ALL-INCLUSIVE RESORTS ARE TAILORING THEIR FACILITIES AND SERVICES TO APPEAL TO CERTAIN TRAVELERS, IN ORDER TO DIFFERENTIATE THEIR PRODUCT FROM COMPETITORS. The challenge for travel agents is keeping up with market developments and determining which all-inclusive properties are right for their clients.
Here we recommend some new and longtime favorite all-inclusives suited for various types of travelers. Note the importance of reading the fine print on rate inclusions to ensure the property meets the client's expectations and budget. For example, some all-inclusives charge extra for alcoholic beverages or airport transfers, while others have a fee for ?a carte dining or room service.
For Romantic Getaways
The couples-only Sandals Resorts continues to set trends in the romance category. In 2007, the company launched its most luxurious, dreamy properties to date. Unique Rondoval Suites with plunge pools debuted at Sandals Grande St. Lucian, while stylish Swim-Up River Suites were introduced at Sandals Negril and Sandals Royal Caribbean in Montego Bay.
The new Mediterranean Village, a luxury resort-within-a-resort at Sandals Grande Antigua, features 180 large suites with massive marble bathrooms and Jacuzzis for two.
All rooms at the 12 Sandals resorts feature king-size, four-poster mahogany beds; guests staying in top suites get extra pampering, such as butlers and exclusive dining on the pier or beach with white-glove service.
At Galley Bay in Antigua, guests cross a wooden bridge over a bird sanctuary lagoon in a golf cart to get to the 69-room resort set on a curved, ¾-mile-long beach. The most romantic rooms are either the Tahiti-style Gauguin Cottages, with private splash pools and concealed sundecks, or the Premium Beachfront Suites, featuring a sunken living room with a wet bar and floor-to-ceiling windows, private terrace and oversized bathroom. Galley Bay's romance package includes a champagne sunset cruise, couple's massage and candlelit bath with aromatic oils and rose petals.
Built on volcanic rock cliffs, The Caves in Negril, Jamaica, offers 10 airy cottages made of wood, stone and thatch, with secluded sundecks and interiors in sea-washed tropical colors. Romantic couples can jump hand-in-hand off the cliffs into the sea, snorkel in grottos beneath the cliffs, soak in the cliffside Jacuzzi and dine in a private candlelit cave strewn with flower petals.
For Family Vacations
Options for families depend on the age of the children and the support/pampering desired by the parents. Club Med offers extensive programs for kids as young as 4 months old in some resorts. Club Med Xtapa Pacific, which reopened in December, provides gear like cribs and baby baths, a restaurant serving baby food, a kids' restaurant with entertainment at every course, kids' club, babysitting services and family suites. For teens, Club Med Punta Cana features Passworld the Ramp, a hangout with skateboarding on the roof, while Club Med Cancun Yucatan sports Passworld Wash Station with a car wash theme.
Also opened in December were 150 additional suites with kitchenettes at Hotel Marina El Cid Spa & Beach Resort in Mexico's Riviera Maya. This family-friendly resort's large two- and three-bedroom suites range up to 2,400 square feet. There are a kids' club and a teen program onsite, plus a large pool with a waterslide and jumping platform over the waterfall. The property has a quiet adult pool as well. Room service is included 24 hours a day. Guests staying in the Platinum Club have a butler to cater to the kids' whims. Children under 5 years old stay free. Resources
The two FDR resorts in Jamaica—Franklyn D. Resort & Spa, with 77 suites, and Pebbles Resort, with 96 suites—provide each family a dedicated "vacation nanny," who coordinates activities and watches the children while parents pursue adult activities. There are three-bedroom suites, restaurants with kids' buffet, a Heely track, waterslides, teen campouts, game centers, Bubblemaker and teen scuba diving classes, as well as kids' club activities. For single parents, the single supplement is waived from April 12 to December 18. Children under 6 years old stay free.
Water parks are another lure for families. Jamaica's Rose Hall Resort & Country Club opened in November with a water park featuring a "lazy river" tube ride, 280-foot waterslide, overwater ropes course, two swim-up bars, dive-in movies and poolside concierge. Sunset Beach Resort & Spa in Montego Bay has a water park with pirate ship and fort, 240-foot waterslide and lazy river, while Sunset Jamaica Grande in Ocho Rios has five pools, a 340-foot waterslide and rope bridge.
For Single Travelers
Aruba and Cancun are the best bets in the Caribbean for nightlife. In Aruba, Divi's adjacent Tamarijn and Divi resorts offer rooms just steps from the water, food and drinks included at eight restaurants and seven bars, the Alhambra Casino next door and the Oranjestad scene a short hop away.
For singles, you can't go wrong recommending the all-inclusive chain that established this niche: Club Med. In Turks and Caicos, Club Med Turkoise is an adults-only resort with activities such as a sailing academy, circus school, beach volleyball and group excursions, as well as evening entertainment and a nightclub.
For uninhibited adults, Hedonism II and III in Jamaica have the most notorious reputation, with clothing-free pools, beaches, see-through Jacuzzis and waterslides, plus mirrored ceilings in the rooms. Cancun's 384-room Temptation Resort & Spa opened in December with topless pools, raunchy contests, risqué dance shows and pole dancing lessons. Caliente Caribe is a boutique clothing-optional resort with 126 rooms on the northern coast of the Dominican Republic.
For Girl/Guy Groups
Girlfriend getaways and "mancations" are becoming increasingly popular as adult friends and siblings travel together. Bolongo Bay Beach Resort on St. Thomas offers the "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" package, providing a half-hour massage per person, roundtrip shuttle to Charlotte Amalie for duty-free shopping, an island tour, $50 gift certificate (per room) toward dinner at Bolongo's Lobster Grille and an all-day catamaran sail and beach outing to St. John with lunch and open bar.
Breezes Runaway Bay Resort & Golf Club in Jamaica offers the "Halftime with the Guys" package, including rounds of golf with personalized instruction at Ironshore Golf Course, a half-hour golfer's massage per person, a tour of the Appleton Rum factory with tasting, an ATV jungle adventure, scuba diving, half-hour personal training session, an evening pass to Hedonism III and unlimited cigars, whiskey and beer.