Category Archives: Caribbean

Taste of the Islands: MUSSELS & CLAMS MARINARA

We asked Executive Chef Iwan Hokahin of pureocean at Divi Little Bay Beach Resort on St. Maarten to share one of his restaurant’s most popular recipes with us. He immediately pointed us to this method of preparing Mussels and Clams Marinara. “Our guests love this dish, and it’s one of my favorites too,” Chef Iwan says. “The Italian-inspired flavors, combined with our fresh seafood, are a real crowd-pleaser, especially when you’re sitting right on the beach.” Grazie, Chef Iwan!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MUSSELS & CLAMS MARINARA

2 lbs. clams (scrubbed clean)
2 lbs. mussels (scrubbed clean) Angelhair pasta
1 quart prepared marinara sauce Garlic (as much as you want) 1/4 cup parsley
1/2 cup clam juice
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste

Sautee garlic in olive oil in a large pot, until lightly browned. Add clam juice. When the mixture comes to a boil, add marinara sauce. Add clams and mussels, then cover pot and cook until the shells open (about 5-10 minutes).

Once all the shells have opened, and you’ve discarded any shells that stayed closed, pour the mixture over cooked pasta (or just dip garlic bread straight into the mixture). Add parsley, salt and pepper to taste, and serve.

Tip from Chef Iwan: If a shell doesn’t open, don’t eat it! Throw it away! It’s very common to find a few unopened shells after cooking, but these are not safe to eat.

Island Adventurer: St. Maarten

Gourmands often call St. Maarten ”the culinary capital of the Caribbean.“ French and Dutch influences merge with Caribbean flavor to create a cuisine unlike any other. Chefs and foodies flock to the small island to taste the amazing variety to be had within its 34 square miles.

We sent Kara Phelps, the communications specialist for Divi Resorts, to Divi Little Bay Beach Resort to report back on St. Maarten’s unique food culture. Here’s what she found:

Hi there! St. Maarten is world-famous for its consistently high level of cuisine. Visiting the island without eating your way around it would be a grave mistake, if you ask me. If you have just a few hours to burn—or if you’re looking to add some excitement to a leisurely vacation—I recommend taking a culinary tour with Flavors of St. Martin Food Tours. They’re one of the best ways to experience the full range of what St. Maarten has to offer, since their signature 4.5-hour tour takes you through the French side as well as the Dutch side of the island.

We began our journey at the Amsterdam Cheese & Liquor Store in Philipsburg, a short taxi ride away from Divi Little Bay on the other side of Great Bay. The owners of the shop, two brothers from the Netherlands, treated our small group of five to a tasting of some of their finest cheeses. We sampled Gouda at various ages and paired it with a range of jellies and jams.

Then we piled into an air-conditioned bus with
our tour guide, Ankie, an outgoing local with an encyclopedic knowledge of the island and its food. She narrated our entire experience with warmth and a wry sense of humor.

In Philipsburg, we stopped at Antoine Restaurant— notable for being a French restaurant on the Dutch side of the island—and sampled classic French fare like escargots and vichyssoise. Then we walked a short distance to Ma Doudou Rum Shop and tasted St. Maarten’s famous guavaberry liqueur, an island staple. It’s the perfect addition to a sweet cocktail.

Soon it was time to get back in the bus and head
to the French side of the island. Ankie kept us entertained until we reached Grand Case, a beautiful town on the north shore. (One of the typical stops on the tour, the creperie Paradise View, was closed for the day.) We stopped near the famous “lolos” of Grand Case, a section of small beachfront shacks serving out-of-this-world food. We tasted island barbecue from a lolo called Sky’s the Limit, eating at picnic tables with the smell of smoked meat wafting through the air. For someone like myself with a great love for barbecue, it was a complete delight.

Another highlight of the tour was the Carousel Gelateria near Simpson Bay, back on the Dutch side of the island and finishing off the tour. The gelateria offers dozens of flavors of gelato from plain to exotic—including guavaberry. It also has, yes, a fully operational carousel. The owner of the gelateria, Diego from Italy, switched it on and we sat astride the colorful circus horses as we finished our gelato.

Team Member Spotlight: Patricia Fiske

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An event manager at a busy resort has plenty to keep on her plate. When many of those events are weddings, the job gets even more complicated. We recently chatted with Patricia Fiske, Catering Sales Manager and Wedding Coordinator for Divi Carina Bay All-Inclusive Beach Resort on St. Croix, to learn more about what she does and what makes it all so rewarding.

How long have you been working for Divi?

I started with Divi back in 1999, when we first opened, as a bartender, a job I really loved. Meeting our guests on a daily basis was a great experience. I left the island after the events of 9/11 because, as you can imagine, we had virtually no tourists here for a long time. I moved back in 2006 after my first grandchild was born – nothing could have kept me away! The position of Catering Sales Manager was open, and seemed like a great fit for me, I’m highly organized and love working with people and that is definitely a requirement for this job!

What’s the most challenging part of your job?

Weddings are the most challenging aspect of what I do, because they have to be perfect – no room at all for error! We do a lot of destination weddings, but I have to say we’re also among the favorite locations to get married for the local brides and grooms of St. Croix and the USVI. Building trust is so important for destination brides trying to plan their dream wedding when they’re so far away, so keeping the lines of communication going is crucial. For our St. Croix and USVI locals, they know our beach is picture-perfect, and we can accommodate large and small groups.

