30 OCT 2012: I still remember my last sun vacation. Travel-size bottle of suntan lotion, white sand, and okay, I admit a copy of Fifty Shades of Grey. But like many of your clients who might have been calling lately, I’m game for a new sand-between-the-toes vacation. “So what’s out there?”


Thankfully Toronto was revelling in last week’s Caribbean Week. Agents and media hobnobbed and we heard firsthand where the best spot to lay down your beach blanket.

Here’s the hot sun list that’s got the glitter and the glam you don’t want to miss:

Bermuda

Confession, the sci-fi mystery film The Bermuda Triangle I watched in the seventies once gave me nightmares.

For years images of disappearing planes and ships kept me up at night. Boy am I glad Robin Dane, director of sales in Canada for Bermuda Tourism and I talked. “It’s not even in the Bermuda Triangle.”

Whuhh!

What Bermuda does offer is a heavenly paradise that’s never been “off the radar” of the rich’n’famous.

And now thanks to the destination’s new slick campaign “There’s so much more,” launched in August those travellers who go to let their hair down and chill still do but ‘there’s so much more...”

“One of our ads says ‘Isn’t Bermuda all about high society?’ This ‘So much more’ slogan has the high society aspect to it but so much more. You can be more low-key... be yourself,” adds Christa Romano, Bermuda Tourism’s PR rep from Lou Hammond & Associates.

Get ready for the golf and spa season and watch for College Week in March. “It’s to try and get baby boomers back,” adds Christa.

Sadly movie-dynasty legend Michael Douglas’ family-owned luxe property Ariel Sands has now closed, but Travel Industry Today just learned that plans for a massive $100m makeover have just been released. Expect the 47-room hotel to be transformed into a 214-room luxury property by Hilton Grand Vacations Club. It will be known as The Hilton Club at Ariel Sands.

Direct Flight time to this sun spot: 2 hours 45 minutes (Air Canada flies daily, WestJet flies three days a week. “We’ve got 10 flights a week,” says Robin).

Bahamas


“We are a festival island,” grins Ambrose Morris, communications manager with the Bahamas Tourist Office.

There’s Bahamas Speed Week (November 24, 2012-December 2, 2012). See vintage cars from the glory days of racing all in Nassau.

The national festival Junkanoo (December 26, 2012 -January 1, 2013) is one big party. Go for fish fry, see the costumes, dance and sample local Bahamian delicacies.

Bahamas is also now gearing up to celebrate its 40th Independence Anniversary on July 10, 2013.

“We start kicking off the celebrations in early November. There’s a bridge renaming ceremony with big fireworks. The Paradise Island Bridge will be renamed the Sir Sidney Poitier Bridge after the great Bahamian- American actor,” says Ambrose, adding that a concert held at the Atlantis Resort will have chanteuse Jennifer Hudson and other international stars on the scene this week (November 2-3, 2012).

Canadian arrivals are up! Ambrose says about 120,000 Canadians have travelled there this year. But he’s expecting a mega increase of an additional 100,000 Canadian visitors next year at this same time due to more air lift. (WestJet has direct flights to Nassau and resumes seasonal direct flights to Freeport, Bahamas starting October 29, 2012).

“We just announced a partnership with Sunwing Travel Group. It will be taking over the Reef Village in Grand Bahama,” he says about the new partnership which will add additional airlift to Freeport, Grand Bahama. The 503-room blue diamond resort is a five-star inclusive.

Bahamas attracts big stars too. If you’re there between US Thanksgiving up to New Years, its pretty good star sighting season around Nassau. In December the Bahamas International Film Festival takes place. The fave star hub is Atlantis and the Sheraton.

Of course Harbour Island is another star getaway. That’s where hockey legend Mark Messier purchased the notable Coral Sands Resort. “Eleven Canadian millionaires own property on Harbour Island,” smiles Jessica Patriquin, Bahamas Tourism PR rep with PUNCH Canada.

Canadians are scooping up this piece of heaven.

Flight time from YYZ to NAS: 3 hours

Barbados

The land of Rihanna, “She can be the ambassador forever,” laughs Debra Millington, business development manager with the Barbados Tourism Authority when we look at star-value in Barbados.

The other is the mega legacy. Debra reminds me that rum was the starter of it all. “We boast we have the oldest rum company in the world. Mount Gay Rum was established in 1703,” she says. Plus there’s the highly sought-after 1703 Old Cask Selection Rum.

“That’s ‘the best,’ the creme de la creme. You can buy it in any duty free shop in Barbados and at the Mount Gay Rum Visitors Centre.” Value: about $200 per bottle.

Food is huge. There are Zagat-rated restos plus Oistin’s Fish Fry for real authentic local colour. “It’s a cornucopia of food and fish before your eyes.”

Fave festival – Crop Over is so big this year the island nation lengthened the whole party atmosphere starting festivities in April leading up to the Grand Kadooment in August. Reason: “It’s for visitors who might not be able to come to the island for July or August.”

Family properties

Sometimes family-owned is just what’s in the cards.

The president of The Atrebor Group, Roberta Garzaroli comes from a family of hoteliers. Her father originally from Lake Cuomo purchased the historic Graycliff (www.graycliff.com) beside Government House in Old Nassau, Bahamas back in the seventies as an investment.

“The house came with seventeen servants and my father decided he better do something to help pay for it. So we expanded it,” she laughs thinking back on transforming the house into the Graycliff Hotel.

The elegant heritage property boasts 20-rooms, and offers five-star dining. Roberta’s favourite spot: “I love sitting by the pool when you enter the gardens, you get total seclusion.”

Saint Lucia


It looks like the fab Pitons, the boutique island’s moniker, have left everyone breathless.

In the TV-reality show The Bachelor proposals were made there, plus the setting was once Oprah-fied. “This (the Pitons) was one of Oprah’s favorite places to see in your lifetime,” smiles Alison Theodore, regional marketing manager with The Saint Lucia Tourist Board.

Access is easy. Alison says there’s currently non-stop service four times a week. “You have two with WestJet on Thursday and Sunday and with Air Canada on Saturday and Sunday. Plus during winter Friday through Monday you can get to Saint Lucia non-stop from Toronto and also Montreal.”

Flight time: 5 hours

Hmmm, with so many sunny destinations to choose from, one can only guess where to toss the beach towel next...

For more sun glam and fun in the sun activities see the Caribbean Tourism Organization www.onecaribbean.org and www.caribbeantravel.com/



author

Ilona Kauremszky

A regular contributor to Travel Industry Today, Ilona is a prize winning journalist whose writing pursuits have taken her around the globe.

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