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Caribbean Strong

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© Getty Images PHOTO: Beautiful Island in Belize. (photo via SimonDannhauer/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

By Brian Major, TravelPulse

The Caribbean is one of the world’s most tourism-reliant regions, and as such, it is crucial that it routinely enhances its product offerings. A slate of new and renovated hotels, and expanded air service to Martinique, Cuba and Puerto Rico top the list of enhancements so far this year. Meanwhile, visitor numbers are rebounding at a rapid pace in St. Maarten, which has made great strides in its hurricane recovery efforts.

Here’s a closer look at travel-related news across the Caribbean to date in 2018:

RESORTS

Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group will debut a luxury beachfront resort and residences on Grand Cayman beginning in 2021. Set on 67 acres, the Mandarin Oriental, Grand Cayman will be equipped with 100 guestrooms and suites, including 89 Residences at Mandarin Oriental. All accommodations will face the sea, offering exceptional sunrise and sunset views. The property will feature five restaurants and bars, and farm-to-table dining experiences.

St. Lucia’s Sugar Beach, A Viceroy Resort, will add a new page collection of homes known as the Piton Residences, to be completed by the end of 2020. Situated between the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Piton Mountains, the four- and five-bedroom homes will feature open-concept living areas with floor-to-ceiling windows, full kitchens, infinity pools and outdoor dining spaces.

[post_ads]The Dominican Republic’s family-friendly Sirenis Punta Cana Resort Casino & Aquagames will rebrand as the Grand Sirenis Punta Cana Resort, following a $30 million renovation, with the reopening slated for mid-December. The renovation will enhance guestrooms, upgrade the main buffet restaurants, lobby and common areas, and add new themed restaurants and a children’s club.

Three Belize resorts—Victoria House, Naia Resort & Spa and The Lodge at Chaa Creek—have come together to form the Unique Hotels of Belize (uniquehotelsofbelize.com). The company’s portfolio of properties offer luxury amenities and fine dining while showcasing Belize’s rainforests, secluded beaches, Maya cities, and barrier reef dive sites via local activities, tours and expeditions.

The Jamaica Inn (jamaicainn.com) in Ocho Rios is celebrating its 60th anniversary with new and upgraded accommodations, including three beach bungalows; the debut of White River Fish Sanctuary; a new saltwater sea bath treatment; and a “Land of Films” tour. Located on a tranquil cove on the eastern end of the property adjacent to the resort’s Ocean Spa, the one-bedroom bungalows feature sitting rooms, kitchenettes and outdoor verandas. Bungalow guests enjoy access to a private beach.

DESTINATIONS

Heavily damaged by Hurricanes Irma and Maria last September, the dual-nation island of St. Maarten/ St. Martin has recovered at a rapid pace, with airlines adding new service and with hotels reopening. “Due to the collaborative efforts by all stakeholders and the community at large, St. Maarten has been able to make a quick turnaround,” said Cornelius De Weever, St. Maarten’s tourism minister.

American Airlines increased seat capacity on its daily flights between Miami and St. Maarten. American will also add a daily nonstop flight to St. Maarten from Charlotte, N.C., beginning November 4, and a second daily nonstop from Miami on December 19.

As of May 2018, two-thirds of all carriers that provided service to the destination have resumed regular service, St. Maarten Tourist Board officials said. Travelers from U.S. gateways can fly to St. Maarten aboard United Airlines, American, JetBlue, Delta Air Lines, Spirit Airlines and Seaborne Airlines. Service from Toronto is also available on WestJet.

There are also nearly 2,000 bookable rooms available across St. Maarten, including 122 villas and condos, boutique hotels and guesthouses. In addition, some larger properties have conducted soft openings, while Divi Little Bay Beach Resort, Simpson Bay Resorts & Marina and Oyster Bay Beach Resort have reopened. The Sonesta Ocean Point Resort and Sonesta Maho Beach Resort & Spa are slated to reopen on Nov. 15, 2018, and Feb. 1, 2019, respectively.

For information on the island’s recovery, visit vacationstmaarten.com/the-island-experience/after-irma/.

AIRLINES

JetBlue increased its service to Havana with new flights from Boston and expanded service from Fort Lauderdale. Beginning November 10, JetBlue will offer Saturday flights between Boston Logan International Airport and Havana’s Jose Marti International Airport.
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JetBlue will also add a flight between Fort Lauderdale and Havana, bringing the number of daily flights between the two cities to three. The flights include a new afternoon departure from Fort Lauderdale and a new evening flight from Havana. JetBlue also serves Cuban airports in Camagüey, Holguín and Santa Clara with daily service from Fort Lauderdale.

The carrier has resumed its full flight schedule to Puerto Rico following last year’s hurricanes. JetBlue’s return to a full Puerto Rico schedule came six months earlier than company officials originally planned, which they attributed to “improved demand for travel to Puerto Rico as the island continues to recover from Hurricane Maria and welcome new visitors.”

Norwegian Air will add a fourth weekly flight between Fort Lauderdale and Martinique when its resumes seasonal service on Oct. 31. “This is an opportunity for us to expand our reach and showcase ‘Martinique Magnifique,’ its multiple assets, its vibrant culture, its authenticity, along with the warmth of its people,” said Karine Mousseau, Martinique Tourism Commissioner.

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