the cove, eleuthera, the bahamas
This 60-room property reopened March 1 after a complete makeover that has turned it into the Bahamas’ newest luxury resort. As befits Eleuthera, The Cove is a low-rise affair with a white, single-story main building and cottages strewn around a 40-acre peninsula with two beaches and killer views. Guest units (some rooms, but mostly suites) have clean, white wood and/or plaster walls, marble baths and floors, and polished wood furniture set off by pure-white soft furnishings. Above all, the design fosters a restful, let’s-zone-out feeling, because no gratuitous artworks or doodads clutter the airy space, although units do have 50-inch TVs, iPod docking stations, coffee makers, and 500-count bedsheets. Apparently, 400-count just wouldn’t have cut the mustard.
Competitive shopping and golf are just rumors here: Eleuthera is all about the water, so The Cove offers snorkeling and kayaking as well as occupying hammocks on the beaches. The front desk also arranges off-campus sailing, snorkeling, fishing (both deep-sea and bonefishing), and horseback riding through the surf. Spa services are available, and a fitness center serves guests concerned about getting too relaxed. The two restaurants use locally sourced fish and organic vegetables.
A Kamamale Suite costs just a little more than the Arawak Studio, but it offers much better space and views. Even better, book honeymooners into a Caribbean Cove Ocean Front Suite, which opens right onto the beach. For May 2014 it will cost between $719 and $998, depending upon when you book it, but here’s a tip: the Romance package can get your clients five nights in that same unit for as little as $2,800—and they’ll also enjoy airport transfers, champagne, daily breakfast (including one breakfast in bed), and other touches that make them feel really special. The only way to top that would be to arrive in a private jet, which—come to think of it— is an option.
“Guests have the option to use our owner’s jet from Fort Lauderdale or we can charter a smaller plane,” says sales and marketing director Margaret Paik-Thwaites. “Prices range from $750 (single engine) to $3,000 (jet) pp each way.”
(888) 776-3901 or thecoveeleuthera.com
nisbet plantation beach club, nevis
Combining colonial class and a contemporary sensibility, Nisbet is the only plantation hotel in the Caribbean that’s actually on a beach. The property also has a great track record as a starting place for young marrieds; this is where, in 1787, Lord Admiral Horatio Nelson married a young woman named Frances Nisbet.
Today, Nisbet Plantation, which pays 15 percent commission, offers 36 rooms and suites in the Great House and several cottages; guests can walk right out of the Lower Suites to the beach, which lies 50 yards away. Children are welcome, but few guests actually come to this resort with kids, so their presence isn’t disruptive. In fact, they eat dinner at 6 p.m., an earlier time slot than the other guests.
Daytime activities include tennis, croquet (this is not the paintball crowd), snorkeling, and lounging at the pool or in a hammock at the beach. In addition, there’s a new spa whose treatments employ local honey (hence the name, Honey Spa). The new Tropical Citrus & Honey Tonic Body Wrap, which ends with a body butter massage ($170 for 90 minutes), should melt away any stress left over from the wedding.
Rooms are in lemon-hued cottages with plenty of privacy; they have WiFi but no TVs. Best pick for honeymooners: An Upper Premier Junior Suite, which is closest to the beach and has a private balcony with ocean views (from about $630 per couple, MAP). There’s a Honeymoon package for about $900, but the slightly costlier Romance package gives your clients better value. It includes a champagne breakfast in bed; candlelit dinner for two on the beach; a sailing/snorkeling cruise featuring lunch at a Pinney’s Beach restaurant; a 1-day car (or Vespa or 4×4 rental) with a picnic lunch on Lover’s Beach on Nevis; a 1-hour couple’s massage, and taxes and gratuities.
P.S. The resort has a lovely tradition of planting coconut palms in honor of honeymooning couples.
(800) 742-6008 or nisbetplantation.com
anse chastanet, saint lucia
As if St. Lucia, with its paella-size jungle leaves and those green Pitons shaped like upside-down ice-cream cones, weren’t exotic enough, the island is also home to the most unique resorts in the Caribbean: Anse Chastanet, Jade Mountain, and Ladera. All three are high-end, hillside hideaways with a brilliant twist—they offer guest quarters with a fourth wall open to one of this hemisphere’s most spectacular views: the twin Pitons. Ocean breezes cool the rooms, and sleeping outdoors (sort of) in a four-poster bed with mosquito netting is sexier than back-to-back screenings of Barbarella.
