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Travel Agent's Caribbean Family Travel Guide

October 7, 2015 By: Joe Pike

Kid-focused activities at Antigua’s Jumby Bay include Day at the Beach, Little Chefs and a new Junior Spa Menu.
Kid-focused activities at Antigua’s Jumby Bay include Day at the Beach, Little Chefs and a new Junior Spa Menu.

Summer is long over and the children are back at school ­— which means families will be looking ahead to the holiday season and winter and spring school breaks for their next vacation. It’s a sizeable market: Four in 10 travelers currently have children living in their households, according to MMGY Global’s 2015 Portrait of American Travelers, with three-fourths of them having kids ages 12 and under, while nearly half share their home with teenagers. 

Perhaps more significantly, better than three in 10 “feel they are at the mercy of their children when making vacation decisions.” And half say that, “Our family selects our vacation destinations primarily based on what activities are available for children.” The Caribbean is a good place to start for such clients. Most resorts in the region have the built-in kid magnet of a beach and increasing numbers offer dedicated, supervised, age-segmented children’s programs, giving the young ones time to have fun with peers and make new friends while the grown-ups get to spend some “alone time” together. You might also want to check on the availability of Wi-Fi, this being the middle of the second decade of the 21st century and all. Here are some of the latest kid-friendly developments and offerings in the ever-evolving Caribbean resort landscape.

The Travel Companion at Aruba Marriott: For families searching for that “One Happy Island” experience, Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino’s recently launched Travel Companion website makes planning fun family trips easier. This interactive trip itinerary building tool lets travelers pick and choose different components whether they’re into adventure, cuisine or culture, and suggests ideas based on preferences.
The Travel Companion is so easy to use that even kids can get involved in the planning process. This is a one-stop shop for itinerary suggestions complete with photos, descriptions and prices. Some family-friendly excursions include visiting the Donkey Sanctuary, a submarine excursion and a Jeep safari to the stunning natural pool. Aruba Marriott Resort serves as home base for exploring all of Aruba. It’s just steps away from the Caribbean Sea with some of the most spacious accommodations on island, eight restaurants, beach tennis courts and more. 

Club Med & Cirque du Soleil present CREACTIVE. Guests can participate in up to 30 acrobatic & artistic activities under expert supervision.
Club Med & Cirque du Soleil present CREACTIVE. Guests can participate in up to 30 acrobatic & artistic activities under expert supervision.  

Join the Circus at Club Med: This summer, Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, saw the introduction of the hands-on experience, Club Med CREACTIVE by Cirque du Soleil. Under expert staff supervision from Gentils Circassiens trained by Cirque du Soleil and Club Med, the young and young at heart can participate in the acrobatic disciplines showcased in the renowned troupe’s productions. The more than 30 activities range from acrobatic bungee, flying trapeze, aerial silks, tightrope and trampoline to juggling, clowning, percussion and mask painting. All of this is included in your client’s stay, as is participation in Club Med’s long-standing array of mini-clubs for babies, toddlers, young children and teenagers.

Popular Kids Program Returns to Abaco Beach Resort: From fishing to snorkeling to lying on the beach or island hopping, Abaco Beach Resort and Boat Harbour Marina in the Bahamas offers something for all ages. The Bahamian resort recently announced the revamping of its engaging children’s program, Bahama Buddies, which allows young participants from near and far away lands to learn about the Bahamas’ island life from a Bahamian child. The program is designed for young guests between ages three and 12.

The program’s new activities include island fishing or conch diving, traditional island dance (Junkanoo), or arts and crafts class, and kayaking and other water sports. The Bahama Buddies program goes beyond the typical kids’ activity package as it involves meeting and interacting with resident children and provides water- and land-based experiences with a distinctive local flavor.

Bahama Buddies is available every Saturday between 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Reservations are required by 8 p.m. the previous day. It can be offered at other times upon request with at least 48 hours advance notice and a minimum of four children. The program package is $30 per child, per day, and includes a Bahama Buddies T-shirt and lunch.

