the buccaneer—no passport needed
This family-owned resort on St. Croix in the USVI has hosted “The Bachelor,” so grown-ups needn’t worry that there’ll be cartoon characters around every corner. But that said, this is a child-friendly place. The beach is as calm as your bathtub, and the Kids Camp features everything from pool games to treasure hunts, arts and crafts, and foosball. What’s more, it’s complimentary, which is unusual for a quality children’s facility in an a la carte resort.
Teens (and adults) love the paddleboards, kayaks, and snorkeling gear, and tetherball, basketball, and volleyball courts. Often two or three generations take free learn-to-scuba classes. The Buccaneer also introduces many teens to tennis (eight courts) and golf; its 18-hole course is challenging, but not so challenging that dad breaks his clubs. The fitness trail, nature walks, and art classes attract entire families, and it’s sweet to see grandma and junior dancing to the live music at the historic Great House.
Not only are there children’s menus at all four restaurants—even the elegant Terrace—but in addition to the usual chicken fingers, they include dishes like pan-seared mahi-mahi with rice and vegetables. FYI, that’s $12, including a beverage and dessert. The Buccaneer also offers MAP and FAP: $60 and $90 for adults, $30 and $45 for children 4-12.
The Family Cottage suites ($618 in high season) have a master bedroom, one bath, and a second bedroom with twin beds. Off season and Jan. 2-Feb. 13, the Two Bedroom Special includes a second Ocean View room at half price; e.g. two $450 rooms in January for $675. For extended families, the large villa complex costs $12,100 a week (Jan. 2-April. 21) for all six bedrooms, or $13,100 including the Hotel, Villa, and Car package.
spice island beach resort & spa—luxury all-inclusive
Like The Buccaneer, this multi-award winner on Grenada’s Grand Anse Beach is a family-owned property that attracts both romantics and families, but Spice Island is solely all-inclusive. The inclusiveness extends to agents, insofar as the resort recently raised its 10 percent commission rate to 12 percent. The other news: Spice Island is about to close for a $1.5 million makeover, not that we can see why it needed one; it will reopen before Thanksgiving.
Beyond accommodations and meals, which reflect both international and Creole cuisines, Spice Island’s rates include afternoon tea, most beverages, non-motorized watersports, tennis, bicycles, a fitness center, golf, and The Nutmeg Pod for kids. A supervised activity center for children ages 3-12, the Pod operates daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and it features both indoor and outdoor activities. Parents can view the weekly schedule of activities in advance so they can figure out when they want their kids in the program and when they want to do things together. They are welcome to come in and participate with the children, too, and to drop off and pick up their kids any time. The hotel also arranges excursions like rainforest tours and snorkeling trips; extra charges apply. The excellent spa services also cost extra.
Spice Island’s guest units, which are all suites that are ideal for families, feature color schemes with nutmeg and chocolate accents, as befits its namesake island, and whizz-bang electronics (check out the new Bose entertainment systems in the Cinnamon and Saffron suites!). The least expensive suites, Oleander Oceanview/Garden, measure 680 sq. ft. Jan. 16-April 15 they cost $1,042 per night. Children under 5 share a room and eat free; the charge for a child from 5-11 is $238. Two children under 11 years old sharing the suite incur the same charge as a third adult (e.g. grandma): $369.
windjammer landing—large families welcome
In April, Saint Lucia’s Windjammer Landing announced a new incentives program for travel agents, but just as impressive is what it has long done for its guests. Accommodations at this beachfront getaway north of the Rodney Bay hullaballoo are great for families who want to have their own space. Although there are some rooms well-suited for couples, Windjammer Landing’s many suites and villas with kitchens and private patios are especially right for multigenerational and extended families.
For those who want private family meals but don’t feel like cooking, the resort can send over a chef to prepare dinner. For those who do want to dine out, the resort’s five restaurants run the gamut from Caribbean to Mediterranean, and guests may choose between an a la carte vacation or any of three meal plans.
Windjammer Landing is big on recreational choices, too. Families can play with the nonmotorized craft at the beach, go snorkeling, take banana boat rides, hang out by the pools (there’s one for little children), swat tennis balls, and more. Alternatively, mom and dad can collapse while kids 4-12 are engaged at the Jacquot Fun Club, and teens have a game room and a schedule of activities including rock-wall climbing, movie nights, pizza parties, and (of course) watersports.
