Summer Sizzles: Take a Luv Trip to the Caribbean

St. Maarten 12 Metre Challenge

Photo Courtesy of St. Maarten Tourist Bureau

Easy to get to with plenty to do once you get there, St. Maarten is full of surprises like an afternoon on the water learning how to grind a winch, trim a sail and punch a stop watch. The most popular attraction on the island and the perfect way for Americans to celebrate July 4, the ‘12 Metre Challenge’ entertains couples aboard the original America’s Cup Stars & Stripes for the imitable opportunity to learn from a professional yacht crew. During the otherwise sleepy month of August, Grammy winner John Legend and old school crooner Percy Sledge whose “When a Man Loves a Woman” has ignited plenty a wild night take to the stage on the first Saturday of the month at the Hennessy Artistry concert.

Sonesta Maho Beach Resort and Casino St. Maarten

Photo Courtesy of Sonesta Resorts

Amongst the finest on the island, Sonesta Maho Beach Resort is popular not only for its seaside locale, terrific restaurants and fabulous spa but also for the ‘All-Inclusive Romance’ package that woos couples with a bottle of bubbly, en suite treats like fresh strawberries and discounts on couples massages. And for those in the mood, “Marry Me for Free” is full of extra treats for wedding parties that book ten rooms for five nights. On the French side, Grand Case Beach Club is offering the fifth night gratis for stays through the end of October. Room and board deluxe includes welcome bottle of wine, scrumptious breakfast for two at the Sunset Café and unlimited water sports.

Another fan favorite, Jamaica is the ideal getaway for adventurous couples. “We are blessed with a number of hidden gems which celebrate our culture and our people,” said John Lynch, director tourism, “whether it is soaring through the tree tops, exploring the rich flora and fauna, savoring the taste of our spicy jerk, horseback riding on the beach, rafting on one of our many rivers or just enjoying a catamaran cruise.”

The island’s only natural nighttime attraction and one of only three in the world, ‘Glistening Waters Luminous Lagoon’ is a phosphorous wonder where the waters glow courtesy of tiny organisms that light up at night. Departing from the Glistening Waters Restaurant in Falmouth, the sunset tours are ideal for popping the question with dinner and an icy Red Stripe when the boat returns to dry land. For twosomes craving a plate of lip-searing jerk with their icy Red Stripe, the Portland Jerk Festival on July 7 at the Folly Ruins in Port Antonio is nonstop tastings and entertainment.

Trident Castle Jamaica

Photo Courtesy of www.presidentialretreats.com

A quick hop from the Jerk Festival and once the haunt for A-listers like Audrey Hepburn and Denzel Washington, Trident Castle is romantic retro-chic with eight regal bedrooms, uber-luxe 500-count sheets, digital surround sound and Apple TVs. Available for individual room stays and buyouts for wedding parties, rates start as low as $200.00 per night, per room. For the smooth sounds of reggae, the annual Sumfest Music Festival heats up Montego Bay from July 21 to 27 with red hot acts like Damian Marley and Beenie Man. Thousands of fans flock to the island for what has been dubbed the ‘greatest reggae show on earth.’

Posted in Caribbean, Jamaica, St. Marteen | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Sleek Sophistication in Port of Spain: Making Merry at the Hyatt Regency Trinidad

Hyatt Trinidad King Room

Photo Courtesy of Hyatt Regency

The centerpiece of the Port of Spain International Waterfront Center, Hyatt Regency Trinidad is the premier address in island’s bustling capital city. The only waterfront hotel in Port of Spain, its Caribbean chic vibe is a perfect match for couples looking for a city venue for a tropical wedding. Upscale from top to bottom, the twenty-two story hotel overlooks the Gulf of Paria and with a 16,000 square-foot Grand Ballroom and a staff delighted to plan a wedding, romance is always in full bloom. “Although our local wedding market is strong,” said Russell George, general manager, “our goal is to attract couples from North America who are looking for a hotel that marries Caribbean charm with modern amenities.”

Without the standard Caribbean amenities like a resort beach strip, a wedding in Port of Spain is perfectly paired with a honeymoon across the pond in Tobago. “Our sister island is peaceful, beautiful and surrounded by gorgeous beaches,” adds Russell George, general manager, “the ideal combination is a wedding here and a honeymoon in Tobago.”

