The Biggest Caribbean Hotel Openings of 2015

The Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino’s 355 guest units afford views of the gardens, pools or sea, and have spacious balconies.
The Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino’s 355 guest units afford views of the gardens, pools or sea, and have spacious balconies.

As the year winds down and your clients may be considering a Caribbean vacation to escape the winter chill, Travel Agent takes a look at some of the more significant hotel openings — and a few that may have flown under the radar — over the last several months. From new Sandals Resorts in Jamaica and Barbados to the opening of a quaint, lesser-known boutique property in The Bahamas, here is the skinny on the most notable Caribbean hotel openings of 2015.

Hilton Expands Island Portfolio With Aruba Resort

Hilton Hotels & Resorts, the flagship brand of Hilton Worldwide, announced in July the opening of the Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino, a 15-acre beachfront hotel in Palm Beach, Aruba. It was formerly the Radisson Aruba. Nestled on the largest beachfront stretch of Palm Beach and less than 10 miles from the capital city of Oranjestad, the new Hilton has an expansive pool complex, a kids club, a watersports and dive center, a spa, an onsite casino and an array of culinary choices.

The resort’s 355 guest units include executive floor rooms and suites, outfitted with comfortable bedding, flat-screen TVs, wireless Internet access and a coffee maker. Accommodations sport a tropical décor, views of the gardens, pools or sea and spacious balconies for outdoor relaxation. Executive floor guests enjoy special access to an executive lounge, private concierge service and rooms featuring custom artwork.

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La Playa Torchlight Dinner is a romantic beachfront exclusive dining experience with a personal server and four-course meal. Gilligan’s Beach Bar & Grill, open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, serves comfort food favorites in a friendly, casual environment. Laguna Restaurant welcomes guests to indoor and outdoor dining on Caribbean fare and health-inspired cuisine. Mira Solo, which means “look at the sun” in Papiamento, is the first and only martini and wine bar in Aruba, and Sunset Grille is the resort’s award-winning signature restaurant serving international specialties including steak and seafood dishes.

Junior Suites at The Island House have a spacious porch with a hanging daybed.
Junior Suites at The Island House have a spacious porch with a hanging daybed.

Bahamas Welcomes New Boutique Hotel

In the spring, a new boutique property blossomed in Lyford Cay on the western tip of New Providence Island, The Bahamas — The Island House. The hotel has 30 garden- and ocean-view rooms, each with a rain shower, a separate bath and a private outdoor terrace. Two expansive poolside cottages partition into suites and junior suites with such amenities as an al fresco shower, a 580-square-foot porch and a hanging daybed.

In addition, there are six two- and three-bedroom apartments with views of the ocean and the southern expanse of the island. All accommodations carry the Bamford Body Collection, Apple TVs and complimentary Wi-Fi.

The Bamford Spa offers a range of services for guests, from therapeutic massages to herbal body scrubs. The property has a fully authorized yoga program called Antigravity, which is a fitness regimen combining traditional yoga with aerial art, Pilates and dance using a custom-made aerial hammock. Padel courts imported from Scotland, a 25-meter lap pool, movement studio, a fully equipped gym and two squash courts round out the property’s wellness offerings.

Bahia Principe Set to Open New Hotel in Samana

Bahia Principe Hotels & Resorts is making final preparations to unveil its 12th property in the Dominican Republic on November 1 with the new Bahia Principe Samana Don Pablo Collection. This 149-room  resort will be adults-only. It is located along the north coast of the country, approximately 28 mile from the Samana airport.

The resort is on a beautiful stretch of beach and most guests have scenic unobstructed views of Samana Bay and the Caribbean Sea. It is housed on five floors with two buildings containing 40 Junior Suites, 78 Superior Rooms and 31 Standard Rooms. There is one pool, four bars and three international restaurants offering casual to fine dining.

Butler service, pillow menu, 24-hour room service, four-poster bed, rooms filled with amenities from coffee makers to satellite TV and turn-down service are just some of the benefits and services that guests can expect. Resort guests of the Samana property will have a free boat transfer to the nearby public beach on Cayo Levantado, or “Bacardi Island” as it is commonly known.

Sandals Barbados opened earlier in the year following a $65 million renovation of the former Couples Barbados.
Sandals Barbados opened earlier in the year following a $65 million renovation of the former Couples Barbados.

A New Pair of Sandals

Clients heading to Jamaica or Barbados can opt to check out the newest resort offerings from Sandals. Back in April, Travel Agent attended the official opening of Sandals Ochi Beach Resort — previously known as Sandals Grande Riviera Beach & Villa Golf Resort. The resort was renamed after a multimillion-dollar renovation project.

