Monday, August 15, 2016

A New Way to Experience Martinique

Educational travel company Road Scholar is launching a new learning adventure to Martinique.
The best part? The tour includes free airfare from Boston and New York.
Led by local experts, naturalists and historians, “The Allure of Martinique: A Taste of France in the Caribbean” highlights the island’s unique history and culture.
Participants will learn about the island’s formation, its unique biodiversity and visit the Pagerie Museum, the onetime home of Josephine Bonaparte, Empress of France and wife of Napoleon Bonaparte.
“Many people don’t realize that the Caribbean has much more to offer than just beautiful beaches and sunsets,” says JoAnn Bell, senior vice president of programs at Road Scholar. “Like all of our programs in the Caribbean, Martinique offers participants the high-quality experiential learning that they’ve come to expect with us. With free airfare from Boston and New York, this program is an exceptional value for anyone interested in learning more about this fascinating culture.”
Other highlights include visiting the Domaine d’Emeraude to experience the island’s rainforest; exploring several centuries-old sugar plantations; experiencing La Savane des Esclaves, a re-creation of a “free slave” village; and visiting Le Musée de la Banane to learn about the hundreds of species of the fruit.
The eight-day program traverses the entire island through field trips to a variety of museums and cultural sites.
Prices start at $1,599, including free airfare exclusively from New York and Boston.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

The Best Caribbean Beach Hotels

Sure, there is the food and the rum and the culture and the people. But the primary draw, the siren song beckoning us to the Caribbean, is the beach. We have long acknowledged that there is something about millions of grains of sand massaged by waves that simply and totally intoxicates us. But in a region full of great beaches and great hotels, it is not always easy to find the right ones, the ones that have the perfect mix of beach and hotel quality. Perhaps the hotel is great, but it’s in the hills; or the beach is great but the hotel, less so. With this piece, we set out to gather the best “beach hotels,” or, as we see it, the top combination of a great beach (or beaches) and a great hotel. So here they are — the best beach hotels in the Caribbean.

