Now is the best time to travel to the Virgin Islands
CHRISTIANSTED — Summer is winding down, and autumn soon will be upon us, with kids back to school and people who take their vacations in summer back to work. In the Caribbean, that means good deals in the offing as the islands vie to attract travelers in the off-season.
Some islands have put together deals that include many of their hotels, restaurants and attractions. Devised by tourist boards and associations, these island-wide promotions offer such incentives as discounted accommodations, resort credits, free upgrades, air credits and free nights. All of which softens the pressure on travelers’ wallets.
Autumn getaways in the Caribbean have other advantages. One is that the temperature is not as hot as in summertime. Another is that resorts are not as busy as during the high-season winter months. Also, the Caribbean has many all-inclusive resorts, where one upfront price covers almost all one’s expenses, including lodging, meals, alcoholic drinks and at least some resort activities.
If there’s a downside to a Caribbean visit in autumn, it’s that early fall is also hurricane season. But chances of a hurricane affecting your vacation are small.
“You should not let hurricanes prevent you from taking a Caribbean trip even during the height of hurricane season,” writes Bob Curley in About.com, where he is an advisor on Caribbean travel. “Your chances of getting hit by a hurricane in the Caribbean are probably not a whole lot different than they are in Miami.”
However, it’s prudent to book travel insurance, even though some Caribbean resorts may issue refunds or credit for future stays if a hurricane disrupts a vacation. That’s not a given, though.
Almost all hotels in the Caribbean offer special fall deals. These may be listed on the hotels’ websites or each island’s tourism website.
The offerings detailed below are island-wide or umbrella promotions for deals at participating hotels, restaurants or attractions. Offers may vary at individual properties under the umbrella promotion. Also listed are some hotel chains with offers that cover multiple properties in the Caribbean.
All offers and their terms are subject to availability, to booking and travel deadlines, blackout dates, and to change without notice. If cited, prices are per person, double occupancy.
U.S. Virgin Islands: All three islands — St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John — are participating in the Virgin Islands Nice promotion launched by the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism. It provides first night free on stays of five days or more at participating properties, a $200 instant credit and $300 in certificates that can be redeemed at participating restaurants, boutiques and attractions. Promotions applicable only if combined with air travel. Booking deadline is Aug. 31 for travel to Oct. 31. 340-774-8784, www.visitusvi.com/usvinice.
Puerto Rico: A fall promotion created by the Puerto Rico Hotel and Tourism Association and the Puerto Rico Tourism Co. provides a fourth night free, fourth tour free (buy three tours, get one free), children stay free when sharing room with parents, and other features. Booking deadline is Aug. 31 for travel to Dec. 19. www.seepuertorico.com or http://puertoricohotelreservations.com.
Curacao: A Dare to Explore promotion put together by the Curacao Hospitality and Tourism Association offers a selection of fall stays at various island resorts between Sept. 15 and Dec. 15. The deals may provide discounts of up to 50 percent, free nights, resort credits, air credits, dive discounts or free upgrades, depending on the resort. www.curacao.com/explore/.
St. Lucia: An island-wide promotion features August as Chocolate Heritage Month, with such chocolate-themed activities as cocoa bean plantation tours, chocolate spa treatments, special menus and tastings. Some resorts offer discounts up to 50 percent for stays in August, but some others extend the validity to later this fall. For information, go to www.stlucianow.com and click on Chocolate Heritage Month. Also on that website is a list of Top 20 Special Offers with some deals valid as late as December. Click on Top 20 Special Offers.
Jamaica: Discounts of up to 50 percent are being offered in a destination-wide promotion coordinated by the Jamaica Tourist Board and the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association. More than 30 hotels, plus restaurants and attractions, are participating in the Fall in Jamaica program. The promotion is available for booking through Dec. 1 for travel between Aug. 25 and Dec. 15. Information and booking: www.getallrightjamaica.com, promo code: Fall Deals.
St. Kitts: If you’re in the market for a last-minute deal, scan this island’s Summer Sunsation promotion. Some offers vary, but at most participating hotels you’ll get fourth and seventh nights free and kids stay or eat free. Booking deadline is Aug. 15 for travel to Sept. 1. 800-582-6208, www.stkittstourism.kn/summer-sensation.php.
Barbados: Starting Aug. 15, travelers who book a vacation under the Barbados Island Inclusive plan can be awarded extra “spending money.” Those booking a stay of five days or more are eligible to receive $150 per person in vouchers to use at participating restaurants and attractions. Those booking for seven days or more receive $200 per person. Deal must be booked between Aug. 15 and Sept. 30 for travel through Dec. 21. Details: www.visitbarbados.org/islandinclusive or www.bookbarbadosnow.com/islandinclusive. To book a participating hotel, use code BII2014.
Anguilla: This island’s Summer Prix Fixe program includes lodging deals such as discounted rates and free nights, as well three-course menus at participating restaurants. These are available through Aug. 31, but at many hotels the offers extend beyond that date to as far as Dec. 19. 786-235-1310, http://ivisitanguilla.com/summer-prix-fixe-2014.
Cayman Islands: Offers under this island’s Fall Only in Cayman promotion include fourth night free and other lodging deals, resort credits, and water sports and attraction discounts. Offer vary at participating properties. Booking deadline is Nov. 15 for travel between Sept. 4 and Dec. 18. www.onlyincayman.com.
Sandals and Beaches Resorts: Guests who book a seven-night stay at this company’s resorts in the Caribbean for travel this fall are offered deals that include discounted rates, air credits, early booking bonus, tour credits and other deals. Offers, booking and travel deadlines vary by resort. See www.sandals.com/specials and www.beaches.com/specials.
Hilton: Participating hotels offer a daily $50 resort credit under this chain’s HHonors Leisure Escapes deal. Eighteen resorts on eight Caribbean islands are participating in the program. 800-445-8667, www.hiltoncaribbean.com/leisure-escapes.
Starwood: Seven Starwood hotels are offering “Sunsational Savings,” with rates discounted by up to 30 percent plus one free night. Dates vary, but in most cases, discounts are good for travel into December. 866-716-8147, www.starwoodcaribbean.com; use rate code “Sunsational Savings.”
Marriott: A Kids Club Package is offered for this chain’s Caribbean resorts on stays through Dec. 19. The package includes breakfast daily for children under 12, arts and crafts classes, and daily Internet access. Prices start at $194 per night. Offers may vary by resort. 800-228-9290, www.paradisebymarriott.com.
Elite Island Resorts: This chain offers up to 50 percent off on any of its three all-inclusive resorts in Antigua for bookings made by Aug. 31 for travel by Dec. 26. 800-858-4618, www.eliteislandresorts.com/antigua/index.html.
Super Clubs: Three of its resorts (one Breezes and two ROOMS on the Beach) offer fall deals: 35 percent off at Breezes, book by Aug. 31 for travel to Dec. 19 and 40 percent off at ROOMS booked by Dec. 1 for travel Aug. 25-Dec. 15. www.breezes.com, www.roomsresorts.com/fallinjamaica.asp.
Club Med: Some of the resorts under the Never-Ending Sun promotion offer rates from $129 per person, per night, double occupancy, with children under four free. Deal requires three-night minimum stays and prices and terms may vary at some resorts. Booking deadline Aug. 26 for travel to Feb. 13. 800-258-2633, www.clubmed.us.