Anse Chastanet, in particular, has one advantage over the other two—notwithstanding their permanent spot on Travel + Leisure top-resorts lists—it’s the closest to the beach. Mind you, guests still have to descend and then climb back about 100 steps, but most newlyweds should be able to handle that without summoning a chopper.
Not all rooms at Anse Chastanet have that fourth wall fully missing, so book one of the Premium Hillside units that do. They feature ceiling fans, clay tile or tropical hardwood floors, handcrafted furniture and colorful fabrics, and large bathrooms. TV? No need; the vista beyond the missing fourth wall beats anything on the National Geographic Channel.
The May 2014 rate, including an 18 percent tax, is $7,392 for a 7-night stay, but clients should spring for the Total Romance package: from $9,572 to about $11,000, depending upon how quickly agents can book it. With or without the package guests will enjoy Anse Chastanet’s beach, kayaks, snorkeling gear (the reefs right off the beach are thriving), sunfish, windsurfers, guided hikes and beach circuit training, and heart-stopping views, but the Total Romance package also throws in an all-inclusive meal and beverage plan, airport transfers, a tour of the volcano and Diamond Mineral Baths, a tour of an old French colonial plantation, a snorkeling cruise, a resort scuba diving course for beginners or two dives for certified divers, a massage at the resort’s spa, jungle biking, a half-day sailing on a skippered yacht, a credit $500 credit for a return visit, and more.
(800) 223-1108 or ansechastanet.com
beach house, turks and caicos
The first true boutique property on Grace Bay, this 21-suite hideaway opened in December to rave reviews. Beach House—aka Beach House Movement—evokes high-end escapes like Nantucket’s Wauwinet Inn, but with tropical winters and a more contemporary edge, so it delights urbane types who comprehend website navigation tabs like “culinaria” and “bodies in motion.” One of its slogans is “no socks allowed,” but you can bet that the sandals on the guests’ feet are good ones.
Chef Eric Vernice is a serious disciple of the farm-to-table movement with a kinship to the great Michael Troisgros and a resume that includes Maritime in Manhattan. Not for nothing is his chef’s table called The Laboratory. His “Montreal Milk-fed Veal Duo,” for example, features braised cheeks with red wine jus and hon shemiji mushrooms, plus tenderloin with porcini crust, arabica jus, and a macaroni-and-cheese side dish that’s barely related to the version perpetrated by Kraft Foods.
The guest units are all 1- and 2-bedroom suites, each with at least 1,100 sq. ft., flat-screen TVs (etc.), and private balconies. The decor features a lot of white and baby blue—a bit like Nantucket, a lot like Grace Bay itself.
This is a honeymoon, so book clients into a 1-bedroom Oceanfront Suite. (The lower-floor suites offer more direct access to the beach; the second-floor suites feature superior views. This really does come down to a matter of taste.)
The rack rate for one of these suites in May 2014 would be $690 plus fees, although promotions in place at press time (note: there are no guarantees how long they’ll last) bring the rate down to $335 per night for seven nights, plus 12 percent tax and a 10 percent service charge. Rates include $20 credits for breakfast and use of snorkeling gear (stellar conditions right off the beach), paddleboarding, kayaking, and Hobie-cat sailing. Instead of booking room only, though, take the Beach House Beginnings package for that same room, from $395 a night for the suite plus roundtrip transfers, a picnic on the beach, a chef’s tasting dinner for two, a sunset cruise, champagne, chocolate truffles… That works out to an additional $420 (for the 7-night tab, plus taxes and fees) for a $580 value.
(855) 946-5800 or beachhousetci.com
queen’s gardens resort, saba
Perched 1,200 ft. above the sea on an island most Americans have never even heard of, Queen’s Gardens Resort provides an ideal getaway for honeymooners who have visited some of the more obvious islands and now want a real escape from the mundane, albeit an escape that comes with a first-rate wine cellar. This Dutch-owned Hampshire Classic Hotel is also one of the most LGBT-friendly hotels in the Caribbean.