‘Raggs’ Enriches at Palladium Properties: The Raggs Program at Palladium Hotels and Resorts aims to teach children valuable skills such as healthy eating and team work with play, all while they’re on vacation. Guests can enjoy a show performed by the colorful dog Raggs, his “canine friends” and humorous emcee José, at Palladium’s on-property theaters. The story follows the characters as they plan a beach party, until pirates appear. Guests in the audience, armed with the secret code word “arrrgh,” are entrusted with looking out for any danger Raggs and his friends may not see, thereby learning how to work together to reach an important goal. 

Families staying at the Palladium will also learn the benefits of healthy eating with Raggs during weekly themed breakfasts at the open-air poolside patio. Activities include coloring placemats, a sing-along and a build-a-picture fruit bar. Bananas, mangos and watermelons can be formed into palm trees; broccoli and cauliflower can be shaped into poodles; and guests can create puppy-faced pancakes and fresh fruit smoothies. Palladium also offers a food allergy program for guests requiring a special diet.

Other activities include sport competitions, a teens-only disco, outdoor eco-trails and opportunities for children to learn about the local culture and basic language skills.

Maybe They Should Call It ‘Sesame Beach’: At Beaches Resorts this fall, “The Caribbean Adventure with Sesame Street” is introducing a new line-up of themed activities including chalk sketching and sand sculpture at the Sesame Street Artist Workshop, exploring outer space with Elmo and friends, and puppet-making with Bert and Ernie. Other characters with whom young guests can interact while enjoying daily fun and educational activities include Big Bird, Cookie Monster, The Count, Abby Cadabby, Zoe, Super Grover and Oscar the Grouch.

Jumby Bay’s New Spa Options: In Antigua, the new Rose Buds Junior Spa Menu at Jumby Bay’s open-air Sense, A Rosewood Spa was created for guests ages four to 16 with treatments including Beach Bliss Mani and Pedi, Mini Massage, Mini Facial and Chillax (aromatherapy with cool cucumbers and a hand and foot massage), as well as braiding and hair wraps. At the resort’s dedicated children’s pavilion, guests from three to 11 years of age can participate in programs such as Little Chefs, Wildlife and Ocean Adventures, Discover Science, Pirates of the Caribbean, Dance and Sing and Day at the Beach. Jumby Bay’s Hawksbill Turtle Program allows kid to actively participate in the conservation program and go turtle watching from June through November.

Meliá Adds Personal Touches for Young Guests: Kids & Co is a fun experience that engages children staying with parents at Meliá Hotels & Resorts properties. Among the highlights are a personalized check-in for kids, welcome gift, in-room kids amenities, dedicated activities for children and parents to enjoy together and a Kids & Co passport. Regarding the latter, children can collect stamps for their passports as they complete certain activities and visit restaurants throughout their stay.

For the Family That Plays Together: The Jewel Runaway Bay Beach & Golf Resort has introduced its new Jewel Lagoon Water Park, wherein guests of all ages can experience a day-long destination of swimming and adventure, from the tame to the thrilling, with a family raft ride and a variety of other activities, such as a speed slide, two splash-down pools and zero-entry beach lagoon with geysers. There are also private cabanas for rent, a dining area with full-service bar and grill and a stage where live music is performed daily. The resort is also home to the Red Ruby Ranch, which offers children and adults activities such as laser tag, archery, hay rides and bonfires, while kids’ and teens’ camps are available for a fee.

Free Stay for the Eight-and-Under Set: Iberostar, which offers both adults-only and family-friendly all-inclusive resorts, is continuing its policy of a free stay for one child, age eight or under, sharing a room with a parent or guardian at any of the latter. Additional discounts are available for those traveling with more kids, especially if you book them by October 31 for travel December 24 through April 30, 2016. The Lucy Kids Club is offered at several Iberostar resorts in Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Cancun, Cozumel and Riviera Maya.

Serious Fun at Sirenis: At Sirenis Punta Cana, guests have full access to Sirenis Aquagames, an onsite waterpark with 10 high-thrill slides and a pirate-themed play area, while Grand Sirenis Riviera Maya offers, among other family activities, tubing on the Lazy River and hiking through EcoSirenis.

Families go river kayaking at Casa de Campo.
Families go river kayaking at Casa de Campo.