Hyatt Trinidad Pool

Photo Courtesy of Hyatt

With ten palatial suites, 428 spacious rooms including thirty two with balconies, the hotel exudes warmth in one of the biggest cities in the Caribbean. En suite treats include the bedside IPod docking station and TV screens that are visible through the frosted glass windows of the rain-head shower. There is no mistaking the stellar service upon first arriving in the multi-tiered lobby that faces the Gulf. A picturesque parade of ships including the Tobago-bound ferry sail gracefully past the big windows while servers recommend a delectable selection of tapas and a glass of Canvas, the Hyatt’s private label wine or a fruity cocktail shaken (or stirred) with Caribbean flair and European finesse.

Tucked away in the corner, Cinnamon Cafe is open 24/7 for those with a late night yen for an espresso or twosomes making an early morning getaway. For a large wedding rehearsal dinner or an intimate dinner for two, Waterfront restaurant not only serves Trini specialities like Caribbean corn soup or spicy baked fresh fish but also American favorites prepared in the exhibition kitchen. “We are not only the largest hotel in Trinidad are also the most upscale, serve the best sushi on the island and make it our business to pamper each and every one of our guest,” said Russell George, general manager.”

Refresh & Rejuvenate

A sublime chill-out is waiting at the Spa Esencia where treatments with eucalyptus, jasmine, lemongrass and coconut morph a massage into a magical experience. The chi-chi line of organic products called Svarasa and Ruupa are locally-made without chemical additives. Developed by pharmacist Vishal Dhanraj, Svarasa, “essence of you” in Sanskrit, is a line of products from soap to lotion crafted from black willow bark and orange oil. A favorite of honeymooners and worth taking home, Rose Petal Soap is sublime as are the bath salts and oils blended with citrus and floral scents www.spaesencia.com.

From Soup to Nuts

A staff of enthusiastic romance planners will orchestrate a wedding extraordinaire and a honeymoon to remember with creative add-ons like ice sculptures, gratis parking for guests which is a big plus in Port of Spain, discounted room rates for out-of-town guests, open bar and bartender, wedding cake baked with affection by the hotels pastry chef and Hyatt Gold Passport points for food and beverage purchased for the big day.
Dreamy venues range from the expansive Jade Room and intimate Topaz Room to a pair of fabulous ballrooms including the gigantic Regency Ballroom and the elegant Port of Spain Ballroom.

Out and About

Front desk staff is knowledgeable about Port of Spain and can arrange tours to attractions or to next door Tobago. In Port of Spain, Zen, the largest nightclub in the Caribbean, is a fifteen-minute cab ride from the hotel and a recommended experience even for those who might shy away from large clubs.

Steel Drum Band Trinidad

Photo Courtesy of www.Trinidadprevue.com

For couples looking for a day away from the fray, Caroni Swamp may be just the choice. Every day, the scarlet ibis flies to nearby Venezuela to feed and then heads back to Trinidad in the late afternoon. Watching thousands of these magnificent birds return to roost in the green mangroves of Caroni Swamp with their red plumage blazing against the blue sky is a sight to behold.

Listening to the steel pan is a rite of passage in Trinidad and with pan “yards” all over the island, spectators are welcome to watch the bands perform an impromptu concert while they sharpen their skills for Carnival competitions held in the winter, the biggest event in the country.

Posted in Caribbean, Trinidad and Tobago | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Motion of the Ocean: A Tempting Tropical Tryst

The holy trinity of sea, sun and surf is the tried and true triad for a tantalizing tryst in the Caribbean and with the cobalt sea on all sides, the islands are bubbling with couple-bonding ideas from boat racing and deep sea fishing to turtle spotting and swimming with the stingrays. With low season resort rates in high gear, plenty of flights to the sunny south, fewer crowds on the beach and a bevy of fine local events, grooving to the motion of the ocean adds the wow factor above and below the waves.

Catch the Wave

Spice Island Grenada

Photo Courtesy of Spice Island Beach Resort

Brand new in Grenada, Island Routes is offering scenic day trips of the colorful coast aboard comfy catamarans, inflatable motorboats and deep sea fishing boats. “We are excited to introduce visitors to the simple, colorful lifestyle and unmatched warmth of the Grenadians who may be the very ‘spice’ of the island,” said David Shields, general manager, Island Routes Caribbean Adventures. www.islandroutes.com.

