Caribbean Week Brings Music, Dance, Deals To New York City

Now through June 11, Caribbean Week New York is being held at Grand Central Terminal, offering a celebration of the unique vacation experiences available in the Caribbean. Hosted by the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) the event is a chance to experience the sights, sounds and culture of island life along with some exclusive travel deals.

Travel experts from Caribbean destinations will be on hand and visitors will have opportunity to book exclusive Caribbean Week travel deals via Travelocity and American Airlines Vacations.

Part of Caribbean Week New York is the 2012 Rum and Rhythm Benefit. At this event guests will sample premium rums of the Caribbean and cuisine prepared by the region’s celebrity chefs. There is also an opportunity to experience some of the Caribbean’s award winning musicians and mixologists as guests journey from one destination to the other. A live auction will give visitors the opportunity to outbid each other for exclusive vacation packages.

At another event, one lucky couple will tie the knot at a Caribbean-themed wedding ceremony in the iconic New York City landmark. “From the bride’s dress to the wedding cake to the honeymoon, the Caribbean has spared no expense to make their Caribbean dream come true,” says the CTO on their website.

The top-rated island of St Kitts will host a honeymoon for the lucky couple including two business class tickets to St. Kitts in addition to a four-night stay at the St. Kitts Marriott, which is also providing complimentary spa treatments and more.

Performances by JAM-X Band, Danza Fiesta Salsa Dancers of Puerto Rico, Natraj Center for the Performing Arts and Braata Productions will be held throughout the week. Admission is free.

[Flickr photo by katiew]

Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee: 2012’s other major British event

In London, signs of the coming Olympics are everywhere. Barclays Cycle Hire docking stations have begun to expand into East London toward key Olympics sites, billboards urge drivers to begin to think about how they’ll deal with increased traffic, and the Prime Minister is busy warning unions that the prospect of a strike during the Olympics would be “unacceptable and unpatriotic.”

Meanwhile, outside of London, a number of cities have banded together as Heritage Cities in part to lure those tourists brought to London by the Olympics away from the capital.

But the Olympics are not the only event drawing visitors to the UK this year. 2012 is also the year of Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee, the 60th anniversary of her coronation as Queen. The Diamond Jubilee will reach its peak during what is being called the Diamond Jubilee central weekend, from June 2 through 5. The weekend will be characterized by some serious pomp and circumstance. Events will include a 1000-boat pageant on the Thames on June 3, a BBC Concert at Buckingham Palace on June 4, and a special Service of Thanksgiving at St. Paul’s Cathedral followed by a carriage procession on June 5.

In addition to this peak period, there are a number of other events planned in the lead-up to the weekend and beyond.

For example, members of the Royal Family are traveling around the UK, the UK’s Crown Dependencies, the UK’s Overseas Territories, and Commonwealth to commemorate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Currently, Prince Edward, the Earl of Wessex and his wife the Countess of Wessex are on a two-week commemorative Caribbean visit, taking in St. Lucia, Barbados, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada, Trinidad and Tobago, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, Anguilla, and Antigua and Barbuda. Locals and tourists alike in the region might just run across Edward and Sophie through March 7.

The Queen and Prince Philip’s travel schedule begins March 8 in Leicester and finishes off on what looks like a very busy July 25, taking in Cowes, the Isle of Wight, New Forest, and Hampshire.

There is an official website for taking stock of Diamond Jubilee events. There’s also a handy Google map allowing visitors to see where various members of the Royal Family will be celebrating the Queen’s reign throughout the year. (Spoiler alert: Harry got Jamaica.) Visitors can play with an interactive timeline of the last 60 years and also send a message to the Queen. And there’s the crucial bit of information that Andrew Lloyd Webber is co-authoring a Diamond Jubilee song.

[Image: Flickr | quinn.anya]

The 10 smallest countries in the world

The world’s ten smallest countries in terms of area fall into two general categories: European microstates (Liechtenstein, Malta, Monaco, San Marino, and the Vatican) and small island nations of the Indian Ocean, Pacific, and Caribbean (Maldives, Marshall Islands, Nauru, St. Kitts and Nevis, and Tuvalu.) Some of these countries are quite new as independent nations: Tuvalu gained independence from the UK in 1978, while the Marshall Islands gained full independence from the US in 1986. Others have been around for a very long time. San Marino dates its founding as a republic to 301. These countries vary greatly from one another along other axes as well: population, income, life expectancy, industry, tourist facilities, and membership in various international organizations.