Queen’s Gardens Resort occupies several sprawling, white-walled, red-roofed mansions with just 12 suites that feature antiques from the East Indies, white walls, and white fabrics. The smallest suite is 500 sq. ft.; the others are 1,100 sq. ft. or more, with minibars, DVD players, iPod docks, and best of all, private jacuzzis and “Look, Ma, top of the world!” views.
The guests tend to be sophisticates who can appreciate the owners’ sense of design, the vistas, the serenity, yoga and cooking classes, and in-room massages. They also enjoy the cuisine at the breeze-cooled terrace restaurant, for chef Kevin Holland, a native of North Carolina, brilliantly combines Caribbean and French flavors and techniques to create fusion masterpieces that are all his own. Off-property there’s terrific scuba diving, snorkeling, boat rentals, sunset cruises, and hiking trails that lead to yet more breathtaking views. What about lounging on a white-sand beach? That’s not why you go to Saba, “the unspoiled queen.”
Rates in May start at $220 for a Deluxe Suite, but you want to book one of the other suites, which start at $275 and feature plenty of space and jacuzzis. Four of the Queen’s Gardens Resort’s packages are specifically for honeymooners and romantics, and the new one, Honeymoon Package Supreme ($2,595), certainly delivers as advertised. It includes a 6-night stay in one of the Royal Suites, a welcome bottle of champagne, a gift of Queen’s all-natural skin products, daily in-suite breakfast, a backpack picnic, a private sunset cruise and snorkeling excursion, a 4-course dinner in the Birds’ Nest treehouse, a massage for two, airport transfers, and all taxes. It can be customized, too; that’s another advantage of a hands-on, 12-unit hotel.
Claire Verbeke-Nuyens, who, with her husband, owns the Queen’s Gardens, says, “For now gay marriages are only permitted in Saba if you are a Dutch citizen. This is likely to change soon, and believe me, I will be the first to know, as I have been harassing the government for months!” Told you this is a hands-on hotel.
new accommodations at ladera
Located near Anse Chastanet and Jade Mountain in Soufriere, already-fabulous Ladera has upped the ante with Paradise Ridge, offering four new suites and a 1-bedroom villa. Entering into the 1,900-sq.-ft. villa set up above the Caribbean Sea, couples will be immediately transported into their own private sanctuary (complete with a direct view of the Pitons), and they don’t have to lift a finger on this Caribbean retreat, since Paradise Ridge features butler service. The laid-back island feel also extends to the decor— intricate woodwork and furniture handcrafted by onsite artisans. Call for rates. (866) 290-0978 or ladera.com
WHAT TRAVEL AGENTS ARE SAYING…
The reason DTR Travel’s subspecialty, honeymoons, might surprise some people is that DTR markets itself as a family travel agency. However, Samira Platter, an experienced agent who joined up with DTR just two years ago, gets it. “In this era of the ‘weddingmoon,’ many people choose to go to a destination with their family—not just for the wedding but for the honeymoon as well.” Maybe inviting the whole gang along would have been unthinkable in Mom and Dad’s bell-bottom days, but back then it was a pretty short agenda, and my, how times have changed.
Platter knows that many newlyweds have already been living together for a long time, so today they want a honeymoon that’s about more than just shacking up for a week (they’ve already done that, and then some). “Nowadays they want activities: scuba diving, golf, hiking, snorkeling….” And if they already have children, either from this relationship or previous ones, “then in these economic times they may choose to combine the honeymoon with their annual family vacation,” says Platter.
DTR Travel, like some other agencies, has made it easier for them to pay for all that—indeed, to end up with a more lavish honeymoon than they would otherwise have had—by creating a honeymoon registry for the couple. Platter says, “The couple registers at our agency, and friends and family members contribute to the honeymoon. They’re surprised at how easy it is to do. Payment is by credit card or check, and we let the couples know who contributed what.”
Any other new twists to the traditional honeymoon? “Well, I have several honeymoons and also weddings coming up. They’re in April, May, and the fall,” says Platter. “None of them are in June.”