The Caribbean is among the most popular destinations for American travelers who intend to take an international vacation in the next 12 months. That’s according to MMGY Global’s Portrait of American Travelers 2019-2020 study. Forty-five percent of respondents from 2019 showed interest in the Caribbean (55 percent indicated Europe, topping the list); however, this is up from 41 percent in 2019. That four percent is statistically significant, according to MMGY Global.
While the Bahamian islands of Grand Bahama and the Abacos may have suffered the effects of Hurricane Dorian, the rest of the islands are open for business and tourism officials are looking to travel to help aid their recovery, and the tourism infrastructure in the U.S. Virgin Islands was largely spared damage from the recent Tropical Storm Karen. With that in mind, here are the latest travel updates to keep in mind.
Bahamas: Bimini and Beyond
Among the latest from the Bahamas is illa Bimini Resort & Residences. The beachfront eco-chic resort is set to break ground in August and will comprise residential villas and a five star boutique hotel set on three private islands, just north of Bimini.
Residents and guests will be able to digitally detox on the secluded beach hideaway set on 40 acres and spanning more than 9,000 feet of coastline. There will be 54 three- and four-bedrooms residential villas and a 49-key boutique hotel. We hear the villas will have floor-to-ceiling windows, outdoor decks and terraces with plunge pools. Owners and guests will even be able to park a yacht in their backyard, as the beachfront villas have marina access to fit vessels up to 90 feet long.
The hotel will have a beachfront pool, garden tennis courts, a bar and lounge, restaurant, library, fruit gardens, beachfront tennis pavilion, volleyball and bocce ball courts, children’s play area, overwater spa, water sports kiosk, water taxi and more.
The concierge service will be able to assist guests with travel arrangements, dining and entertainment reservations and service accommodations, such as private chefs, personal trainers, sommeliers and pet care.
Additionally, Kamalame Cay just debuted two new cottages, adding to the resort’s existing 28 bougainvillea-draped seaside villas, cottages, bungalows and suites. Rock House, a one-bedroom cottage, originally built for David Rockefeller, affords views over the Atlantic Ocean and the Blanket Sound mangroves. Amenities include 16-foot ceilings, a full kitchen, a sleeping nook for additional guests and a powder room. The master bath has a deep, freestanding tub and opens onto an outdoor shower, while the furnished verandah is equipped with a two-level plunge pool.
Kamalame’s second new villa, Hummingbird, is nearly three times the size of the Rock House, with a 3,200-square-foot indoor / outdoor floor plan. Amenities include a living room, a full, modern kitchen that opens onto a furnished terrace equipped with a grill, and al fresco dining and lounge areas. Hummingbird houses up to six guests across three bedrooms and a loft. The bedrooms each have outdoor and indoor showers and two bathrooms equipped with soaker tubs.
23 North Beach Club’s Grand Isle Resort & Spa on Great Exuma has a daybed-lined infinity pool, private cabanas, indoor/outdoor bar and Bahamian-fusion restaurant for lunch and dinner.
Earlier this year, 23 North Beach Club opened at Grand Isle Resort & Spa on Great Exuma. This has a daybed-lined infinity pool, private cabanas, indoor / outdoor bar and Bahamian-fusion restaurant open for lunch and dinner. Vacationers not staying at the resort can enjoy the facilities with a day pass, allowing them to lounge at the pool or dine with a cabana-side lunch. Good to know: Emerald Bay serves as a landing pad for seaplane arrivals and a marina is located just a two-minute golf cart ride away for yachters looking to make a pit stop at the beach club.
U.S.V.I. for Your VIPs
The U.S. Virgin Islands followed the Bahamas with 25 percent of Americans indicating interest. Big News: After a closure following Hurricanes Irma and Maria in September 2017, The Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas is now accepting reservations for stays starting November 22. The $100 million refurbishment includes completely redesigned public spaces, guestrooms and suites, dining venues and meetings and events space. Occupying 30 acres on the eastern tip of the island, The Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas will be sporting a new white palette with splashes of color inspired by the sea and a renovated landscape filled with tropical plant life. The resort’s 180 guestrooms and suites will also have the same brighter palette.
Other property highlights will include a remodeled infinity pool and a second pool with a slide for families. A new restaurant, Alloro, has been added to the resort’s culinary offerings, serving Sicilian dishes. (Additional restaurants include Bleuwater, a fine dining restaurant; Coconut Cove, a beachfront spot with local cuisine; and Sails, located near the pool, it serves light fare and cocktails.)
Good to know: The resort’s luxury catamaran, Lady Lynsey, is returning — in a way. The brand-new Lady Lynsey II is a 60-foot vessel, which is longer than the original and now accommodates up to 75 guests. It will operate snorkeling tours, sunset dinner cruises and island-hopping excursions.
The Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas’ new Sicilian restaurant, Alloro.
On St. Croix, The Buccaneer has launched several new excursions. Among them, learn-to-scuba classes are available at no charge to guests ages 10 and older, thanks to the resort’s partnership with a local dive shop called St. Croix Ultimate Bluewater Adventure. Taught in the resort’s Arcade Pool, the two-hour instructional session is a place where guests learn the basic scuba procedures and safety instructions. Upon successful completion of the program, guests are certified to complete an open-water dive, which can be booked through the concierge desk and which comes at an additional charge.
Classes to learn to snorkel, kayak and paddleboard are also available should guests choose (or not meet the age requirement for scuba). Guests can also enjoy an organized visit to nearby Buck Island National Reef. On these excursions, they can spend a full or half day exploring the waters and coral reefs.
For those looking to learn more about the local culture, The Buccaneer offers instructor-led salsa dancing lessons. Afterwards, they can stick around to learn to tap out tropical beats with steel pan lessons. For a more relaxed activity, learn how to paint the soothing colors of the Caribbean by signing up for Watercolor Art Lessons.
The resort will also host the annual triathlon on St. Croix, December 8. The three races this year include a Long-Distance Course, Sprint and Sprint Aquathlon. Relays will also be held in the Long-Distance Course, designated as the Caribbean Long Distance Triathlon, and Sprint Triathlon races. Last year, donations to local nonprofits totaled $30,000. Similarly, this year, race proceeds will be donated to three new local nonprofits, including the Virgin Islands Special Olympics.
As for the next 10 Caribbean destinations generating the most interest among American travelers, they are: St. Maarten/St. Martin (21 percent), Jamaica (20 percent), Cayman Islands (20 percent), Aruba (20 percent), Puerto Rico (18 percent), Bermuda (18 percent), Barbados (17 percent), Antigua (15 percent), Dominican Republic (15 percent) and Cuba (13 percent).