Paris Permenter & John Bigley's
Caribbean Family Tripper travel guide

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Friday, June 30, 2006

Over $230 Million in New Tourism Offerings in Aruba

Aruba has long been a favorite with our family thanks to its varied hotels and excellent weather (lying south of the hurricane belt, so it misses almost all the storms.) We just got word today from the Aruba Tourism Authority that the island is undergoing expansion and renovations totaling over $230 million--changes to just about every sector of the travel industry, from the airport and cruise terminal to hotels, spas and restaurants.

What's New in Aruba:

• The Airport. Look for $34 million in changes at the Queen Beatrix International Airport.

• New Park. About $16 million is being invested in the creation of the largest linear park in the Caribbean, stretching 10 miles from Aruba’s Queen Beatrix International Airport to the end of the high-rise hotel corridor.

·RIU. The RIU Aruba Grand will close for a $40-million expansion to add 286 guestrooms. When completed, the new and improved resort with be the five-star, 451-room RIU Palace.

• Holiday Inn Sunspree Aruba.
This hotel is undergoing a $5-million renovation, the first phase of a three-year program. d/AUAAN>

· Divi. There's a lot of news with Divi Resorts! The Divi Aruba Phoenix Beach Resort’s $20-million Divi Phoenix tower construction will start in 2006 and complete in fall 2007. The new development will more than double the size of the existing property adding 140 units, including timeshares, studios, one, two and three-bedrooms, in four buildings, bringing the total number of rooms to 241. Also, the Divi Aruba All-Inclusive will invest $5.5 million and deliver 55 additional rooms by December 2006. As well, the Divi Village Golf and Beach Resort, a $42 million endeavor, features 52 new units, which opened August 2005. Phase two will offer 52 additional rooms in April 2006, 56 units in December 2006 and 80 more by the end of 2007. The Divi Dutch Village Beach Resort underwent a $10-million renovation in 2005.

· Aruba Marriott. The Aruba Marriott Resort and Stellaris Casino completed a casino expansion in 2005 and will spend $12 million renovating rooms in 2007. We stayed here on our last family visit and really enjoyed this expansive property on Palm Beach.

· Renaissance Aruba.
The Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino is completing a $10-million upgrade with a new Presidential Suite, new lobbies in the Marina Hotel and Ocean Suites, the opening of a new restaurant and pool bar, new bedding in all 558 rooms and suites and more.

· Hyatt Aruba. One of our Aruba favorites, the Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort & Casino is embarking on a $20-million refurbishment, scheduled to begin this month. Full renovation of the property’s 360 guest rooms, lobby area, ballrooms, Alfresco Bar and Palms Restaurant and Beach Bar is scheduled and the Stillwater Spa and Copacabana Casino will be updated.

·Bucuti Beach Resort Aruba. The Tara Beach Suites at the Bucuti Beach Resort Aruba just spent $5 million remodeling Bucuti wing rooms.

·New Waterpark! De Palm Tours is pumping $5 million into a new fleet of all-terrain vehicles and Land Rovers and a major renovation to its private island, De Palm Island. The addition of a water park on the island is scheduled for completion this summer.

For more information:
• call the Aruba Tourism Authority at 1-800-TO-ARUBA
• visit www.aruba.com

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Malaria Update for Great Exuma, Bahamas

The Islands of the Bahamas official website is reporting that the malaria transmissions on Great Exuma Island (down in the southern Bahamas) has been interrupted. Only a small number of malaria cases were reported earlier this month. A CDC alert was issued on June 16. You can read more about the situation and its update on the Bahamas.com website. No cases were reported in Nassau, Grand Bahama Island or any other of the Islands of the Bahamas.

Apple Vacations Sale for Punta Cana

Apple Vacations has announced a sale offer for Punta Cana Sunscape. The package is priced at $799.99 for seven nights; two children can stay for only $369.99 each.

The package includes:

· All meals, snacks, theme a la carte and World Café with specialty food
stations and more
· Nightly entertainment, disco and non-motorized water sports included,
casino onsite
· Explorer's Club for kids
· Savings of up to $1,000 per family!