Rated tops in the Caribbean, the Spice Island Beach Resort appeals to the discerning couple who appreciates seaside splendor, swishy Spa, fabulous food and service that rivals the best in the world. Weddings to treasure are the resorts speciality with a staff that excels in making a perfect day even better. www.spiceislandbeachresort.com

Anguilla Boat Race

Photo Courtesy of Anguilla Tourism

The islands’ national sport, boat racing is front row center at the Anguilla Summer Festival from July 26 to August 11. With boat racing by day and carnival partying at night, the summer rocks on the tiny island next to St. Maarten. For couples who covet limitless privacy away from the fray, Lloyd’s Bed and Breakfast marries traditional charm with Caribbean elegance. Perched on Crocus Hill in the Lower Historic Valley, the tiny Inn is celebrating more than fifty years on the island with rates as low as US$150.00 per night, per room through the summer. Welcoming with early morning doves, friendly goats and homemade Johnny Cakes for breakfast, Lloyds is as close as it gets to home away from home, if only for a week. ivisitanguilla.com

A parade of colour in August, Tour de Martinique des Yoles Rondes or Yawl Boat Race is eye candy for photographers and nirvana for spectators. Celebrating the distinctive boats called yawls or sleek wind-driven vessels powered by brightly colored sails , the Martinique festival marks the peak of the boating season with races on the water, dockside soirees and plenty of music, dancing , Creole dishes and local rum. Easy to get to, American Airlines is now offering direct nonstop flights from Miami to Martinique on Saturdays with easy connections from other cities. www.martinique.org

Cavorting with the Critters

On the rugged southeast coast of St. Kitts past steep cliffs and out-of-the-way bays, couples on kayaks get up-close-and-personal with green turtles, cormorants and frigate birds. Paddling past secluded coves, the big reward is a sighting of the pelicans as they dive for food at the aptly named Pelican Rocks. For après critter-spotting, St. Kitts Music Festival jazzes up the island from June 27 to June 29 with top-notch talent from around the world. “We feel privileged to have such a global musical icon as Lionel Richie added his remarkable talent and numerous award-winning songs to this year’s Festival,” said Senator Ricky Skerritt, minister tourism, “blending renowned international acts with rising local stars and top Caribbean artists in a festive, block-party atmosphere is what keeps music lovers coming back year after year.” www.stkittstourism.kn

Stingray City Cayman Islands

Photo Courtesy of Stingray City

In the shallow waters of the North Sound, Stingray City is Grand Cayman’s most popular animal attraction and a rare opportunity to frolic with the tame Atlantic Southern Stingrays. For couples exchanging vows on the island, an ’ Only in Cayman available at many resorts ‘offers deals galore for bookings confirmed before July 31 and travel before Labor Day. Perks include a fifth night free at The Ritz-Carlton and Westin Grand Cayman and discounts on attractions and restaurants. Dates to bookmark include Culinary Week from August 17 to August 24 and for couples with kids, the Miami Dolphins football team will be hosting a free summer camp on July 24 and 25. “With a diverse array of activities and price points, summer in the Cayman Islands is perfect for an exciting vacation at an affordable price,” said Cline Glidden, minister tourism. www.caymanislands.ky

Posted in Anguilla, Caribbean, Cayman Islands, Martinique, St. Kitts | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Capitol Romance: Love Blooms Washington DC

Einstein Memorial Washington DC

Photo Courtesy of Destination DC

Sipping a Rickey-san cocktail with a splash of gin, green tea fizz and Yuza lime at a Japanese-inspired ‘Izakaya’, or tavern, with a gaggle of gal pals from Virginia and a Japanese chef who has lived in Dubai perfectly describes the multicultural melting pot that makes up The District, as the locals call the world’s most iconic capital city. Chockablock with perches that are couple-ready for photo taking, nowhere else on the planet can visitors pose where Martin Luther King, Jr. declared “I Have a Dream”, chow down on President Obama’s favorite sandwich at Ben’s Chili Bowl or stroll the neighbourhood where jazz legend Duke Ellington was born.

