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SUN, SAND AND SATISFACTION
 
(2012 - Winter/Spring Issue)

Writer: JANIE ROBINSON



Sunny sea-kissed sands lure Canadians to distant shores with new direct flights, award-winning cruise ports, fast ferries and an innovative Total Visitor Satisfaction rating for 33 captivating island destinations. Here’s a sampling of what’s new in 2012.

GRENADA Access to the “Spice Island” of Grenada just got easier, thanks to Caribbean Airlines’ new twice-weekly direct flights between Toronto and St. George’s on Sundays and Thursdays. Sample the country’s famed nutmeg and other homegrown delights at the new West India Spices Inc. Nestled along a pretty river in the lush green farmland of St. Andrew’s Parish, take the spice garden-to-factory tour and discover how these all-natural spice products are created. grenadagrenadines.com

CUBA Much-needed renovations at Cuba’s two largest airports should make for smoother arrivals on the biggest island in the Caribbean. The Varadero Airport is now fully renovated, with work at the International Airport Jose Marti in Havana to be completed in 2012. Dates to mark on your Cuba calendar include Santiago de Cuba Carnival in July and the 28th International Jazz Festival of Havana (Jazz Plaza 2012) in December. gocuba.ca

THE BAHAMAS Exploring iconic lighthouses that stand watch on the islands of the Bahamas leads the way to unique experiences, famous beaches, seafaring tales and bird’s-eye views. Three of the world’s few remaining kerosene-burning, hand-wound lighthouses are located here, including the candy-striped Hope Town Lighthouse in Elbow Cay, free to visitors. Also complimentary is the unique People-to-People program, which pairs you with a Bahamian ambassador for a day to truly discover the culture and way of life of hospitable Bahamians. Bahamas.com

BERMUDA This popular golf getaway beckons Baby Boomers in 2012. Relive the good old days at Bermuda’s College Week Reunion, March 15–17, to see if you can still party like you did during College Weeks back in the 1960s and ’70s. Family enjoyment at the Easter Kite Festival in April will have you flying high over pretty pink Horseshoe Bay beach. Build your own kite, sample fresh-baked hot cross buns and tasty Bermuda codfish cakes, and party to the pulsing rhythms of the masked Gombey dancers attired in colourful costumes and towering peacock-feathered headdresses. gotobermuda.com

TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO  Join the big 50th anniversary party on the southernmost islands of the Caribbean, as Trinidad and Tobago celebrate a half-century of independence on August 31. Sample the fusion tastes of this twin-island nation at their International Culinary Competition in October. Fresh Tobago lobster is on the menu at the brand new 200-room Magdalena Grand Beach Resort, nestled in the tropical Tobago Plantations Estate. gotrinidadandtobago.com; magdalenagrand.com

TURKS AND CAICOS Pink-lipped conchs call swimmers and festival fans to the white sand beaches of the 40 islands and cays of Turks and Caicos. Conch (pronounced konk) has been an important Caribbean food source since the time of the Arawak Indians, who carved them into tools and ceremonial objects. These days, you can “Race for the Conch”at the world-class Eco Sea Swim, July 7, and celebrate the iconic Caribbean shell at the Conch Festival in November. turksandcaicostourism.com

BARBADOS Claiming its spot as the birthplace of rum, the origin of grapefruit and the only Zagat-rated Caribbean island, Barbados caters to all tastes. Now it’s easier than ever to get there thanks to the new Transat Holidays charter departing Toronto every Sunday through to April 22. Holders Season brings world-class music and arts performances to Barbados in March. The Crop Over Festival celebrates the end of the sugar cane season in style from late May into early August while the tasty Food & Wine and Rum Festival runs in November. And the newly-launched Fully Accessible Barbados (FAB) makes the island more inclusive, from the airport to parking, hotels and restaurants. visitbarbados.org; fullyaccessiblebarbados.com

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS Look way up for St. Croix’s Moko Jumbie stilt dancers. Catch these colourfully-costumed street performers on metres-high stilts, jumping and cracking whips at hotels and special events like Jump Up!in Christiansted, St. Croix, on May 4. In St. John, families with strollers or those in wheelchairs can explore the new accessible trails in the Virgin Islands National Park winding through Francis and Cinnamon Bay to experience its natural beauty and exotic fauna. Getting to the U.S. Virgin Islands just got easier as well, with Air Canada’s new weekly non-stop service from Toronto to St. Thomas every Saturday through April 14. VisitUSVI.com

BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS Ferries are waiting to whisk Canadians on board the new non-stop Air Canada flight to St. Thomas to the neighbouring British Virgin Islands. Frequent ferry service between Charlotte Amalie, where the airport is located, and Tortola takes about 50 minutes, and round-trip adult fares range from $50 to $60. With more than 60 islands to explore in the British Virgin Islands, take a ferry, water taxi or charter a sailboat for island-hopping day trips to tropical paradises such as Virgin Gorda. Hailed as the “Sailing Capital of World,” this year’s popular BVI Spring Regatta & Sailing Festival runs March 26–April 1. bvitourism.com

ST. KITTS The big news is Air Canada’s weekly non-stop service from Toronto every Friday through April and the opening of a private jet terminal. St. Kitts Scenic Railway, better known as the “Sugar Train,” continues to chug its way into the hearts of visitors. The three-hour scenic tour circles the island along the coastline, following tracks laid back in 1912 to transport sugar cane, and offers a unique perspective on the island’s culture, people, views and history. stkittstourism.kn

JAMAICA Cruise historic Falmouth Port and discover one of Jamaica’s oldest towns and newest cruise ports. Set sail on Captain Hook’s Galleon for some high-seas fun on a replica 18th-century Spanish ship or cruise into the historic port on the world’s largest cruise ship. The new award-winning 13-hectare cruise port gives visitors a glimpse at the rich history and Georgian architecture of this preserved 18th-century town, while offering a wide range of boutique shops and themed restaurants. visitjamaica.com

SANDALS RESORTS Construction has begun on Sandals Resorts’ new over-the-water suites in St. Lucia. You’ll have to wait until 2013 for Sandals Grande St. Lucian Spa & Beach Resort to open for this South Pacific-inspired, over-the-water experience, however you may be able to sneak a peak now at these water-top suites—the first of their kind in the Caribbean. Meanwhile, Jamaica’s Sandals Grande Riviera Beach & Villa Golf Resort looks brand new for 2012, having undergone a $60-million enhancement. sandals.com

 
 
 
 
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