The sale is valid on select September-October; nonstop departures from Atlanta,
Baltimore, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, JFK, Newark, Philadelphia and

Apple Vacations offers travelers non-stop flights on USA3000 Airlines' Airbus A-320s, as well as scheduled flights on US Airways, Delta airlines, American Airlines, Continental Airlines, Air Jamaica and United Airlines, among others.

For more information, check with your local travel agent.

Beaches Resorts Offering Sand Ceremony

If you're considering a Caribbean wedding, honeymoon, and family vacation all in one, check out Beaches Resorts, well known for its FamilyMoons™ package. Starting July 1, the resorts are adding a Unity Sand Ceremony. To be offereed at all four Beaches Resorts in Jamaica and the Turks & Caicos, the ceremony literally symbolizes – with Caribbean white sand - the coming together of two families into one.

How It Works: Brides, grooms and their respective children each receive beautiful nesting vases, with the side vessels representing each of the family members and the center vessel – their new family. Each member takes turns pouring sand into the common center vessel, physically representing the union of “two into one.” Just as it is impossible to separate the grains of sand in the vase, it will be impossible to separate the new family.

Funjet Offering Peace of Mind Program

Funjet Vacations--a popular vacation company offering many Caribbean vacations--is adding a new Hurricane Plan to its "Fun for Sure" plan. The company's "Fun for Sure" plan gives travelers flexibility and peace of mind so you don't have to worry if anything--a hurricane, a job commitment, a sick child, or other circumstance means you need to cancel your trip.

Ray Snisky, president of Funjet Vacations, said, "Funjet Vacations is offering the ultimate flexibility for travelers. Unlike other programs, travelers can book with no worries and know that if they want to cancel for any reason that life brings them, they can get their money back. Plus, now we are helping ease concerns over what the weather might bring while on vacation during hurricane season."

What It Includes: Funjet Vacations' "Fun for Sure" includes the Pre-Travel Penalty Waiver (PTPW) where travelers may cancel for any reason, up to the time of departure with no questions asked. Travelers who cancel will receive a money back refund.

In addition, if travelers find the vacation they bought advertised for a lower price by Funjet Vacations, they can receive the difference back.

Funjet Vacations' "Fun for Sure" also includes the new Hurricane Plan for air/hotel vacations on a Charter or Value Flight, offering money back for interrupted* and unused nights, and a $100 per person "Fresh Start" Funjet Vacations' certificate redeemable for a future vacation - nearly anytime, anywhere, to any hotel Funjet Vacations' offers. Children will receive a $50 "Fresh Start" certificate. Certificates may be used on a Funjet Vacations' Charter or Value flight air/hotel vacation for one year from the original departure date.

*Interruption means travelers are displaced from their hotel room for 24 hours or more due to the result of a category 1 or greater hurricane. This benefit applies to unused nights or the nights you are displaced if a comparable hotel of equal or greater hotel rating is not provided.

Cost: "Fun for Sure" is available for $69.99 per person. As an introductory offer the Hurricane Plan enhancement is included free (a $19.99 value) to travelers that purchase the PTPW for travel July 1-Oct. 31, 2006 on a Charter or Value Flight air/hotel vacation.

All charter/value flight customers that have already purchased the PTPW for travel July 1-Oct. 31, 2006 will automatically receive the hurricane interruption benefits for free.

Benefits: "Fun For Sure" Traveler's Benefits at a Glance:

· Money talks. The PTPW offers a refund in the original form of payment, no certificates.

· No questions asked. Cancel for any reason up to departure time.

· Price Guarantee. If the price of an identical Funjet Vacations' getaway goes down, the traveler can receive the savings.

· Benefits for the season. Fun for Sure covers travel from July 1-Oct. 31.

· Flexibility. With Funjet Vacations "Fresh Start" certificates, travelers can go nearly anytime, anywhere and to any hotel Funjet Vacations' offers.

To purchase:
• call your local travel agent
• visit funjet.com

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Mexico's Esencia Offers Family Package

Through August 31, you'll find a special family package at the new Esencia resort, located on Mexico's Riviera Maya. The package offers over 30% savings.