Summer deals include hotel discounts from May 23-September 8 and discounts on attractions, restaurants, theatre and tours. “Book a room on Washington.org, select your discount and soak up the season at the DC Jazz Festival, soccer matches in June or our signature celebrations like the Fourth of July fireworks and the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington in August, ” said Elliott Ferguson, CEO, Destination DC. www.Washington.org/summer

A Yen for Romance

Daikaya Washington DC

Photo Courtesy of Brian Liu/ToolboxDC

Not just for couples with a yen for noodles, ramen at Daikaya is as authentic as a bowl of noodles gets this side of Tokyo. Near the monuments and galleries, the city’s funkiest eatery is a three-storey palace of delights and the ideal spot for a date night, bachelor soiree or après wedding toast. “Our low lighting, potent cocktails, discreet servers and chocolate gelato with miso caramel for dessert make our restaurant the perfect perch for couples in love,” said Daisuke Utagawa, co-owner.

Daikaya Fried Chicken

Photo Courtesy of Brian Liu/ToolboxDC

A casual spot for Sapporo-style ramen on the ground floor and late night dining upstairs, Daikaya is fast becoming a favorite of foodies from around the world who come for the mountain yam served in a pretty pottery bowl, Japanese-style fried chicken and a host of other small plate specialities expertly prepared by Executive Chef Katsuya Fukushima. “Our team had intensive training under our ramen master in Japan,” adds Daisuke Utagawa, co-owner, “following the mantra ‘kaizen’, our promise is that we will strive to create that perfect bowl.” With menus cleverly tucked into glossy Japanese magazines, the décor is equally as innovative with vintage lights, mosaic tiles and pieces of Japanese pop culture that easily spark a spirited conversation.

A Sight to See

A perennially popular photo-op, Albert Einstein Memorial is awesome not only because you can climb onto his leg, but also because if you stand in the middle of the semi-circle, your voice will echo. Carved in bronze, the famed mathematician holds equations in one hand while quotations from his work are engraved on the majestic bench.

Between the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials, Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial stands proud on the Mall. Dedicated on August 28, 2011, the 48th anniversary of the March for Freedom, the solid granite memorial pays grand tribute to the history-making civil rights leader.

The museum of all museums, Smithsonian is not only free but open every day of the year except Christmas. Founded in 1846, it’s the world’s largest with nineteen museums and galleries and the National Zoological Park. Fun for couples with kids, summer camps run from June 24 to August 16.

Beds for Heads

An architectural gem with a colorful past, the Hamilton Crowne Plaza Hotel evokes a glamorous bygone era while offering couples all the modern extras that make for a perfect wedding and honeymoon. “The hotel is a perfect match for couples who appreciate a small town feeling with big city amenities,” said Michelle Matthews, travel sales manager, as she peruses her scrumptious breakfast menu at Restaurant 14K.

Hamilton Crowne Plaza Destination Wedding

Photo Courtesy of Hamilton Crowne Plaza

“We are delighted to arrange all the details from food and entertainment to photographers and great décor,” added Jennifer Hill, director, revenue management, “We can comfortably host a wedding for up to 125 people and because the food is prepared in our terrific Restaurant 14K, it’s guaranteed to be a crowd pleaser.”

With packages to suit all budgets, best bets for a spring visit include the ‘No Worries Weekend’ and the ‘Historic Escape’ for twosomes curious about how the US government works (or doesn’t work). “DC is a terrific wedding destination because guests can also plan a sightseeing trip,” adds Jennifer Hill, director, revenue management, “couples can enjoy a nearly free honeymoon because so many attractions do not have admission prices our neighborhoods are delightful to explore.”

For the ultimate chill-out after a day of touring, the Spa treats with a “Calm Mind” massage that soothes with a blend of lavender and peppermint and for brides and grooms, the hotel will happily arrange head-to-toe massages for a pre-ceremony glow from top to bottom.

Get Your Groove On

  • Jazz legend Duke Ellington was born and raised in Washington and a thriving musical tradition continues with plenty of hot spots to hear live music along the U Street corridor where Ellington used to play.
  • Blues Alley in Georgetown is the oldest continuing supper club in the USA.
  • Mood-making music is aplenty at Marvin’s, owned by the family of the late Marvin Gaye.
  • The Tryst Coffeehouse in Adams Morgan hosts free jazz nights Monday through Wednesday.
  • Stay in Touch
    www.washington.org

Posted in United States, Washington DC | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Canoodling & Kayaking: Love is in the Air in the Caribbean

Raising the romance bar with lobster dinners, champagne breakfasts and massages pour deux, the Caribbean oozes passion around every palm tree. “The romance market has grown solidly for the past ten years and I anticipate continued growth,” said Richard Doumeng, president, Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) and co-owner of Bolongo Bay Beach Resort in St. Thomas, “as a small hotelier, the romance market has been a lifesaver because we can compete with and even beat the big boys which is why I have two full-time wedding planners in my 75-room hotel.”

