Caribbean: What's new and trending
Since 2017 parts of the Caribbean have fought back from a devastating hurricane while other islands have worked to counter a false perception of blanket devastation. Kathryn Liston looks at progress to date
The barman is working ten to the dozen, handing out jugs of zesty mojitos to waiters who pass them over people’s heads to the crowded wooden tables.
Locals mill around chatting, some loll on the walls, others take a breather from the stifling heat on the balcony that overlooks a narrow side street in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba’s second largest city.
A murmur of excited voices becomes a hubbub, as a band of musicians strike up a tune and everyone leaps to their feet, spinning, gyrating and twirling to the music’s lively, pulsating salsa and son beat. Their feet are lightning quick, as are the fingers that glide effortlessly over accompanying guitars. Trombones bellow out powerful brassy sounds.
The pace and pulse of Casa de La Trova – one of the city’s many music clubs – is electrifying. Locals invite us to join in, twisting and twirling us round and round until it’s difficult to know which way is up.
It’s party time – Cuba-style – and something that every visitor to this music capital should experience.
Specialisation is key
Cuba isn’t the only Caribbean destination showing growth. A stream of new and refurbished hotels, more flights and a greater focus on specialist markets across the region is giving it an edge in the holiday market.
Sergio Garcia-Gonzalez, Head of Marketing at The Holiday Place, says: “Hoteliers in the Caribbean are resorting to a variety of strategies to keep having an edge with the public in the UK. Specialisation is among the most common tactics you can see where resorts focus on families or couples (or adults-only) and tailor their offering for these two traveller groups.”
Hoteliers are also enhancing their all-inclusive programmes with ‘resort credits’ or allowing guests to use facilities in nearby hotels, he adds.
Paul Cleary, Managing Director of Caribtours, says: “The Caribbean is doing well and forward bookings for 2019 look strong. Barbados continues to sell well, Saint Lucia and Antigua are very popular and the Grenadines are up and coming.”
Caribtours has added The Liming in Bequia and the Park Hyatt St. Kitts to its 2019 programme. “The British Airways flight into St. Kitts, via Antigua, really helps,” adds Cleary.
Mike Taylor, Product Operations
Manager at Lusso, says exciting additions to the Caribbean over the last 12 months, include the Mandarin Oriental, Canouan (Grenadines), Park Hyatt St. Kitts and Rosewood Baha Mar in The Bahamas.
“In 2018 we have seen increased demand, particularly for Barbados, Saint Lucia, The Bahamas and the Turks & Caicos,” he says.
Taylor adds that many hotels in the British Virgin Island, St Barth, St Martin and Anguilla are coming back “stronger and even more luxurious” than before Hurricanes Irma and Maria hit last year, though he admits a decline in business to these islands.
All BVI properties are expected to have reopened by early 2020. The restored Great House on Necker Island is the latest. Bitter End Yacht Club and Rosewood Little Dix Bay will follow in late 2019.
On St Barth, Cheval Blanc St-Barth Isle de France will reopen next month. Dominica’s Secret Bay and Jungle Bay will reopen this month and next February respectively. The luxury Cabrits Resort Kempinski Dominica and Anichi Resort will open late 2019
A 1914 vintage railway will welcome its first passengers on January 4 at St Nicholas Abbey, Barbados. The 45-minute journey on the former sugar train will take passengers through fields, mahogany woodland and up to Cherry Tree Hill.
Duran Duran, The Chainsmokers and Blondie are lined up to headline the new KAABOO music and comedy festival in the Cayman Islands in February.
In Saint Lucia, Marigot Bay Resort and Marina and Cap Maison are offering guests the opportunity to hike up Gros Piton. Zip-lining is also on offer at Marigot, and chocolate-making at Cap Maison.
Luxury hotel group Six Senses will make its Caribbean debut on St. Kitts in 2021. The resort’s 70 pool villas will be set in 41 acres of a former sugar plantation in the La Vallee area.
Mandarin Oriental Hotels is to open a 100-room beachfront property in Grand Cayman in 2021, featuring five restaurants and a farm providing fresh produce.
