Personal Paradise: Caribbean
The Caribbean is an easy choice for romantic travelers...but selecting your own personal paradise in these islands can be tricky. A new book by husband-wife team Janet and Gordon Groene titled Personal Paradise: Caribbean (Open Road Publishing) takes a look at the region's best places to stay. Lovetripper.com interviewed Janet Groene for her recommendations for romantic travelers:
What aspects of a Caribbean resort
make it a "best of the best" and how did you select your top
JG: The Best of the Best chapter gives the reader a choice
of islands as well as a choice of top resorts. Tortuga Bay at Punta Cana,
Puerto Rico scored a perfect 10 because it's easy to get to, the airport
is one of the most hassle-free in the Caribbean (especially for Tortuga
Bay guests, who have VIP status when entering and leaving), and everything
from service and dining to accommodations is absolutely top drawer. Most
islands have at least one four- or five-star resort but Anguilla and Providenciales
are two very small islands that have a lions share of top-drawer
resorts.We wanted to provide other options.
Open Road Hotel LuxScores are based on (1) Value for the
money, (2) Service, (3) Architecture, grounds and overall ambience, (4)
On-site dining and (5) Overall experience. It was agonizing to make choices
because so much depends on the time of year, individual interests, and
outside factors such as what else is going on in the island or region
at the time. For example, the World Cup of Cricket finals will be played
in Barbados in the Spring of 2007. It will be a joyous, jam-packed time
for the island yet lodgings are getting top dollar and are sure to be
crowded. When planning an island vacation it's always a good idea to research
what else is going on at the same time, then decide if and how it will
impact your experience. Junkanoo, Carnival and other big festivals arent
everyones cup of tea.
It's also good to consider the season. The non-Caribbean
islands we cover (Bahamas, Bermuda and Turks & Caicos) can have frisky
winds in winter. In summer they can be still and steamy but thats
also a time when diving may be best. Most Caribbean islands are subject
to hurricane watches, although the southernmost islands are considered
to be outside the hurricane zone.
There are many reasons why one visitor might give a resort
a perfect 10 while others put it in the never-again category, even if
the two of them are in the same resort at the same time. For example,
a romantic getaway with children will rely on the availability of child
care. Many children's programs take only ages 4 or 5 and up, while others
have facilities for infants and toddlers. Still others have certified
nannies on call and you can fine-tune child care for your own lifestyle.
Some couples want to be alone, away from the patter of little feet while
others consider a vacation a family bonding experience that should include
Some resorts, such as the Beach House on Barbuda dont
accept children under age 18. Others have minimum age requirements during
certain seasons. Curtain Bluff on Antigua, for example, doesnt allow
pint-size guests in February.
What resorts really stand out in the
Caribbean for romantic travelers?
JG: Some couples want to disappear into their own lair
and never see another person during their stay except, perhaps, the server
who brings Room Service. We love Spice Island on Grenada for its very
private suites with their own plunge pools, Pink Sands on Bermuda for
its secluded cottages, and The Caves, Negril, for an earthy, exotic surroundings
and respect for utter privacy. For a small, offbeat resort with a good
choice of activities for him, her and a couple together, consider Kamalame
Cay on Andros. It offers a worlds-end setting for bonefishing and
bird watching, diving on one of the worlds best reefs and a small,
seaside spa on stilts. She can have a massage while hes out on the
bonefish flats or the two of them can have a couples massage after a day
of diving or sailing together.
Its really important to know yourself and your lover
before booking a Caribbean resort. How important is it to have a phone,
broadband and TV? "Romantic" is too often used as a euphemism
for, " There are no room phones here. When you want service, you
have to wave a flag and hope somebody sees it."
What some see as a high-rise concrete horror filled with
cookie-cutter rooms, others see as a beachfront paradise with a wide choice
of dining and drinking options, a casino with a nightly floor show, a
full-service spa and salon, workout facilities, room service and perhaps
a personal butler, all without having to go out in the rain.
Do you care only about sun and the beach or do the two
of you want to explore native culture too? Are planned activities important
or does he or she want to just sit on a private balcony watching the sun
set into the sea, with a rum swizzle in one hand and you in the other?
Honeymooners often like to pamper themselves
with spa treatments. What resorts in the Caribbean are tops for spa treatments?
JG: More and more name-brand spas from the U.S., Asia and
Europe are being adopted by resorts. Tortuga Bay at Punta Cana, for example,
has the first Six Senses Spa in the Caribbean. The Spa at The Palms on
Provo covers an entire acre and it was conceived by Angel Stewart of Golden
Door and Rancho Mirage fame. Golden Door has long been a feature at El
Conquistador in Puerto Rico, Radissons have their Larimar spas and Hyatts
are known for their Stillwater spas. Venus Spa and RUSK Salon at CuisinArt
at Anguilla is to die for and I love the scented serenity of the spa at
the Almond Beach Club and Spa at St. James, Barbados.
Resorts that had no spas are adding them; resorts that
have spas are enlarging them. Couples massages and spa packages are commonplace
now at top resorts. Even trendier are holistic or wellness packages that
provide a complete, feel-good regimen that includes spa and many other
factors. At Caneel Bays Self Centre, individuals or couples can
experience total renewals of mind, body and spirit.
What suggestions do you have for romantic
travelers who are interested in an active getaway, whether that means
scuba, golf, or tennis?
What trends are you seeing in terms
of pampering getaways in the Caribbean?
JG I see dining getting more sophisticated thanks to an
ever-better supply of foods and wines from around the world: caviars,
truffles, Arizona peppers, Chilean cherries and California melons. Too,
spas are getting larger and more lavish. Resorts that had no spas are
adding them; those that had spas are enlarging them; new resorts are going
for the gold in spa services, furnishings, decor and products. Todays
travelers want to experience new foods, adventures, sights and sounds
firsthand and, at the end of the day they want a rose-scented bath surrounded
by scented candles, dinner with a fine wine, a four-poster bed draped
in gauzy netting and a decent stereo system with a plug for their MP3
Can romantic travelers with an eye
on the budget also find a pampering paradise in the Caribbean?
JG: As I admitted in Personal Paradise: Caribbean,
Gordon and I wouldnt be caught dead in some all-inclusives but we
absolutely love the Grand Lido Negril (for a splurge) and the moderately
priced Couples Ocho Rios for its old-Jamaica ambience. Looking at nightly
rates, all- inclusives may seem pricey but you wont be nickel-and-dimed
to death. From the time you arrive, there is no quibbling about whether
you can afford another glass of wine or another half hour in the kayak.
Tipping isnt even allowed at these places. Money wrangles can put
a strain on a relationship, so its more romantic to settle things
at the start, then give yourself completely to each other and the pleasures
of the trip.
Who are Janet Groene and Gordon Groene?
Early in their marriage, the Groenes decided separation wasnt for them. They chucked Gordons career as a professional pilot, packed up Janets credentials as a freelance writer, bought a small sloop and sailed for the Bahamas. A year later they added a small motorhome and went to the mountains for the summer, returning to sailing the tropics in winter. For 10 years they were happily homeless roamers, supporting themselves as a freelance writer and photographer team. They now have a home base in Florida but are in and out of the islands as often as possible by airline and cruise ship.