Say Si on the Beach

W Retreat and Spa on Vieques Island

Photo Courtesy of W Retreat and Spa

For an ultra-stylish tryst, W Retreat & Spa on Vieques Island in Puerto Rico is wooing couples with a “Sneak Away for a Romantic Rendezvous” getaway that includes dinner at the newly opened Sorcé restaurant, breakfast for two, credit at the Away Spa, champagne toasts and late check-out. With room rates as low as $299.00 per night from August through October, the swanky resort is full of wedding venues, honeymoon suites and perches that are primo for a marriage proposal. A host of amenities guaranteed to make any couple feel like royalty include seaside partner massages, a comfy bed in the “W” suite on the wedding night and a platter of delish cupcakes left discreetly by the bedside. As an added bonus, the resort is a Starwood property and for each stay, Starpoints are earned for future getaways.

St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort

Photo Courtesy of St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort

Another Starwood property also in Puerto Rico, St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort is on the A-list for couples with a hankering for ultimate pampering. With wedding venues indoors and out, couples can stroll to the altar on the gracious Sea Breeze Lawn, at the Molasses Club House and in the Astor Ballroom considered one of the finest addresses in the Caribbean for a grand indoor wedding. “The resort appeals to the refined bride and groom in all of us,” said Tammy Tyson, director, Weddings, Starwood Caribbean, “the resort is nestled in between El Yunque National Rainforest and the Atlantic Coast offering nuances of luxury that simply cannot be found elsewhere.”

For an awesome locale to pop the question, try night swimming in in Bioluminescent Bays. Home to large colonies of tiny critters that light up like fireflies, the waters appear to be glowing under the light of a full moon. Two of the most spectacular bays are Mosquito Bay in Vieques and Laguna Grande at Las Croabas, Fajardo.

Brand Bonanza

The first ‘Super-Inclusive’ in The Bahamas, Breezes Bahamas sits pretty on Cable Beach with 400 rooms including six one-bedroom suites popular with honeymooners. One-stop-shopping for romance, the resort offers a trio of wedding packages including the gratis ‘Endless Love’ package and five island-themed ceremony options like the ‘Seashell Dream’ with organza in soft whites and seashells strewn on the sandy beach. “We do five weddings a day in high season, including four on the beach at sunset,” said Jackson Weech, general manager, “with two on-site wedding planners, we anticipate eighty-five weddings during the traditional month of June.” Romance extras include massages at the Blue Mahoe Spa and cocktails at the lively Piano Bar that stays open until the last couple leaves.

Beaches Negril

Photo Courtesy of Beaches Resorts

In Jamaica, Beaches Negril Resort has added an ooh-la-la French patisserie for couples who appreciate a steaming cup of espresso and a fresh croissant. Tempting the taste buds with an array of sweet treats, Café de Paris pours only Blue Mountain coffee that is heavenly with a made-to-order crepe. With French-inspired murals showcasing the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe, relaxed newlyweds can enjoy a quiet moment, or two, from sunrise to 11 pm every day. Couples confirming a six night stay by May 30 will receive a $355.00 airfare credit per room, for travel through December 2014.

Caribbean Wedding Traditions

Courtesy www.worldweddingtraditions.com

• In Puerto Rico, the priest performing the wedding also blesses a plate of coins and gives them to the groom who presents them to his bride as his wedding present to her.
• At a Jamaican wedding, a fruitcake liberally laced with rum is served at the reception and then slices are mailed to relatives who were unable to attend.
• Wedding cakes in Bermuda are topped with a tiny sapling. After the reception, the newlyweds plant the young tree at their home where they watch it grow, as their marriage grows.
• Cuban wedding receptions are famous for the traditional money dance, where each man who dances with the new bride pins money to her dress to help the newlyweds with their honeymoon expenses.

Posted in Bahamas, Caribbean, Jamaica, Puerto Rico | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment