit Hawaii.
Like Mexico and Hawaii, the Caribbean is predominately known as a sun and sand destination. The Caribbean provides a close-by destination to experience different cultures, history, countries, and sometimes even different languages–although in most destinations English speakers are easy to find. The Caribbean has a wider selection of accommodations to choose from, compared to Hawaii or Mexico. They range from small guesthouses, to moderate and world-class all-inclusive resorts, to world-class best-of-the-best luxury villas. The Caribbean also provides more gaming and duty free shopping opportunities then Hawaii or Mexico.
Where do celebrities like to stay?
David: Celebrities flock to the Caribbean for the same reasons we all do- SUN, SAND, RELAXATION AND RENEWAL. Many celebrities have homes in the Caribbean. Some of the more recent celebrity hangouts include St. John where Kenny Chesney makes his home. Another popular celebrity hangout is at Paradise Island in the Bahamas where Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods and many other celebrities have homes.
Anguilla contains the Cap Juluca resort, a 179-acre celebrity favorite. It is a dramatic, white Moorish-style resort totally devoted to romance and luxury. Sandy Lane in Barbados is also known for its celebrity clientele. Tiger Woods rented the entire hotel in 2004 for his wedding.
Current hot celebrity island destinations include St. Barts, often referred by Hollywood as St. Tropez in the Caribbean. David Letterman, Uma Thurman and many others favor St. Barts.
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