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Romancing the Caribbean

By Melanie Reffes

Caribbean Marketplace 2018 was held at the Puerto Rico Convention Center Photo Credit Cvent.

The region’s most influential tourism and travel gathering was held this year at the Puerto Rico Convention Center in San Juan. Welcoming more than 1,000 movers and shakers from 30 countries, Caribbean Marketplace 2018 was a beehive of activity for wedding planners, tour operators, airlines, hotels and tourism folks including those from the islands rebounding from last year’s hurricanes who delivered upbeat updates about the most visited warm weather destination in the world.

Produced by the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) and this year in collaboration with the Puerto Rico Tourism Company, Marketplace is also the longest-running travel trade conference in the Caribbean. “Despite the challenges of last year,” said Frank Comito, director general, CHTA, “there is high optimism for 2018 that speaks not only to the resilience of the Caribbean’s bread and butter tourism industry, but also to the fortitude of the Caribbean people.”

Big Things In Small Packages

Anguilla Zemi Beach House Hotel is the first 5-star to open on the island. Photo Credit Zemi Beach House Hotel

In Anguilla, 65-key Zemi Beach House is the first five-star to open following last year’s hurricanes. Stylish on Shoal Bay East, the boutique hotel invites with an eye-catching pool that comes with an underwater window that looks out at the beach and a culinary celebration of sustainability with menus that marry fresh-off-the-boat seafood with Caribbean flavors. A couples-favorite, the 300-year-old Thai House Spa was brought to the island in the 1980’s and has the only ’hammam’ steam room in Anguilla. A member of Preferred Hotels Group’s LVX collection, nightly rates in high season start at $730 with one night gratis when 3 are booked and 2 nights on the house with a 5-night stay, valid through December 19.

Other swanky resorts that do a brisk business in destination weddings and tropical honeymoons include Four Seasons Resort and Residences that will reopen on March 23 on Meads Bay (, Belmond Cap Juluca opening in November on Maundays Bay (, and CuisinArt Golf Resort & Spa on Rendezvous Bay reopening on November 1 ( At the far western end of the beach, The Reef by Cuisinart will once again welcome guests on April 1 with the Breezes Restaurant on Merrywing Bay already open for lunch and dinner on the beach ( “Our post-hurricane recovery has been nothing short of remarkable,“ said Hon. Cardigan Connor, tourism minister, “some of our beaches have grown post-hurricanes and all of them are open and better than ever.“

Dominica Fort Young Hotel is a nature lovers favorite. Photo Credit Dominica Tourism

For nature loving couples, Dominica is welcoming travelers with the reopening of Mero Beach, Trafalgar Falls and Fort Young Hotel. “The hotel has long been a popular destination for adventurers and marks a major milestone for Dominica in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria,” said Marvlyn James, general manager. New experiences include Jacko’s poolside bar and an expanded boardwalk for moonlit strolls. “Our entire team is incredibly excited to exceed the expectations of couples who are booked to stay with us over the coming months,“ added Marvlyn James, general manager.

Love Is In The Air

Jamaica vacation perfection at Jewel Grande. Photo Credit Jewel Grande Montego Bay Resort & Spa

Jamaica is setting records for visitor arrivals to the island. “We ended 2017 with 4.3 million travelers arriving to our shores,“ said Edmund Bartlett, tourism minister, “that wasn’t an ordinary record because it meant that nearly 500,000 more visitors came to Jamaica in a single year, which has never before happened.” New on the northwest coast, Jewel Grande Montego Bay Resort & Spa is open with 217 suites and 11 villas. Locally-owned, the all-inclusive is a welcome addition to the prime real estate that fronts the Caribbean Sea. Romantic incentives to check-in, unpack and stay put include butler service, two oceanfront pools, beachside cabanas, Grande Spa with Jamaica’s only Himalayan Salt Halotherapy Lounge and sip and snack options from fine-dining at Waves and buffets at Orchids to beef patties and jerk chicken at the Crickets Grill and sweet treats at The Sugar Cane Coffee & Ice Cream parlor. Fifteen minutes from the Sangster International Airport (airport transfers are included) and a striking poser on a cove between the hills and the sea, the resort offers a wide array of wedding and honeymoon options.

Jamaica Tryall Club Quinntessential Villa has 5-swanky bedrooms. Photo Credit Tryall Club

At the upscale Tryall Club, the elegant five-bedroom Quinntessential Villa is open with a private gym, Zen Garden and staff of 7 that includes a butler and a chef. Impressive with a saltwater infinity pool, the ocean front villa comes with a hot tub that may keep couples soaking all day. Primo for weddings and honeymoons, the master bedroom suite has its own plunge pool and a sitting room for a mellow night together. For out-and-about time, Tryall Club has an ocean-hole golf course and nine tennis courts ( In Negril, Sunset at the Palms is an adults-only destination wedding showpiece in 85-tree house style rooms and suites. Popular for the all-inclusive packages, couples choose from an intimate ceremony or lavish reception for up to 100 guests. Stunning locales to say I Do include the resorts private beach, fragrant gardens or inside the cozy gazebo. Couples staying for their honeymoon design their own custom wedding registry that might include spa treatments and water sports.