The Package: The five-night "Family Fun in the Sun" package includes:

• accommodations in a Garden Suite complete with plunge pool. The garden suite offers plenty of room for family togetherness featuring a garden-view terrace, sitting area, spacious bathroom, separate shower room and large walk-in closet.
• One child under the age of 12 stays complimentary in the suite with parents.
• Daily breakfast and free roundtrip airport transfers (a value of $220)

Price: The five-night "Family Fun in the Sun" package costs $1,725 through August 31, 2006. For families of four, a private cottage can be reserved starting at $1,500 per night with children under the age of 12 staying complimentary.

For more information:

• call 1-877-528-3490
• visit www.hotelesencia.com

Multigenerational Cruising Grows

Looking for a multigenerational vacation for your family? The answer just might be a cruise. The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) resport on the growing popularity of cruises for multigenerational vacations. Why?

• Families can spend as much or as little time together as they want.
• Adults can enjoy time together thanks to babysitting services on virtually all CLIA member-line ships.
• Family members can select their own dining options. Grandparents might savor a quiet repast at an elegant supper club featuring menus that have been created by celebrity chefs. Parents can enjoy romantic dinners. Kids can nosh on pizza and pasta at a Lido buffet.
• Multigenerational family groups find specially designed adjoining cabins and suites that can accommodate up to 14 people aboard some CLIA-member ships.
• Families can divide members among stateroom and suite categories, based on their budgets.

"Today's cruise lines expertly accommodate vacationers' renewed focus on family in all its traditional and non-traditional forms," said Terry Dale, president and CEO of CLIA, the chief marketing organization for 19 premier cruise lines and nearly 17,000 North American travel agencies. "Because virtually everything is included in the cost of a cruise - accommodations, entertainment, children's activity programs and much, much more - family members need not worry about additional out-of-pocket expenses."

For More Information:
• visit www.cruising.org

Family Villa Special at Peter Island, BVI

We love the exclusive Peter Island in the British Virgin Islands, a family-friendly resort that's a real getaway. Along with a stay in the resort, families also have another option: the villa program.

Peter Island is now offering a “Family Villa Special” at one of their villa estates, Crow’s Nest. Tailored for up to eight people, this four-bedroom, 6,500-square-foot villa is perched on a hill high above the resort with panoramic views of the sea and Virgin Islands. Each of the four bedrooms has its own baths, with deep soaking tubs and showers, secluded verandahs and separate entrances.

This special 5-night family package includes the following:

· 5-nights in Crow's Nest Villa (can accommodate up to 8 people)
· Designated Villa staff, which includes an 18-hour-a-day attendant to meet all needs, valet, chef, housekeeper, grounds man, and a 24-hour private chauffeured vehicle on standby
· A full day family sail charter
· (3) Private 60-minute group swimming lessons
· Culinary / Dining etiquette classes for children
· Special Chef’s demonstration for children
· Island Scavenger Hunt
· Final Night Pool Party and BBQ
· PSP amenity
· Themed Family nightly amenity

From July 11 – October 31, 2006, $30,525.00 ($6,105.00 per night or $763.13 per person, per night). Rates are for eight people and do not include a 17 percent tax and service charge.

For More Information:

• visit www.peterisland.com

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Bermuda's Cambridge Beaches Welcoming Families Year Around

We had the pleasure of visiting Bermuda's lovely Cambridge Beaches in April for our anniversary; the resort is incredibly romantic. Although much of its clientele is made up of couples, the resort is now welcoming families with children five and older throughout the year. For the first time ever, family travel and family reunion packages will be available year-round.

Family Discounts:
Families will enjoy extra value when traveling together, including a 25% discount on any second room booked. In addition, the first child - up to age 17 - will stay in room with parents and eat for free.

Family Reunions: Any family reunion booking of three rooms or more will receive 25% off the first room and 15% off any additional rooms. A complimentary room upgrade will be awarded to the eldest generation or organizer of the group. The resort is also offering new premium experiences; they're especially appealing for youth and they also promote a sense of togetherness. These options include a private boating trip, kayak safaris around the clear waters of the property and private sunset sails. In addition, special family activities will be offered at Easter and Christmas.

