Category Archives: The Caribbean

Greetings from English Harbour in Antigua

This is definitely the other home of the rich and famous.  The small harbour here is packed with classy looking yachts from all over the world.  This is where you send your crew out to pick up refills of Moet and Chandon and any other treats that might appeal.  Our lovely Windstar yacht is anchored just outside the harbour and I must say this is one of the most fascinating stops along our journey so far.  This is what makes small ship cruising – and especially small yacht cruising – so very special and unique.  Not another cruise ship in sight.  Our stop yesterday was Dominica where we spied a big P&O liner alongside one of the small Royal Caribbean cruise ships.  Now as cruising goes only having two large ships in dock is not bad.  It can get horrible when there are 6 or more – all disgorged out to roam the streets and send the vendors into a frenzy of anticipation.  So every stop along the way with Windstar is another pleasant surprise for us and a chance to get into the ports less visited.

The highlight so far?  Our sail away from St Lucia’s Pigeon Point yesterday with sails hoisted on all five masts and the dramatic music of Vangelis on the speakers.  Our Captain took us on a slow cruise past the coastline of St Lucia ending with the Pitons at sunset.  Wow – so hard to try to capture this on film.  I doubt very much anyone has ever had such a good close up view of the Pitons on a cruise.

Every day is a delight on Windstar – after a cappuccino and half an hour internet time at the cafe we’re on our way to the beach.

Sunset on the High Seas

I have cruised a lot but nothing prepared me for a sunset on Windstar
cruises.  We had sailed all day under wind power with the sails proudly
filled, the engines silent, and now finally at the end of the day I sat up
on deck watching the sky slowly turn from the softest pink to a dark
dramatic burgundy.  No need to rush to dress up for dinner – this is as laid
back as cruising can get – but I must correct myself.  It is not cruising –
it is sailing and I am on the biggest yacht in the world.
 

Sunset in St. Lucia – Courtesy of Windstar Cruises

Today we dropped anchor at Pigeon Island in St Lucia.  The tender ferried us
ashore for a private beach barbecue.  The marina staff also towed the hobbie
cat and kayaks for us as well as the giant inflatable trampoline that
floated just off the beach.  Now what on earth would a collection of 40 plus
want with a giant inflatable trampoline you might ask?  It’s amazing what a
grown person will do on a hot day on the beach after a few cocktails – and
no – it wasn’t me performing  (just for a change).  It was all in good fun.
The point was the last time I cruised to St Lucia we docked at Castries –
not my favourite port but a typical Caribbean stop – busy, lots of traffic,
lots of vendors and lots of other cruise ships.  That’s what makes Windstar
so special – it is so untypical.  They go where the larger cruise ships
cannot.
 
The ship also adopts an “open bridge” policy so that for most of the time
you can visit the bridge when you like and have the chance to look over the
first officer’s shoulder at the array of instruments, dials and whatnot that
control the ship and the sails.  The Captain – a charming lad who honestly
looks no older than 16 – hails from England and clearly loves his yacht
dearly.  His face lit up as he unfurled the sails one by one and proudly
pointed out that we were cruising at 11 knots all day just under sail power.
As he jokingly told us he never knew he would grow up to be a ship’s captain
and recalls his teacher saying to him “McCray – you’ll never get a job
staring out of the window!”  Well guess what – that’s exactly what his job
now entails except it is more than one window and what a view!
 
You can tell this is a happy ship – a smaller ship makes for a smaller
ship’s family and everyone works well together.  Nothing is too much trouble
and the antics of the bar staff is sheer entertainment.  Friendly, efficient
service without pompous posturing; elegant dinners served to diners in
casual dress – not a suit or a tie in sight.  Sheer delight.

Take your clothes off and say “I do”

So how would you feel about being naked on TV?  Hedonism Resorts are looking for couples who would like the tie the knot in the nude in front of a few hundred thousand of their closest cable tv friends.  http://www.hedonism.com/nudewedding/

So what do the winning couples get?   (Apart from goosebumps and maybe a sunburn where you don’t want it.)  Well they get a free wedding for one thing and 4 nights complimentary stay at the Hedonism Resort in Jamaica.  Having dealt with a number of brides and destination weddings I can see the merit in a nude wedding.  Certainly it would cut down on the cost and the time of choosing “the dress” and all the stuff that goes with the dress – special shoes, expensive undies, silk stockings.  However getting  married in the nude poses some problems too –

  • what to do with the boutonniere – can’t really pin it on.  Could we hang it on something ?…….
  • something old….. mmm … that depends on your age
  • something new ….  hey you could get new boobs
  • something borrowed …. maybe earrings
  • something blue ….. eyeshadow
  • careful with that bouquet …. and no darling you can’t use it to hide behind – this is supposed to be a nude wedding – that’s why you are getting it free.

What about the bridesmaids – do they have to be nude too?  Well  now that’s just not fair.  Everyone knows that the bride always chooses one or two best friends who are – well – chubby.  No fair to ask them to forgo their Spanks and strut their stuff down the aisle.  Perhaps everyone has to be in the nude including his family, her family, the justice of the piece (sorry I mean peace – that was a Freudian slip).

I can’t see it myself – in fact that’s the whole problem – I can see it all too clearly in my mind and it’s not pretty!