Cap Juluca, Anguilla 

We’ll be clear — it’s hard for any beach to be better than the sugar-white Maundays Bay in Anguilla, and it’s equally hard for any hotel to be better than the beautiful, Moroccan-styled Cap Juluca. This is a perfect union between beach and hotel, with an uncrowded, sweeping stretch of sand on ultra-calm water and the pinnacle of Caribbean luxury.
The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman
The story here begins with the world-class Seven Mile Beach, full of white sand and crystal-clear water that somehow always feels warm, any time of year. And it continues with this hotel, home to what’s almost certainly the best level of service of any hotel in the Caribbean, with plush rooms, several standout eateries (including one by Eric Ripert) and a lovely spa.
Caneel Bay
St John’s best hotel is set on a 170-acre peninsula. The historic former Rockefeller estate, which is dotted with the ruins of an 18th-century sugar mill, is a throwback to the Caribbean as it once was, high on relaxation and low on bustle, with a pervasive elegance. And then there are the beaches — seven of them, meaning you’ll always be able to find your own beach hideaway
One & Only Ocean Club
Here, it’s about Cabbage Beach, a simply perfect beach on the end of Paradise Island in the Bahamas. The sand is soft and talcum-white, the water laps just so, and the hotel is a work of art, from its famous Versailles gardens to service that makes you feel like a billionaire.
Tortuga Bay
Punta Cana is home to one of the most miraculous stretches of beach in the Caribbean. And while it’s filled almost completely with all-inclusives, there is an oasis: the boutique Tortuga Bay, with on-the-sand villas and rooms designed by Oscar de la Renta.
Belmond La Samanna
The French have a particularly keen understanding of the art of luxury, and that’s exemplified at this property on the French side of St Martin, from the wine selection to the rooms. The most luxurious hotel in St Martin is also set on Baie Longue, a divine beach that comes with an even better view, thanks to sweeping cliffs on one end.
Grace Bay Club
It’s certainly in contention for the title of best beach in the Caribbean: Grace Bay Beach, the pride of the Turks and Caicos Islands. And if there’s one hotel that truly lives up to that sand it’s the Grace Bay Club, the atults-only, all-suite gem that’s know for its enormous guest rooms.
CuisinArt Golf Resort and Spa
Ah, Rendezvous Bay. It came in number one in our ranking last year of the Caribbean’s 50 best beaches, and it’s easy to see why: superb views, including the hills of St Martin in the distance; soft, powdery, impossibly white sand; calm, turquoise water. It’s also home to two of the region’s best beach bars, the Dune Preserve and the SunShine Shack, and then there’s the hotel, a luxurious spot with sensational food and warm service.
Bucuti & Tara Beach Resorts
This is quite a marriage: the best hotel in Aruba and the best beach in Aruba. This corner of Eagle Beach is as beautiful as any in Aruba, with a staggeringly wide white-sand beach, and it’s home to the boutique Bucuti & Tara Beach Resorts, an adults-only, eco-friendly hotel that’s marvelously well-run and even more thoughtfully designed.
Le Sereno St Barth
The jewel of the Caribbean doesn’t lack for great hotels or great beaches, so choosing one here isn’t easy: but for pure beach-hotel harmony, our pick is the 36-unit Le Sereno, set on the beachfront in Grand Cul de Sac. It’s everything you expect in St Barth: delectable food, sleek design and French Caribbean cool.
Four Seasons Resort Nevis
Nevis’ top hotel is also on the island’s most scenic beach, Pinneys Beach, home to some of the region’s most famous beach bars and boasting sweeping views of the hills of St Kitts. The latter gives the beach a kind of exotic quality. And then there’s the resort, a flawlessly-executed Caribbean resort with all the luxury you want without any of the attitude.
Jumby Bay
This private island Rosewood resort off the coast of Antigua is a celebrity hangout, as it offers a level of exclusivity and seclusion that’s nearly unmatched in the region. What’s special here is that it isn’t about just one beach — it’s about four and a half miles of sandy coastline, led by Jumby Beach and Pasture Bay Beach.
Half Moon
Jamaica’s signature resort gets its name from the crescent-shaped stretch of beach where the hotel was born. It isn’t the biggest beach in the Caribbean, but it’s a gentle, beautiful, lovely beach bordered by charming white cottages (including one where the Queen used to stay). This is a classic Jamaican hotel, and a classic Jamaican beach.
Parrot Cay By Como
The most exclusive hotel in the Turks and Caicos islands, this jet-set retreat is set on a private island, meaning 1,000 acres all to yourself. The beach is, true to its homeland, stunning, with ultra-white sand. Most importantly, crowds are simply an impossibility. And then there’s the hotel, with all of the tranquility and comfort you’d expect in a COMO property.
Petit St Vincent
This private island resort is the best place to stay in St Vincent and the Grenadines. It’s a true hideaway, with 115 acres and just a handful of guests, with cottages either in the hills or right on the beach. And the beaches are copious — two miles of them, in fact — and rarely a soul on them. The two-bedroom beach villas here are a castaway fantasy, meaning toes in the sand, hammocks and the sound of the ocean (and all the luxury amenities, too).
Peter Island
The top hotel in the British Virgin Islands is a natural wonder, with stunning vistas and five white-sand beaches, led by the famous Deadman’s Beach. And the resort is terrific — the food is top notch, the rooms are spacious and the Painkillers are even better.
The Meridian Club, Turks and Caicos
Just you and your own 800-acre private island. This retreat off the coast of Providenciales is secluded, calm and blessed with a two-mile long beach that’s among the region’s best. This is a place for escaping the grind, for returning to nature and rediscovering time.

