Ya, mon: Caribbean deals

Deals Of The Week

June 22, 2008

The Caribbean in summer? It's a more appealing option than you might think, especially if you're looking for a bargain vacation this year. Here are a few reasons:

1. Prices are lower, with some hotels and resorts cutting as much as 60 percent off their winter rates.

2. Temperatures are typically only a few degrees higher than they are in the peak travel months of January through March. And they can be even lower than you'll find at popular beach spots back in the United States.

3. The threat of hurricanes is certainly real, but perhaps not as great as you might imagine. Only one has hit the Caribbean before July 8 in the past decade.

4. Did we mention that prices are lower?

This summer, rooms at Ritz-Carlton Golf and Spa Resort, Rose Hall, in Jamaica can be had for as little as $199 a night compared with $509 in mid-March. Starting rates at the Four Seasons Resort in Nevis drop to $335 a night from $490, and families traveling with children 18 or younger can get a second room for half the cost.

Despite the overall trend in rising airfares, prices of Caribbean packages, including airline tickets, are down 16 percent compared with peak travel, according to CheapTickets.com. That travel Web site is offering five-night getaways from Chicago starting at $769 a person to the Gran Melia Puerto Rico in San Juan in June, and $1,345 a person at Aruba's Hyatt Regency hotel in July from New York.

In some cases, practically entire islands are on sale. St. Maarten, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Cayman Islands are all offering island-wide summer promotions including a night free at a bevy of resorts and discounts for tourist activities. (Details: vacationstmaarten .com, usvitourism.vi and caymanislands.ky.)

The islands themselves are getting a lot more aggressive about trying to lure visitors during the slower summer months with festivals that show off what the island has to offer in the way of food, history, culture or music. Each summer, for example, Barbados celebrates Crop Over (barbados.org/cropover.htm), a festival that can be traced back to the late 1780s, as a way to mark the end of the sugar-cane cutting season. Today, it's a tourist draw involving calypso competitions and parades.

Grenada's Carnival begins in July and gains momentum leading up to Carnival Sunday, usually in the second week of August.

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