Located in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, the resort has received a new look complete with new outdoor water decorations by the lobbies, renovated guest rooms, new restaurants and a refreshed look that embraces the Sandals brand that return guests have come to expect.

All the accommodations at the Ochi Beach Resort have been updated, and the resort has introduced the All-Butler Village with roughly 200 villas and 70 butlers. The butlers can arrange anything from luggage unpacking to delivery of 6 p.m. cocktails by one of the 98 private villa pools.

Sandals Grande Riviera Beach & Villa Golf Resort was reimagined as Sandals Ochi Beach Resort after a multimillion-dollar renovation.
Sandals Grande Riviera Beach & Villa Golf Resort was reimagined as Sandals Ochi Beach Resort after a multimillion-dollar renovation.

There are four types of villas in the village, including six Romeo and Juliet Suites, designed for a romantic stay. Room# 7340 is a Romeo and Juliet Suite. It has a private pool between the bedroom area and living room, as well as a two-person hot tub. The suite also has lounges by the pool and a full minibar. These villas are completely private and quiet — perfect for those looking for their own oasis. Another villa option is the GP villas, which have some of the best views on the property. Villa 50 gives unobstructed views of the water and sits next to a large overlook point that can be used as a picnic or cocktail hour location.

Another new addition is the Ochi Beach Club. The beach club is filled with cabanas and seating, and it has a pool area and a DJ. The club is just around the corner from the main beach and sits next to several eateries. Guests can enjoy theme nights at the club like Reggae night; however, the club closes around 11 p.m. The Impression Group helped design the club to resemble a traditional Mediterranean beach club. 

Looking forward, guests visiting Ocho Rios may soon opt to fly in to Kingston instead of Montego Bay. The North-South link of Highway 2000 is currently being built, with the first section open. The highway, slated to be finished in January, will make it possible to drive from the Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston to Ocho Rios in just over an hour.  

Travel Agent visited the new Sandals Barbados back in July and is pleased to report that Sandals Resorts International’s streak in recent years of producing game-changing all-inclusives is still intact. Opened earlier in the year following a $65 million renovation, it occupies the site of the former Couples Barbados in Christ Church on the island’s south coast.

There are 280 rooms across three villages: Ocean, Crystal Lagoon and Caribbean. We recommend staying in any Club Level room or any room that comes with butler service. We stayed in Room# 4411, a Crystal Lagoon One Bedroom Butler Suite with Balcony Tranquility Soaking Tub. The best features here were the balcony overlooking the swimming pool, the large soaking tub in the bathroom and the 46-inch smart TVs in both the living room and bedroom.

Butch’s Chophouse and Bombay Club, Sandals Resorts International’s first Indian restaurant, are the only two restaurants that require reservations. We suggest making them at least 24 hours in advance to be safe, since these are the most buzzed-about dining options on the property. We must say though, of the 11 dining options, we were most pleasantly surprised with Dino’s Pizzeria, which serves an array of personal pies from a brick oven. The pizza was fluffy, warm and tasty — just the thing to absorb a few poolside Banks beers, which was brought to us by our butler, Nicholas, in a small cooler along with some cold water.

Club Sandals is available for all guests staying in any Club Level room or any category that includes butler service.

The best part about Club Sandals is that you basically have your own private concierge. The Club Sandals Lounge is accessible 24 hours with the Club Sandals Concierge available between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. to assist with reservations for spas, excursions, restaurants and just about anything. This is also where Club Level guests and those with butler rooms check in. Preferred Club Sandals Lounge check-in included a chilled towel and a glass of champagne. 

Park Hyatt St. Kitts will have 125 guest rooms in a contemporary colonial-style.
Park Hyatt St. Kitts will have 125 guest rooms in a contemporary colonial-style.

Park Hyatt St. Kitts Coming Soon

Looking ahead, there’s been a lot of buzz about the anticipated opening of the Park Hyatt St. Kitts in 2016. Situated on a secluded beach with dramatic vistas of the volcanic island of Nevis, the hotel is currently under construction. Billed as one of the world’s hottest luxury hotel openings, Park Hyatt St. Kitts will have 125 guest rooms in a contemporary colonial-style. The design concept by Arcadia Architects has already received local awards and recognition.

A resort highlight will be the suites with rooftop pools overlooking the Caribbean. A-listers will no doubt be booking the Presidential Suite for the ultra-luxe amenities, including private butler service and a personal chef. There will also be a number of dining concepts, 7,000 square feet of meeting and banquet facilities, an outdoor infinity pool and a 12-room spa. Guests will also have access to Christophe Harbour’s Tom Fazio-designed 18-hole golf course, a beach club and a 300-acre “super yacht marina.”

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