Mexico's premier LGBT destination to host major LGBT events in 2016 & 2017
PUERTO VALLARTA, Mexico - Puerto Vallarta, long-celebrated as the preferred vacation destination for the LGBT community in Mexico, and the first city in Mexico to be granted Gay Travel Approved status by, will once again host Latin Fever, a dance music festival taking place during the US’ Thanksgiving weekend November 27th thru November 30th, 2016.
In addition, Gayribbean's Mexican Riviera Cruise Ruby Princess will be coming to Puerto Vallarta from November 5-12, NYE PVR 2017 will be held from December 29th. 2016 to Jan 1st. 2017; Beef Dip Bear Week from January 29th to February 5th, 2017; Mardi Gras from February 28th. 2017 and Memorial Day Weekend will once again see Vallarta Pride.
Brought into the tourism spotlight by celebrities like Elizabeth Taylor and Tennessee Williams, Puerto Vallarta organically grew to become North America's favorite LGBT winter beach destination and is now home to Mexico’s only beach gayborhood in its Zona Romantica. Home to a broad array of gay bars and nightclubs, gay-owned restaurants, hotels, stores, services, and entertainment, la Zona Romantica is in the center of the city’s Downtown. In addition, hotels across the city, such as Costa Sur Resort & Spa and Hotel San Marino are T.A.G. Certified and members of the IGLTA, putting Puerto Vallarta in a league of its own.
In recent years, the Puerto Vallarta Tourism Board, the entity responsible for promoting the destination in the US and Canada has partnered with the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, GMHC and the International Gay Lesbian Travel Association to promote the destination to the LGBT market. In 2014, Puerto Vallarta became the first Mexican destination to participate in a World Pride with its Noche Alegre event during the World Pride celebrations in Toronto. And in 2015 the tourism board became the first destination to sponsor the Human Rights Campaign on a national level.
Gay-friendly Hotel Accommodations
Puerto Vallarta is home to an array of gay lodging possibilities including T.A.G. gay friendly resorts, hotels, lodges, bed and breakfasts, and guest houses, some are even gay-owned. The following are a list of some of the hotels proactively promoting the LGBT traveler.
CasaMagna Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa(Marina) is, this year the sponsor of the International LGBT Business Expo. Along the coastline, the luxury resort offers all the amenities for a perfect vacation: fitness center, Indoor and Outdoor pools, and the most spacious spa in Puerto Vallarta. Gay travelers can enjoy savory moments in one of the four world-class restaurants of the resort or can easily access the golf courses.
Casa Cupula Gay Hotel Boutique Guesthouse(Southside/Amapas) – Branded as a luxury boutique hotel for gay men, lesbians and friends. This location combines the intimate service of a B & B, the fine décor of a boutique hotel and the comfortable ambience of a guesthouse. Amenities include gourmet food, cocktails, two pools, a gym and in-room massages.
Costa Sur (South) with more than 30 years in existence it was one of the first hotels built in the South Shore of Puerto Vallarta, overlooking one of the most beautiful beaches on the bay. The building has a very Mexican feel to it, with strong, thick walls and spacious bedrooms all of which have mesmerizing views of Banderas Bay. One of the most unique features in Costa Sur is our private beach which has become popular for gay weddings.
Villa Mercedes (Zona Romantica) - The property has a total of 16 lodging options ranging from studio rooms, Jr. suites, Master Suites, and penthouses. Art and Mexican crafts mixed with contemporary eclectic define most of the carefully decorated spaces with murals by artist Ana Rifa, Zapoteco textiles, vintage cement tile mosaics, and original historic architecture.
Gay-Friendly Activities
La Alhambra was one of Out Traveler’s Magazine “16 New Things We're Excited for This Year.” The Alhambra Lounge takes its name from the palace and fortress of the Moorish monarchs of Granada, Spain. With its dramatically lit arches, warm woods, marble floors and fountain, La Alhambra promises to make any night something truly magical.
BLONDIES LOFT is a two-floor edifice with the first floor being a Slushbar featuring frozen cocktails and drinks made with fresh fruit, fresh squeezed juices, and top shelf spirits. The menu is ever-changing to provide guests with new drinks to cool off and chill out. The second floor is the Loft featuring classic cocktails and selections form Slushbar. Blondies is promoted as an LOFT. Featuring premium classic cocktails and selections from the SLUSHBAR below, this intimate space where ocean breezes and the sounds of summer make it the perfect place to start a new adventure, or to dish the details of the last.
Diana's Tour – Diana DeCoste is working successfully for 14th years in Puerto Vallarta with her famous gay and lesbian cruises. The tickets are sold rapidly; it’s recommended to book it in advance.
Food Tours - A 3-hour food tasting and walking tours offers a local’s view into Puerto Vallarta’s culture through its delicious and intricate cuisine, rich history and stunning architecture. Suitable for all age groups and fitness levels, Vallarta Food Tours invites patrons to experience off-the-beaten path eateries and their colorful owners and staff, taco stands and regional delicacies.
Gay Bar-Hopping Tour – For more than 4 years, this tour proposes to experiment a unique adventure. The friendly and professional gay staff organizes a guided immersion in gay Puerto Vallarta’s nightclubs, a wonderful experience to meet people all over the world and to keep great memories of Mexican nightlife.
GO GAY! El Tuito Escape has a variety of activities dedicated to adrenalin junkies. Several tours are proposed to gay and their friends as zip line in the jungle, horseback adventures, whale watching cruises, private sailboat charters, snorkeling among wild dolphins or in Marietas Islands and private escapes on luxury yacht charters.
On Bay Boat Tour this seven-hour tour of the Bay of Banderas is a party on water with guest and local DJs, gogo dancers of the region, lunch and a visit to a private beach. A second floor provides a private VIP area with 360 views of the Bay, VIP service, snacks, international dishes and signature drinks.
Vallarta Adventures is Puerto Vallarta’s premier tour and activity operator. It offers a wide selection of adventure-based tours and excursions with things to do for people of all ages - from zip lines to swimming with dolphins, whale watching to snorkeling, scuba diving to an award winning dinner show.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Why You Need to Book Holiday Travel Now with These Helpful Tips