[Image of Tuvalu: Flickr | leighblackall]

Deal watch: Royal wedding vacation packages

With the Royal Wedding just days away, its not too late to get into the frenzied madness with a royal getaway fit for you, the non-royal regular person. Here are some special offers from a variety of different resorts scattered around the globe with prices between $149 for a one-night getaway (just so you can say you did something special) to $2,250 for a four-night package (so you can say you did something really special).

Enjoy a royal getaway to the Sandpearl Resort in Clearwater Beach, Florida, when you book the Royal Romance Berries & Bubbly Package on April 29, 2011. The package includes accommodations in a luxury room or resort suite category of your choice, champagne and chocolate dipped strawberries on the night of arrival and complimentary breakfast for two each morning. A package savings of over 20 percent.
Rates start at: $299 per night
Valid for travel: April 29 through December 30, 2011
Reservations: Visit and use promo code ROYAL in the Corporate / Promotion box, or call 1-877-726-3111 and ask for promotional code ROYAL.
Maybe the Caribbean sounds more like the royal place to be. The St. Kitts Marriott Resort is offering a free room upgrade and bottle of sparkling wine when their Escape For Two package is booked on April 29th, 2011, only.
Package includes:
– Accommodations (automatic room upgrade)
– 1 massage per person (per room, per stay)
– 1 facial per person (per room, per stay)
– Breakfast buffet for two, daily
– 1 Bottle of sparkling wine
– Spa amenity basket and welcome gift
Rates: From $238 per room/night, inclusive of tax and gratuity. Based on double occupancy. Subject to availability / blackout dates.
Reservations: / Promo code ES8

The CuisinArt Resort & Spa in Anguilla is offering the “Royalty in Paradise” package on April 29th, 2011, only also.
Package includes:
– 4 Nights in a beachfront junior suite
– 1 Romantic beachfront dinner for two
– 1 Bottle Veuve Cliquot champagne
– 1 Couples Rendezvous spa package:
– Couples massage
– Floral bath soak
– Anguillian coconut pineapple scrub
– Swiss duet rain shower
Rates: From $2,250 (A $925 savings)
Valid for Travel: April 30 – November 22, 2011. Based on availability, blackout dates apply.

At Mexico’s CasaMagna Marriott Cancun Resort is offering the Royal Romance Package, available for one day only on April 29th, 2011.
Package includes:
– Transportation from and to the Cancun Airport
– Daily breakfast buffet for 2 adults
– One bottle of sparkling wine per stay
– Free upgrade to Ocean view (room already upgraded at the time of booking)
– 40% discount on Spa treatments
– 20% discount on food and beverage, and gift shop purchases
Rates: From $149 USD per night
Valid for Travel: May 1 – November 20. Based on availability, blackout dates apply.
Reservations: Visit and input promo code L9Z

Also in Cancun, the JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa is offering the Royal Romance Package, available for one day only on April 29th, 2011.
Package includes:
– Transportation from and to the Cancun Airport
– Daily breakfast buffet for 2 adults
– One bottle of sparkling wine per stay
– Free upgrade to Ocean view (room already upgraded at the time of booking)
– 40% discount on Spa treatments
– 20% discount on food and beverage and gift shop purchases
Rates: From $189 USD per night
Valid for Travel: May 1 – November 20. Based on availability, blackout dates apply.
Reservations: Visit and input promo code L9Z

Over in Curacao, the Hotel Kura Hulanda Spa and Casino is has their Royal Treatment Package which includes three night accommodations in a Deluxe Room and a half-day of pampering at the spa for two guests. Spa treatments include a 50 minute relaxing massage, 60 minute food reflexology and your choice of a Mini Facial or Gentleman’s Total Care Facial
Rates: Three night package: $1,180
Valid for Travel: Now until Dec 23, 2011
Reservations: Call 877-264-3106 or email

Not interested in a fabulous resort at discounted prices? How about a cruise then?

Priced at $2904, the Royal Caribbean Royal Wedding Package offers a wide range of royal wedding stuff like a tiara for the bride, a 12-rose hand-tied bouquet, strawberries and champagne, toasting flutes and a keepsake server each engraved with a crown and dinner at the captains table. Included are the services of a wedding planner and photographer along with a boutonniere for the groom, announcements and a wedding cake.

Oh, and if you happen to see the royal couple along the way, let us know would you?