For More Information:

• visit www.cambridgebeaches.com
• call 800-468-7300

Photo courtesy Cambridge Beaches

Keeping Kids Safe Around Water

Keeping kids safe around water--whether that means the Caribbean Sea or a children's pool--is an important part of travel. Gaylene Anderson of Waterproof Kids shares her three most important tips to keep a child from drowning:

1. "Most people don't realize that when children drown they silently slip underwater. I teach a vocal 'bob game' to every child I work with and practice it on a regular basis. Children can learn how to roll on their back and call out for help."

2. "Parents should minimize their own distractions around their kids and water like talking on the cell phone, reading magazines, or relying on a floatie for their child's safety."

3. "Make sure not to leave toys in the bathtub or pool, because the child may reach for the toy and fall in the water. Not every drowning is preventable, but with every water accident we see time and time again that seconds count."

Friday, June 09, 2006

Tips for Flying with the Family

Flying with kids involves more pre-planning, especially during the very busy summer season. (Expect full flights both for your domestic legs and your Caribbean flights according to this year's forecasts.)

So it pays to get organization and make a plan. We just received these travel tips from packing
expert Susan Foster, author of Smart Packing for Today's Traveler for smart family travel.

1. Make plane reservations as soon as possible to lock in current inexpensive fares. As fuel prices increase, airfares will also.

2. Select seats when you make the reservation -- this is the only way to ensure that you will be seated together. Waiting until you arrive at the airport will scatter each of your family members throughout the plane, or will require asking other passengers to accommodate you by moving seats when they are trying to get settled themselves. [We think this is a great idea. Try to book your seats online so you can look at a diagram of the airplane and check proximity to the bathroom.]

3. Print boarding passes before leaving for the airport. If you have booked online, this option is generally available 24 hours in advance of the flight and will save standing in a check-in line at the airport. [You'll find that you have to check in at the desk for many Caribbean flights if you are not flying to Puerto Rico or the US Virgin Islands.]

4. Pack light. Many airlines are charging $25 each way for checked bags weighing 50 pounds or more. Weigh each bag at home on a bathroom scale before leaving for the airport so you can lighten the load. Also measure each bag before packing as no bag may be over 62" based on linear measurement of length + width + depth. Larger bags may incur a large fee. Consider packing into two smaller bags in place of one large one.

5. Take less. Organize what each family member wants to pack far in advance to allow time to wash favorite things and to encourage participation by each person. This minimizes complaints upon arrival, as each was part of the packing decisions. Plan to find a coin-operated laundry half way through the trip so you can pack half as much clothing. Tucking in a self-sealing plastic bag of laundry detergent saves money and hassles.

6. Organize your suitcase by grouping similar clothing items into containers: socks in one container, underwear in another. Self-sealing plastic bags of various sizes are perfect for this and are a travelers' best friend! Children's clothing is easily packed by folding or rolling an entire day's outfit together--pants, tee-shirt, underwear and socks--and tucking them into a self-sealing bag. Pop the dirty items back into the bag at the end of the day to isolate soiled clothing from clean. [Those zippered plastic bags are our #1 travel item! They will come in handy in a million ways, from holding seashells to wet bathing suits.]

7. Pack into as few suitcases as possible -- the more bags the greater the chance that one will be misplaced or forgotten. Plus, a hefty fee may be charged for additional checked bags. Airlines typically allow two checked bags plus one carry-on per ticketed passenger (young children who ride on a parent's lap are NOT considered "ticketed").Many families pack into community bags of one adult with one child per bag; for a family of four this means two checked bags plus carry-ons.

8. Pack a backpack for each person (this will count as one carry-on). Parents can manage children better if they are hands-free, so purses and in-flight necessities are best carried in an adult backpack. Kids fly quieter when entertained, so allow them to choose their toys and to carry them. Smaller children manage better passing through airports, airport security, and aircraft aisles with small backpacks; bigger children can manage small rolling bags that will fit under the seat.