It’s no fun working for me at all

Seriously – if you don’t believe me just read the latest post from my assistant Helen in Jamaica …. the girl is really suffering.  I hope she doesn’t resign when she comes back……

Mystic Mountain

21 Mar

I am really starting to hate my job. First I’m sent to Jamaica for a week. Then I have to spend my 26th birthday at the beach in Trelawny, soaking up the vitamin D and chowing down on Beef and Chicken Patties (the taste brings me back to my college days). What a rough life! And it gets worse… today I was dragged to Mystic Mountain (fairly close to Dunn’s River Falls), forced into a gondola that took us up and over the lush Jamaican rainforest (the scenery was gorgeous). Once at the top, I hopped into a bobsled and was forced through the track at full speed. Without a chance to catch my breath at the end, I was strapped into a harness, a helmet shoved onto my head, clipped onto four different zip-lines and a repel and once again, sailed through the rainforest. I’m telling you, this is really no fun at all. 

Read the rest of Helen’s latest update at http://tripstravel.wordpress.com/2011/03/21/mystic-mountain/
 

The Devil wears Prada – hey where’s my coffee

I am bereft…. my assistant Helen … (no I mean Emily – all my assistants have to answer to the name of Emily, right?) has gone on an educational trip to Jamaica.  You have to understand …. she is my people.  She looks after me.  Gets me an Americano every morning, reminds me about appointments, babysits my grandchildren and in between all of this turns out a great newsletter every week and keeps our website right up to date.  She has gone to Jamaica for a week on an educational trip.  Now let me emphasise that she is already highly educated – but not necessarily in the ways of Jamaica.  Also Jamaica is one of the more popular sun destinations and as she is my marketing assistant it’s important to find out more about Jamaica.  At least this was the gist of the argument that she gave me when the opportunity for this trip came across my desk.  I fell for it – I am a bit of a sucker like that but she’s a good kid. 

Now familiarisation trips (or “fam trips” as they are known in the industry) can be quite tricky.  Firstly you usually have to share with a complete stranger.  I have been lucky so far and have made good friends along the way but have heard the horror stories of room mates who soak their undies in the bathroom vanity overnight….. umm as I said, tricky.  Secondly there is a wide range of age groups from seasoned travel agents with walkers to fresh out of college “perkies” who, like the song “just wanna have fun”.  So one half of the group can’t keep up and the other half are “girls gone wild”.  Pity the poor sales rep who has to control this group. 

For the most part however these trips give us in the industry an in-depth experience of the destination.  Believe me – it’s not all pina coladas on the beach.  I have been on some trips where we will do 20 hotels in a week.  When you get back to the office there are photos to sort and a report to prepare so you can share your knowledge with co-workers and of course your clients.  However nothing quite beats the look on a client’s face when you can tell them – “Yes I have been there …. I know that hotel”.  You see – that’s why they come to a professional.

Helen at "work" on the 9th

So back to my assistant who right now is likely enjoying a cocktail on a beach somewhere.  Unlike the assistant in the Devil wears Prada her name is not Emily but Helen Trip – and yes she has heard every joke about that one.   She is updating her own blog onsite – and she has already lost her sunglasses!!

Follow her story at http://tripstravel.wordpress.com/2011/03/18/ocho-rios-the-art-of-losing-your-sunglasses/

Jamaica revisited

Miles of beach

An invitation to attend Sandals Star Awards at their Whitehouse resort in south west Jamaica was just what I needed to escape the far too early winter woes that hit Calgary.  So I accepted without hesitation.  I was keen to see this newer resort (built in 2005) as I had received rave reviews from clients and groups I had sent there. 

Butch Stewart – the founder of Sandals and Beaches – says the deciding factor for him with regard to any resort would be the beach and this beach is truly fantastic.  When he saw this he knew that beachlovers would be thrilled.  So the resort was built specifically for Sandals which is a bit of a change as in the past the resorts  have been purchased already built and then modified to fit in with Sandals couples only luxury included theme.  Built along a sprawling white sand beach the idea was to give every room an ocean view which is a real bonus with the numerous room categories Sandals offers.  This is one resort where you will be very satisfied with even the lowest category.

Dinner for two

Now here is a bit of a twist … although Sandals is couples only because this was a travel industry event I was able to take my sister instead of my husband.  So during our week long stay at the Dutch Village of Sandals Whitehouse we got dubbed “The Golden Girls” by the staff there.  Mmmm, not sure what to think of that … but what I can say is that I really like the Jamaican sense of humour and the fact that it is an English speaking island. 

Sunset wedding

Honestly though I cannot think of a more romantic spot.  You can arrange to have a dinner for two on the beach – here is just an example of one such table.  The sunsets are spectacular and this makes it a popular spot for sunset weddings too – whether on the beach or in one of the lovely gazebos on the property.  We were lucky to witness a wedding of one of our colleages with Butch Stewart actually giving away the bride.   

The flight over there was on Sunwing Airlines.  I have not travelled with them before so I was curious to learn more about their service – hot towel, champagne on take off etc.  Not bad actually – and I certainly got a very good price.  Yes I paid the same as you would have paid.  No travel agent discount here.  The staff on the flight were amazing – ex Ward Air, Cathay Pacific and recently failed Sky Service … so years of experience of pampering guests.

The only thing I didn’t enjoy was the stop in Varadero on the way back – OMG – that terminal is just a cloud of cigarette smoke.  It comes as quite a shock to the Canadians visiting there.  I had to chuckle though – one end of the terminal was literally a thick fog – you could barely see from one side to the other and guess what – it was the gate for the flight to Moscow.  Ah well.

So back to Jamaica – go as soon as you can.  You will love it.  Sure they have their problems like many other Caribbean islands but the tourist industry there is strong and growing and any problems you have read about took place in Kingston … which is far away from the tourist area.  So stick on a Bob Marley tune and get into the mood – it’s 29 degrees in Jamaica and it’s Jammin!

Sandals Whitehouse