In high season, a 1-bedroom villa with kitchen costs as little as $481; a 2-bedroom is $778. The 3-bedroom villa ($948) offers a lavish 3,600 sq. ft., replete with a private plunge pool, and there are 4-bedroom villas, too, so the in-laws and cousins can come. (Note that a few of the villas have open-air living rooms that aren’t ideal for sleeping.) The optional all-inclusive plan costs an additional $185 a day for adults, $125 for teens, $80 for children; MAP is $85, $55, and $30. As for the above-mentioned Windjammer Landing Specialist program, it offers agents incentives like this one: Book seven nights, earn three nights plus VIP status, a spa treatment, and more.
iberostar rose hall suites—all-inclusive value and action
Of the three Iberostar resorts at Rose Hall in Jamaica, this is the one for families. For starters, children 4-12 can attend Lucy’s Kids Club, where activities range from painting and video games to cooling off at the water park. Yes, there’s a water park, with slides and bridges and (watch out!) sporadic downpours from an overhead bucketful of water.
This all-inclusive with 319 suites offers so many activities, sports, restaurants, lounges, and entertainment options that mom will never crack that book she packed. In addition to the main swimming pool, which is the size of Connecticut, there’s water volleyball, a lazy river, a game room, and, naturally, the beach. Watersports, tennis and even golf are included, as are Pilates and yoga classes (spa treatments cost extra), a nightclub, a casino, six restaurants, and six bars and lounges that make parents especially glad that the kids’ club is so reliable.
FYI, tipping is not discouraged at this all-inclusive. Also, remind clients to make reservations at the guest services desk for the four a la carte restaurants. Your clients may use the facilities, including restaurants and bars, at the adjacent Iberostar Rose Hall Beach Resort, but the Rose Hall Suite facilities are a notch nicer.
Depending upon the children’s ages, a jr. suite costs a family of four $3,192 to $5,236 in high season (rack rate) per week, or $456 to $748 per day. Teens 13 and up are billed as adults.
westin resort & casino, aruba—an adjoining room for aunt annie
For a luxury a la carte resort on posh Palm Beach, this 480-room high-rise sure offers a lot of flexibility and affordability with regard to its kids’ programs. Parents may enroll children ages 4-12 in the Westin Kids Club for half days without or with lunch ($25 or $35), full days that include breakfast and lunch ($60), or Thursday nights ($65). Moreover, rates drop even further when there is more than one child (e.g. the full day costs just $84 for two kids, $126 for three) or parents book more than one day (three full days cost just $90 for one child and $126 for two). The staff is professional, and the activities include a mix of sheer fun and education.
For families who play together there’s a full schedule of daily activities from Meet the Iguana sessions to Aqua Zumba classes to evening magic-and-comedy shows. The nine elegant restaurants and lounges (that’s not even counting the one in the newly renovated casino) include Azull [sic], which serves 4-course dinners at torchlit tables on the sand, and Blossoms, which offers exquisite Chinese and Japanese dishes in a Zen-influenced setting. Parents, with or without their kids, can enjoy the pool complex, watersports, fitness center, award-winning Etnika Spa, and easy access to the clean, reliable public bus into Oranjestad, where shopping is an art form. For misguided guests who want to jog while vacationing, the Westin even provides New Balance running shoes and clothes. And yes, they have your clients’ size(s).
In high season an Island/Resort View Room at the Preferred Rate costs $469. For families who want a second room for the kids or the grandparents, book the Sweet Suite promotion (Jan. 3-April 26), which includes a 1-bedroom Ocean View Suite ($549) plus a second connecting room for just $150. The Westin also throws in resort credits (e.g. five nights means a $200 resort credit); ask for plan “SUITE.”
the new oasis at sunset in montego bay, jamaica
Already available for bookings for travel from Nov. 1 onwards, the new Oasis at Sunset—formerly referred to as the Beach Inn section—adjoins the Sunset Beach Resort Spa & Waterpark Towers. It offers 124 guestrooms with king or two double beds, with private patio or balcony. The best option for families is the Club Family Room category, which offers direct access to Jamaica’s largest resort water park, the Pirate’s Paradise Waterpark. Some of the Club Family Rooms also offer bunk beds; interconnecting rooms are also available.
Amenities, aside from the beckoning ocean, of course, include private/dedicated check-in; dedicated concierge; complimentary WiFi in guestrooms and lobby; in-room refrigerator with bottled water, soft drinks and local beer; private beach; unlimited access to a-la-carte restaurants; and airport transfers (from/to Sangster Intl. Airport in Montego Bay), among others.
Starting rates are $253 per room, per night, for travel from Nov. 1 to Dec. 23, 2013. theoasisjamaica.com
Archived related articles (available on recommend.com/magazine/issue-archive):
Great Kid-Friendly Resorts (September 2012)
The Buccaneer: (800) 255-3881; thebuccaneer.com
Iberostar Rose Hall Suites: (888) 923-2722; iberostar.com and iberostaragentincentive.com
Spice Island Beach Resort & Spa: (800) 501-8603; spiceislandbeachresort.com
Westin Resort & Casino, Aruba: (877) 782-0149; westinaruba.com and starwoodhotels.com/pro
Windjammer Landing: (877) 522-0722; windjammer-landing.com and windjammerspecialist.com