Take another look at these ten top cruise ports

If you travel by cruise ship, there’s not a lot of choice in the matter. Cruise lines have a variety of islands to visit but the choices are limited with many itineraries virtually the same from ship to ship. Still, you are not required to get in line and go along with the crowd. Consider the cruise ship no more than the way you got there when thinking of what to do ashore. Planning as though you took a flight, not a cruise ship, puts things in a way better perspective. Think of yourself as a traveler who came by sea. No, really. Think that way and even ports you may have been to several times will have a fresh, new look and feel.

If you travel by air, flying can get you to islands not serviced regularly by cruise lines or maybe islands you might have sampled on a cruise and said “I think I could come back and do this again, without the ship”. If you have ever been on a cruise you probably said that at one time or another.

Sure, a cruise vacation is often a best value for travel. Good, glad to hear it. Now let’s take that a step further and get more out of your cruise by thinking a bit differently about common cruise ports visited by most every cruise line. Let’s look at ten top Caribbean islands and cruise ports.

  1. Ocho Rios, JamaicaI think Jamaica is one of the prettiest places on the planet. As is so often the case when traveling, the people we meet along the way can make all the difference. Lincoln Stewart is a cab driver in Ocho who has lived in Jamaica all his life. However one gets to Jamaica, by sea or air, getting safely away from the tourist attractions and shore excursion mobs is key and well worth the effort to get there. Lincoln showed us “his” Jamaica, a remarkably different place than we see from a cruise ship.
  2. Cozumel, Mexico It’s almost a requirement of any cruise line and Cozumel is set up to handle the crowds. A best bet here is Paradise Beach. If you’re lucky enough to go at a time when “Tom” is around you’re in for a good time. This is the trick to making a day in port something special: Meet someone local. Get to know someone who lives there. Like so many other things in travel, the people make the difference.
  3. St Thomas-I think St Thomas was one of the most pleasant islands in the Caribbean. There are the typical third world looking parts, but as part of the United States there is an air of stability there not on other islands. Like traveling abroad, seeing a familiar brand can help make sense of otherwise unfamiliar surroundings. Throw in a US post office and feel right at home. .
  4. St John– Many who visit St John on a cruise never have the island on their itinerary. This is a common do-it-yourself shore excursion where travelers can choose to take a ferry from St Thomas to St John for a day at Trunk Bay, one of the most beautiful beaches we’ve ever seen.
  5. St Maarten-Split in two, one side French, one side Dutch, your cruise ship will probably stop on the Dutch side. A good do-it-yourself excursion would be a cab ride to the French side and a beach called Bae Rouge. You won’t find a lot of people there because it will take a couple hours round-trip to visit. Well worth the time though, this is about as secluded and pristine as beaches get. Nearby St. Barth can be visited in a day too
  6. Tortola– As part of the British Virgin Islands along with Virgin Gorda, Jost Van Dyke, and Anegada, Tortola is considered the chains main island. Smugglers Cove is a popular place to go with snorkeling and amazing views. No facilities there but worth the effort to see. Divers like Tortola because of the crystal clear water and find sinkholes and ledges as well as caves and canyons.
  7. Key West, Florida– Maybe not on the top of your “Caribbean island” list but a good one to note nonetheless. A good piece of Key Lime pie can’t be beat for a real taste of Florida and the Keys. If you can’t make it the Key West Key Lime Pie Company will send you one.
  8. San Juan, Puerto Rico– San Juan gets a bad reputation for crime and other bad things that keep tourists away. Puerto Rico shouldn’t be judged by San Juan, those that live in other parts are not so proud of it and definitely prefer the West. The best beaches are in Cabo Rojo and Isabela or in close by small Island/towns like Culebra.
  9. Antigua– A good bet off a cruise ship is to take a cab for the 45 minute drive to the Allegro Resort of Pineapple Beach. There are 365 beaches on Antigua, one for each day of the year. Most of the beaches are inside the calm, protected waters of the island’s Caribbean side. All are open to the public. The trick is knowing which one is good to visit at the particular time you are there. Cab drivers know this.
  10. Barbados– This one also has two sides with the Atlantic on one side and the Caribbean Sea on the other. East Coast beaches, including Bathsheba are good for surfers. South Coast beaches such as Carlisle Bay and Sandy Beach are popular for body surfing while Needham’s Point is one of the best for snorkeling and swimming. Black sand beaches make this one unique. A big cruise ship excursion is Harrison’s Cave but Flightseeing is probably a better bet. Best bet here? Go sailing on a catamaran.

We know Spring is just around the corner but that Old Man Winter can come back to slap us around a little on his way out the door. Just thinking about someplace warm can help. Going there is better though.