Half Moon Jamaica will complete a
$75 million refurbishment this month (November) in time to celebrate its 65th anniversary. It includes 57 new rooms and suites, a swimming cove, two new restaurants, a vegan cafe and three bars.
The luxury Silversands Hotel opens on Grand Anse Beach, Grenada, this month offering beachfront and hillside villas, two gourmet restaurants, a spa and a 300-foot infinity pool – the Caribbean’s largest.
The S Hotel Montego Bay, Jamaica, will open this year with 120 rooms and suites.
The refurbished Fairmont Royal Pavilion, Barbados, will welcome children yearround from next month. Under 12s sharing with parents will stay free.
Nine new hotels will increase the Dominican Republic’s hotel stock by 2,800 rooms next year. They include Wikki Beach Resort and Nature hotel in Punta Balatá and the 600-room Bh Caribe Hotel in Punta Cana.
sell it: lusso (lussotravel.com) offers 12 nights’ B&B at Half moon, Jamaica, from £5,455pp – a saving of £2,805pp – including flights with Virgin Atlantic, complimentary transfers and unlimited golf. Book by february 28, 2019.
Boats & planes
Dream Yacht Charter (dreamyachtcharter.
co.uk) has introduced By the Cabin cruises in Guadeloupe, Grenadines, for 2019 in addition to the British Virgin Islands, Cuba, Grenada and St Martin.
Virgin Atlantic and Thomas Cook have restarted flights to Barbados this winter, from Heathrow and Gatwick respectively.
InterCaribbean Airways will add new Tortola services from St Kitts, Santo Domingo, St Thomas, St Croix, Barbados, Punta Cana, Santiago (Dom Rep), as well as new non-stop Santo Domingo to Kingston services and new Aruba and Curacao services from Santo Domingo (dates soon to be confirmed).
Bahamasair has introduced a Saturdayonly service from Miami, Florida, to San Salvador, Bahamas; Delta has added a second daily non-stop flight to Nassau from New York’s John F Kennedy airport.
sell it: Thomas Cook has seven nights’ room-only at the Butterfly Beach Hotel in Oistins, Barbados. Priced from £778pp the deal includes flights and return transfers and is based on departures from manchester this December.
Top Deck Caribbean restaurant and Hugo’s international cuisine restaurant are new to Speightstown, Barbados. Singer Rhianna has recently been named tourism ambassador for the island.
The Cove at Atlantis Paradise Island in The Bahamas has opened the Fish seafood restaurant by two-Michelin-starred chef José Andrés, whose signature lion fish dish is helping to wipe out the predator.
The BodyHoliday’s multi-million-dollar renovation includes a new sushi counter, two new villas and refurbishment of 76 Luxury Ocean View rooms.
top tip: Patrick’s in St George’s, Grenada, is an institution and a restaurant dedicated to homestyle caribbean cooking, serving up dishes like breadfruit salad, stewed pumpkin, fried plantains, gingered pork and curried mutton.
Families can help release sea turtles back into the wild at Atlantis Paradise Island, The Bahamas.
The rare Bahama Nuthatch, thought to be extinct following Hurricane Matthew in 2016, has recently been spotted by researchers on Grand Bahama Island.
The Cayman Islands’ Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park has released its 1,000th blue iguana into the wild as part of a breeding programme for the endangered species.
Win it: Book a holiday to the Cayman Islands of five nights or more between now and May 31, 2019, and for a chance to win a holiday for two to the islands. The booking must include flights and accommodation. email booking info to email@example.com to enter.
Clockwise, from top left: the Park Hyatt St. Kitts; Lusso Travel offers Half Moon, Jamaica, with unlimited golf; Rosewood Little Dix Bay is due to reopen in late 2019; Soufriere seafront, overlooking the famous Pitons; on the beach in Grenada
Clockwise from bottom left: Luxury Silversands Hotel, Grenada opens this month (November) complete with the Caribbean’s largest infinity pool; demand for The Bahamas has risen in 2018; in-room massage at the Fairmont Royal Pavilion, which now welcomes kids year-round; Mandarin Oriental Canouan in the Grenadines is one of a number of new additions in the last year, along with the Rosewood Baha mar in the Bahamas