9. Take your child's safety seat and stroller as carry-ons whenever possible. Each airline has a slightly different ruling on traveling with this gear, so call or visit your airline website to check in advance so you won't have any surprises at the airport.

10. Savvy frequent flyer parents advise packing the following in your child's carry-on:
. Gameboys, games and extra batteries and travel-sized games
. Books (thin paperbacks are best!) and/or coloring/activity books and crayons
. Portable DVD player (however, battery length is usually only about 3 hours)
. Pajamas and slippers for a long flight (if children are comfortable, they are more likely to sleep)
. Hard candies to suck on, water or juice to combat cabin pressure changes during take off and landing
. Anything your child must have, such as a favorite blanket or bunny.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Beaches Resorts Now Smoke Free

All Beaches Resorts are now non-smoking in all enclosed public areas such as bars, restaurants, lobbies, conference facilities, retail outlet facilities and nightclubs. Smoking will be permitted outdoors and in designated rooms.

Beaches Reminds Guests of Hurricane Guarantee

Worried about booking a vacation during the summer because of hurricanes? After last year's very active hurricane season, that thought is on the mind of more than one family but Beaches Resorts is reminding travelers about their Blue Chip Hurricane Guarantee. It allows guests a free replacement vacation in the event that their stay is interrupted by a hurricane, as defined by the National Hurricane Center.

The replacement stay is for the same duration and room category as the originally booked trip and is valid for one year after the original vacation.

Hurricane seasons runs from June 1 through November 30 but the worst month for storms is September. We've traveled to the Caribbean many, many times during hurricane season and had to leave due to the threat of a storm only twice. Remember: the Caribbean is a large area and even though a storm may threaten one island, other areas may be well out of the storm's path.

Riviera Maya Resort Reopens

Good news continues to come in from the Riviera Maya, a region hit by Hurricanes Emily and Wilma last year. We just received word about the grand reopening of Xpu-Ha Palace, an eco-centered resort known for its gardens and beach. The 144-room resort is home to a full-service animal rescue and treatment program that cares for crocodiles, spider monkeys, and deer. Guests of Xpu-Ha Palace can also take an Ecological Tour, participate in a kayak excursion that explores the clear estuary waters, and dive or snorkel with the abundant marine life that thrives in the lagoon.

Xpu-Ha Palace also offers the “Palace Passport” program that allows families who stay three nights or longer to partake in excursions including Chichen-Itza Day and Light & Sound, Tulum, Isla Mujeres, Coba, & Ek-Balam/Valladolid, Wet'nWild and Sail & Snorkel tours.

Cool for Kids: Xpu-Ha Palace offers the “Kids Club” featuring kids-only activities such as sports, board games, contests, crafts, movies, and video games.

Prices: Range from $482 - $332 per room, per night, depending on time of year.

For more information:
• call (800) 635-1836
• visit Palace Resorts

Friday, June 02, 2006

Family Fun Low Season Rates at Windjammer Landing

St. Lucia's Windjammer Landing Villa Beach Resort is offering special low season rates through December 20. The daily rate for a one bedroom villa through Dec. 20, 2006 is $300 per night. A one bedroom villa can accommodate two adults and two children and is approx 1,200 square feet.

Cool for Kids: Windjammer offers fun for all ages from nanny service for the youngest travelers to the complimentary "Jacquot Children Fun Club" for 4-12 year olds as well as a teen club (available when there are enough teen guests).

For Mother/Daughter Guests:
Check out the spa, which offers special kid treatments, perfect for a mother-daughter spa afternoon.

For more information:
• visit www.windjammer-landing.com
• call: 758 456 9000

Win an Autographed Copy of Caribbean with Kids

We're giving away an autographed copy of the fourth edition of our Caribbean with Kids guidebook! To enter, just subscribe to our newsletter (there's a subscription form on the home page and on all but the blog pages of the site). We'll never share or sell your email address and you can unsubscribe at any time. We'll announce the winner on July 15. For more about the contest, see our Win Caribbean with Kids contest page.


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