A Caribbean Education

Sure, some clients choose the Caribbean because they just want to relax on the beach. But what about the others looking for an authentic and interactive experience? Tell them to get schooled – literally.

The Caribbean is the ultimate destination for “R&R,” letting travelers soak up sea breezes and the sun’s rays in idyllic settings. But if that’s all you’re doing on the islands, well, we think you’re missing out. There’s so much more to the Caribbean than its shorelines, and so many ways to explore and interact with its people, its nature and its culture. And for clients who want to return home with more than a tan, that’s a very good thing.

spice it up With the variety of tasty local cuisine throughout the island of Antigua, it’s no surprise some clients are inspired to try a few recipes out for themselves. That’s where Nicole Arthurton of Nicole’s Table comes in. Arthurton invites both visitors and locals alike into her home to teach them the art of cooking with Caribbean flair.

“I like to say it’s a little bit of ‘meet the locals,’” she describes. “[Clients] come into our house, and they can see the herb garden and where we’re working on the vegetables. People can just hang out and learn to cook, and socialize at the same time.”

Just about every aspect of the Nicole’s Table experience has a melting pot feel to it. Students can be mostly visitors, mostly locals, or a lively mix of both, depending on the time of year, Arthurton says. Ingredients either come from the chef’s own garden or are imported from foreign lands. And though Caribbean dishes are popular, Arthurton branches out into international cuisine, too. In fact, she says, one of the most popular classes focuses on Thai cuisine. “Thai is easy because we have a lot of the stuff here—limes, coconuts, local sugar,” Arthurton says.

But of course, with her location looking down to Dickenson Bay and Runaway Bay, featuring great Caribbean sunsets, clients tend to prefer focusing on local cuisine. “Cooking with rum is one of my most requested classes,” she says.

There’s no experience necessary to get involved in one of Arthurton’s classes. In fact, she says, “I had a friend of mine come and he does not cook whatsoever. He was kind of standoffish at first, but toward the end he was chopping and very engaged.” And it’s just as easy for agents to get involved, too. A former travel agent herself, Arthurton offers a base commission of 10 percent. A typical class costs $90.

Though clients staying at any Antigua property can book one of Arthurton’s classes, she suggests a stay at nearby Carlisle Bay. A member of The Leading Small Hotels of the World, Carlisle Bay is set on an idyllic cove with accommodations that open up to the sea breezes—the perfect way to get in touch with the island’s nature as well as its cuisine. Rates start at $555 per room per night dbl.

painting the town Of course, cuisine isn’t the only inspiring part of the Caribbean. The scenic beauty of its sandy shores and blue horizons has inspired artists from Gauguin to Guy Harvey. So why not your clients, too?

That’s the thinking behind Caneel Bay’s artists in residence program. Taking advantage of the lively arts community on St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands, the resort offers lessons in watercolor and pastels with established visual artists.

“Usually they are led through how to do a landscape, or if they just want to do water or other things we can lead them through that, too,” explains Livy Hitchcock, one of two of Caneel Bay’s current artists in residence, specializing in pastels. “And at the end, they go away with a painting.”

And not just any painting, she emphasizes. Working with an experienced expert in the medium of watercolor or pastels makes a difference—especially with all the personalized attention clients receive with an average class size of two people. “People are intimidated a little bit at first, but ultimately it’s a fun thing to do that people wouldn’t normally do on vacation,” Hitchcock says. “I have never in five years had somebody who didn’t love doing it, and love their painting when they were done. They all produce something wonderful and had a wonderful time doing it.”