Ah, the holidays. Yes, we know summer just started, and we’re already talking about the holidays? But the season will be here before we know it. Packed shopping malls, the frenzy of Black Friday, and eccentric family members invading our homes are what a lot of people associate with the season. It makes us want to wipe our hands of it, jump on a plane, and head to the nearest island for a relaxing break from all that hustle and bustle.  If you’ve thought that way too, you’re not alone. It’s becoming increasingly common for families, couples, and singles to escape the madness and celebrate in style at some of the top destinations in the world. Resorts and hotels are catching on to the trend, and many plan special dinners, themed parties and events, and even visits from Santa to keep everyone in the spirit.  However, the increase in travel during this time has had some undesirable effects as well. The week between Christmas and New Year’s has become the busiest and alarmingly expensive time of the year to travel, and Thanksgiving weekend is high on the radar too. Rooms and flights start booking up fast, and airlines and resorts take full advantage of this fact. So while the holidays seem far off, if you plan on getting away this season, book early—better yet, book now—and contemplate some of our helpful tips.

Book Now

As you can see, we can’t stress this fact enough. You might think we’re over exaggerating, but the honest truth is some seasoned holiday travelers have already reserved their travel for the 2016 season, and a lot of them had it booked a year or more in advance. Some hopefuls wait until the fall or even the month of December to book because they’re looking to score last minute deals. They’ll be disappointed to find out these are almost nonexistent during this time of year. If you don’t book it, someone else will. Disney’s Holiday Cruises started selling out in January, and many of their 2017 cabins are already reserved as well. Remember, prices of flights and hotel rooms are always based on availability. As they start to book up, you’ll see that price increase. Save yourself and your wallet by booking in advance for a better rate, and to get the room category, resort, or flight itinerary you desire.

Be Flexible

This one is important. It may sound idyllic to fly out on Dec 23 or 24 so you can wake up bright and bushy-eyed on Christmas morning, or leave for home on Jan. 2 so you can nurse your hangover on the beach. You’re right; it’s a fantastic concept. Unfortunately, everyone else thinks so, too. Those dates are the most expensive days to fly. Travelers can save themselves hundreds if they depart a few days before or after these dates. In fact, you’ll even save money if you depart on Christmas or New Year’s Day, as most people wish to already be in their destination beforehand. Plus, the airports are a lot less crowded.