Making Room(s)

New Look, More Space at Le Guanahani: Regarded as one of the most kid-friendly hotels on the island of St. Baths, the Le Guanahani recently completed a four-year, $40 million renovation. There are a total of 67 rooms here, 27 of which are suites. Fifty-two of the 67 rooms and suites have been renovated, while the remaining are expected to be done by the end of October. Most of the rooms were enlarged (and what family couldn’t use more elbow room?) and now sport new furnishings. 

Children experience a taste of French culture and language at Le Guanahani with the Kids’ Club for its youngest visitors (ages two to six) and a Junior’s Club for the older children (6-12). Both programs are open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. upon reservation and include activities such as singing, painting seashells, exploring and discovering wildlife, including sea turtles, and making jewelry for younger children, while Junior Club members enjoy snorkeling, canoeing, windsurfing and volleyball. Children under 16 years also have access to spa treatments between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m., when accompanied by a parent.

Geejam Collection in Jamaica Expands Villa Collection: A nice fit for Caribbean-bound families, the Geejam Collection, owned by music industry veterans Jon Baker and Steve Beaver, recently announced the completion of the three-level, six-bedroom Cocosan, the newest addition to its private villa development in Jamaica. Clients will enjoy the impressive landscape in the historic San San Estate as Cocosan sits in a hilltop location and offers views across the jungle, the John Crow and Blue Mountain chains and Portland’s coastline. 

Cocosan is a partially renovated and newly built property on the San San Estate, an area originally developed during the 1960s heyday of Port Antonio when the jet-setting elite, including movie legend Errol Flynn, among others, fell in love with the region. Flynn called it, “More beautiful than any woman [he’d] ever seen.”

The villa can comfortably accommodate up to 12 clients (think families traveling together). Large, high-ceilinged rooms, some with balconies, display contemporary artwork and photography that is curated according to each incoming guest’s taste. Custom vinyl turntables and mixing consoles add to the character of the villa in keeping with Geejam’s musical roots. 

An outdoor terrace, heated lap pool, Jacuzzi, steam room, gym and children’s play area boast panoramic vistas of the coast. Ensuring an effortless stay, Cocosan is booked with full wait staff, housekeeping and in-house chefs who prepare meals in one of the two state-of-the-art kitchens using produce from the on-property organic herb and vegetable garden.

For Foodie Families

San Juan Marriott Debuts Ice Creamery: Good news for kids of all ages: The Gelato & Co. Creamery opened in the heart of Condado on the grounds of the San Juan Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino. A creation of famed Italian Chef Stefano Frenceschi, the Italian creamery is an idyllic addition to the hotel and popular San Juan neighborhood, a widely sought-after beachside destination that offers Old World charm, shopping and gourmet cuisine. The shop provides easy access for hotel guests and others to indulge and cool off with gelato, sorbets and a special selection of treats from the “Dessert Bar.” A note for eco-conscious families: Gelato & Co. stands out among other creameries for its commitment to using all natural ingredients that are imported from Italy, such as hazelnuts and chocolate from Piedmont, and almonds and pistachios from Sicily. Gelato & Co. will be open seven days a week from 11 a.m. until 11 p.m.

New Sushi Restaurant in the D.R.: Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic recently announced a new partnership with The Pubbelly Restaurant Group to bring its Asian-inspired Pubbelly Sushi restaurant to the resort’s marina later this year. The menu will include dishes from Tuna Pizza with crispy tortilla, garlic aioli and truffle oil to butter Snow Crab Roll, to Tostones con Ceviche with Hamachi ginger soy, cilantro, red onion and yuzu. The Robata Grill at Pubbelly Sushi serves up a variety of fresh meat, seafood and vegetable dishes. 

Casa de Campo has variety of programs that allow families to enjoy their time together, and apart, and from late summer through early August it offers the Kidz N Casa Summer Camp for children ages four to seven and eight to 16.  

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About the Author

Joe Pike
Joe Pike is Travel Agent's senior editor covering the Caribbean, Bahamas & Bermuda; Hawaii; Central & South America. Previously, Pike was a newspaper reporter for The Asbury Park...

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By Joe Pike | October 7, 2015
With clients with children looking to plan their winter and spring break getaways, we've rounded up some of the latest kid-friendly developments and offerings in the ever-evolving Caribbean resort landscape.