Beachy Keen

In Grand Cayman, there are plenty of wedding packages at the Margaritaville Beach Resort. Photo Credit Margaritaville Beach Resort Grand Cayman

In the Cayman Islands, couples looking for a seaside affordable locale for a wedding are flocking to the new Margaritaville Beach Resort in Grand Cayman where the ‘Just the Two of Us‘ 5-night package comes with a gratis ceremony on Seven Mile Beach. From legal fees to a marriage license, resort wedding planners take care of a soup-to-nuts list of arrangements like music, flowers and crafty cocktails to toast the newlyweds. “Sunshine year-round and our authentic island vibe makes Margaritaville Beach Resort a highly sought-after resort for couples celebrating their special day,” said Darren Law, senior VP, “we are raising the veil on these special offers to help create stress-free, affordable dream weddings.”

Wyndham Grand Rio Mar, Puerto Rico. USA. Photo Credit Victor Elias Photography

In Puerto Rico, Wyndham Grand Rio Mar Puerto Rico opens on March 1 with a casino, tennis court, 2 golf courses, Mandara Spa and the stylish Caicu Rum Bar with impressive pours of rare private reserve batches. “We are eager to welcome travelers back to our newly renovated resort to celebrate this beautiful island,” said Nils Stolzlechner, general manager, “the spirit of Puerto Rico has grown stronger than ever, and we are incredibly grateful and proud that together we have restored this region back into an incredible travel destination.” ( In the Convention Center district across the San Juan Bay from the Pan American Cruise Terminal, the infinity-edge at Sheraton Puerto Rico is the hands-down coolest rooftop pool on the island. A coconut’s throw from Old San Juan, the ginormous pool is camera-ready for sightings of the floating city-sized ships as they chug along the bay. Brand new and ideal for a small wedding reception, Executive Chef Jannette Berrios creates the Chef’s Table five-course French-Latin-inspired menu and wine pairings.

Pinel Island in St. Martin is a popular day trip. Photo Credit Office de Tourisme de Saint Martin

Good news for fans of St. Martin with the reopening in October of the beloved Grand Case Beach Club. A favorite of couples, the 71-room hotel on Petite Plage is a seashell away from the foodie town of Grand Case with its many restaurants like Bistrot Caraibes, Spiga and the Rainbow Café ( Beaches island-wide are open with strands to suit every occasion. “My mood influences which beach I go to,” said Kate Richardson, director, Office de Tourisme, “Pinel Island is popular for the crystal clear shallow water and for couples, the sunsets over Long Bay beach are magnificent.“

Easy Like Sunday Morning

Grenada Vacation perfect. Photo Credit Spice Island Beach Resort

Grenada is on a roll named as Expedia’s ‘Caribbean Destination of the Year 2017’ and offering a slew of hotels that are wooing the romance crowd like Spice Island Beach Resort where a relaxing new open-air yoga pavilion is popular with couples. “A vacation for the mind and body is at the core of our mission,“ said Sir Royston Hopkin, managing director, “we’re delighted to offer yoga classes tailored to the needs of our guests.”

St. Lucia Paddleboard yoga is new at Anse Chastanet Resort. Photo Credit Anse Chastanet

Saluting the Pitons in St. Lucia, the culinary team at Anse Chastanet has partnered with local fishermen for eco-delectable menus of Creole specialities like spiny lobster with passionfruit butter. “Our vision is to ensure all seafood is acquired responsibly with minimum negative impact on the oceans and on the communities that depend upon them,” said Karolin Troubetzkoy, executive director. Also new at the picturesque resort and its sister resort Jade Mountain, paddleboard yoga is the real deal island chill on the southwest coast. “This is the most serene setting you can imagine for yoga,” said Laura Kai Timmusk, instructor, “moving on the water adds a whole new dimension to the practice, because your mind has no desire to wander and worry about the past or future, and you can let go of your expectations and judgments and, of course, if you do lose your balance, splashing into the gorgeous Caribbean sea certainly beats the hardwood floor of your local yoga studio.“

Starry nights and sunny days at the Grand Case Beach Club in St. Martin opening in October. Photo Credit GCBC

In Barbados, Treasure Beach by Elegant Hotels is an all-suite adults-only on the west coast Paynes Bay. A ‘Simply Elegant Wedding’ package starts at $799 and includes a leisurely breakfast in bed while the ‘Tropical Luxury’ package at $2,999 includes a host of add-ons like a petal strewn wedding aisle, candlelit dinners for two, late check-out and a pair of plush bathrobes.


Romancing the Caribbean