Payment Plans

Another benefit to booking early is the options to make payments. The increase in rates during the holidays is already concerning. Save yourself some stress and put a deposit down on your trip when you book ahead of time. While almost all airlines still want you to pay for your ticket upfront, most hotels, cruise lines, and tour operators are flexible and allow you to book with some money down. Your final payment usually isn’t due until about two months before your departure date, leaving you plenty of time to save or make payments on a monthly basis.

Consider Alternative Destinations

Warmer locations like the Caribbean and Mexico, family-friendly spots like Disney, and the world’s top cities are always popular destinations people flock to in the winter and holiday season. You might want to consider some of the more unknown off-the-beaten-path destinations that can be just as lovely and enjoyable.
Spend the week in Budapest, Hungary, or Prague in the Czech Republic. These beautiful and affordable European gems are often overlooked for popular cities like Paris and London. Each have the charm and wonder of the great European cities, with excellent food, rich history, and breathtaking architecture. Plus, they’ll both be decked out with decorations, lights, and Christmas Markets. Spending the holidays soaking in one of Budapest’s many thermal baths sounds like a good time to us.  If you’re still craving that island getaway, ponder a trip to Thailand’s beautiful islands or the party beach city of Phuket. The water is clear, beaches are ideal, and the warm weather is just perfect. Use your holiday vacation as a chance to explore unique destinations. We bet you’ll have a blast this holiday season no matter where you go.
It’s never too early to book your holiday getaway. Call us today for the best rates, great itineraries, and expert advice for all your travel needs.

Monday, August 1, 2016

5 Reasons To Have Your Wedding In Barbados

With design-driven hotels, epic surf breaks, seaside music festivals, and a bold local food scene, Barbados is unbeatable. Forget having a destination wedding, have a vacation wedding you and your guests will never forget.
1. There Is A Venue For Everyone:
There are very few islands where you have such a wide variety of wedding venues. Unlike Mexico, the Bahamas, or Jamaica, Barbados just isn't an island where you find commercial all-inclusive brands. Likewise, you're not bound to pricey places like Four Seasons, One&Only, or Rosewood Resorts if you're looking for something more lavish. In fact, these island institutions don't even exist on Barbados.


Instead, Barbados's lodging landscape is dominated by independent properties, many of which are Barbadian owned and operated. So, fear not that you'll have a cookie cutter Caribbean wedding cut from the cliche Sandals cloth. A Barbados wedding can be truly bespoke.
All of the following venues offer comprehensive wedding packages and planners that even encompass logistical elements such as transportation to the licensing office, services of a Minister or magistrate, and menu curation. So, while your wedding won't be cookie cutter it can still be turnkey.
2. It's an Island Getaway Where Guests Can Actually Leave The Hotel Grounds 
There are also very few islands that are as easy and safe to navigate as Barbados. This makes it very easy for your wedding guests to explore the island at leisure and creates opportunities to diversify your wedding events. Feel free to plan brunches, dinners, parties, and group activities across the island!

Buses: Barbados has a fantastic public bus system that serves the island's every beach and boulevard. Each one way ride is $2 Barbados Dollars (the equivalent of US$1) and routes are extremely easy to navigate.
Rental Car: Barbados's roads are all well-paved and well-marked, so guests can rent cars and autonomously travel the island. A classic choice is the "moke", a small SUV with no doors or roof, and Stoutes Car Rental offers discounted group rates for wedding parties. Mokes also make for a colourful and completely adorable "Just Married" photoshoot.
3. Barbados Is Like Summer Camp For Adults
To quote Will Ferrell in Step Brothers, "So many activities!" This translates into not only fun but fulfilling personal experiences for newlyweds and their guests who are using limited vacation days (and disposable income) to take part in a destination wedding. The following activities make for perfect group outings in the days leading up to the big I do's:

  • Surfing: A surf lesson is a must during any visit to Barbados. Because the island is entirely enveloped in reefs, there are guaranteed good surf conditions almost every day of the year. Boosy's Surf School offers personalized group lesson packages.
  • Swimming with Sea Turtles: This is another must. Book a group snorkelling trip with Barbados Blue, which is located beside the densest Hawksbill Turtle nesting site in the eastern Caribbean!
  • Catamaran Cruise: Spending the afternoon aboard a luxury catamaran is an exciting and memorable way to celebrate - and suntan - as a group. Seaduced organizes sailing trips along the island's tranquil west coast (complete with unlimited champagne and rum punch).
  • Distillery Tours: Barbados is the birthplace of rum, so a trip to the island isn't complete without a visit to a distillery or few. Barbados'sMount Gay Rum is the oldest brand of rum in existence and the distillery is open for group tours and tastings six days a week.
  • Festivals: Barbados has a teeming cultural calendar, with unique events that can be integrated into wedding festivities. Crop Over is Barbados's annual Carnival, and is a bucket list item in and of itself. In the spring is Reggae On The Hill, the biggest international reggae event outside of Jamaica. Come autumn, there is the internationally renowned Barbados Food, Wine, & Rum Festival.
  • Nightlife: There are several beach clubs that are perfect for pre-wedding parties. Check out the Boatyard for daytime beach time andHarbour Lights for a Thursday or Friday night welcome bash.
4. It Is The Caribbean's Culinary Capital
Forget having a destination wedding where guests have to eat all of their meals - from the Welcome Dinner through the Farewell Brunch - in the same hotel restaurant. On a trip to Barbados, you could dine at a different restaurant for each meal and still not hit every must-try establishment on the island!

The easiest way to make sense of the local food scene is by coast. The west coast, known as the 'Platinum Coast', is where you'll find upscale (and very pricey) fingers-crossed-you-can-get-a-reservation restaurants like The Cliff, a popular choice for rehearsal dinners and wedding receptions. The Cliff, as the name suggests, is situated on the scenic edge of a coral cove, and is perhaps the most revered restaurant on the island. The menu is known for both its surf and turf: delicate dishes such as truffled beef carpaccio and roast Gressingham duck breast.
Additional west coast winners: The Fish PotScarlet, and a boozy lunch (plus Rum Sours) at the Lone Star hotel restaurant. If you're staying at a vacation rental or villa and like to cook, then pick up ingredients at the Holders House Farmers Market.
The south coast is far more casual, and the standout is Oistins, a fishing town that hosts a fish "fry" every night. I say "fry" because it is really a fish barbecue, with food stalls like Pat's Place dishing up enormous portions of grilled "dolphin" (the local name for mahi-mahi), tuna, swordfish, red snapper, and marlin, plus sides of macaroni pie, cole slaw, and fried plantain. A plate of food and a cold Banks beer runs about CAD$20 per person, making Oistins a cheap and cheerful place for a group meal.
Additional south coast winners: Cuz's Fish Shack on Carlisle Bay (near Bridgetown and The Boatyard) makes the best sandwich on the island. Period.
Lastly, there is the east coast. Because Barbados is such a cosmopolitan island, it can be surprisingly difficult to find restaurants that serve authentic Bajan cuisine. But east coast establishments such as Lemon Arbour and the Atlantis Hotel have visitors covered. Lemon Arbour serves some of the best local cuisine, including 'souse' (lime-pickled pork), 'cou-cou' (cornmeal and okra porridge, similar to grits), and macaroni pie. It is open throughout the week but Saturday afternoon is the best time to go as they have their weekly "lime", Bajan parlance for "party".
On Sundays, the Atlantis Hotel has a phenomenal Bajan buffet brunch - known as the best brunch on the island - and for those who have a Saturday night wedding, this is a fantastic option for a recovery meal. Feast on island classics such as salt fish, yam gratin, bake (a traditional West Indian bread), flying fish, breadfruit, golden apple juice, and much, much more.
Finally, on the way to the airport, guests can hit Cutters, for a goodbye glass of what is widely said to be the best rum punch on the island. Cutters also sells bottles of this glorious elixir, which makes the perfect welcome gift for guests.
5. Amazing Local Designers
From the beach to the wedding bash, brides and their maids can deck themselves out in fly Bajan fashion. Look no further than local designers Suga Apple Swim and Pink Lemonade for bathers, coverups, and bridesmaids dresses.