We’re also popular for business groups, special honeymoons and anniversaries.  People simply love the convenience and price point of an all-inclusive resort, plus our banqueting facilities are the largest on the island.

Is planning a local wedding much different than planning a destination wedding?

The local weddings require much less input from me. The local couples usually have their own friends and family to fill the roles that I typically fill with a destination couple. They often have their own photographer and their family minister, and they may choose to bring their own flowers, cake, DJ and so on. For those couples, who know the island well, the resort’s East End location offers a spectacular beach setting for the ceremony and convenient banquet rooms for the reception. Local wedding couples appreciate the air-conditioning in the banquet rooms, and don’t care that much for an outdoor reception, whereas Stateside couples enjoy a tented poolside location or receptions on the beach.

What does Divi Carina Bay offer for weddings that no one else on the island can deliver?

We offer a truly affordable wedding package that starts at $530. Couples can customize with several add-ons, but the most popular addition, one hour of professional photographer, brings the total to just $1,056. When you consider the high cost of airfare, our price point makes Divi Carina Bay a very desirable destination wedding option for couples on a budget. Of course, St. Croix is part of the U.S. Virgin Islands, so American family members don’t need passports to attend. When you consider that we’re also the only all-inclusive resort on the island, and one price really means all the food and beverage and entertainment is taken care of for their guests during their stay, it really makes sense that we’re such a popular destination wedding venue.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

When we put on a perfect event – especially a wedding – it’s really satisfying. I also became a minister of the Universal Life Church about five years ago, and performing wedding ceremonies is very moving for me. I become so attached to my brides that I miss our emails when the wedding is over. Vow renewals are also really special – I did one recently for a couple celebrating their 50th anniversary, and their son organized the whole thing as a surprise. Mom cried like a baby!

Team Member Spotlight: RoseAnne Cengiz-Jenghis

If you’ve ever traveled to a Divi Resort as part of a large group, or for a wedding, you can thank RoseAnne Cengiz-Jenghis, In-House Sales Manager for Divi Resorts in our North Carolina office. She’s responsible for booking group travel and weddings, and doing everything she can from North Carolina to make sure these trips go smoothly. A round of applause for RoseAnne! We sat down with her to learn more about her background, and what makes her job so rewarding.

How long have you been working for Divi?

My desire to travel brought me to Divi Resorts 15 years ago. I began my career with Divi as a reservations agent, where I found my passion for the Caribbean through many wonderful conversations with Divi owners and guests. After discovering my love for scuba diving on a personal family vacation to Divi Flamingo Beach Resort in Bonaire, I sought out a position as the group coordinator. That gave me an opportunity to focus on helping large groups create and enjoy their own incredible diving vacations with Divi Resorts.  In 2010, I broadened my scope of business when I accepted my current position as an In-House Sales Manager. I’ve been to all of the Divi Resorts, except for Divi Carina Bay All-Inclusive Beach Resort on St. Croix. Divi Flamingo on Bonaire is my favorite. I really just fell in love with the coziness of the resort and the friendly locals. And you can’t forget the amazing diving.

What is a typical day like for you on the job?

A large part of my day is dedicated to overseeing the travel details for groups I have confirmed. I am passionate about making sure every group has everything they need to have a great time—plus a little extra! I love working with people and making personal connections with groups. I’m also busy all day answering phone calls and emails from new groups interested in confirming travel with Divi. If you’re thinking about booking group travel with Divi, you and I will most likely have a chat—or two or three!

What do you enjoy most about your work?

It’s hard to say! I really enjoy helping scuba diving groups plan their next adventure-seeking vacation. I also love the opportunity to assist excited couples with planning their dream wedding group vacation experience—for example, I was fortunate enough to work with the same friendly family on two wedding groups to Divi Aruba Phoenix Beach Resort. This family fell in love with the island and often plans smaller groups. Another repeat group to Divi Aruba Phoenix also stands out—the Delaney Group, who are mainly a group of retired police officers. I’ve enjoyed working with them ever since they first started coming to the resort in 2011. They return every year, and plan to attend the 2018 Aruba Soul Beach Music Festival.

Hearing our guests’ delight as they talk about their completed group travel vacation experiences with Divi Resorts is very rewarding. I truly enjoy making sure all goes well, and that all guests are completely satisfied and looking forward to their next visit to Divi.

If you’re interested in talking to RoseAnne about planning group travel for weddings, “buddymoons” (honeymoons where friends travel with newlyweds), business conferences, meetings and more, just call 1-800-801-5550 or email groupsales@diviresorts.com. You can also learn more information about group travel at www.diviresorts.com/groups-and-meetings.htm, and find details about our wedding planning services at www.diviresorts.com/weddings.htm.

Island Adventurer

When you’re dreaming of a past vacation, the easiest way to relive it is to bring out a few mementos. Souvenirs can help you recall the good times and the great stories from your trip. The best souvenirs communicate something about the spirit and the personality of the place you visited. We gathered a few suggestions of great souvenirs you can bring home from the Caribbean. Each of these islands is home to at least one of the Divi Resorts—we hope you have an opportunity to check them all out!

Aruba Aloe (arubaaloe.com) is the oldest aloe company in the world. Founded in 1890, it’s also the only aloe company in the world that grows, harvests and manufactures its products right on-site. Its products are sold pretty much everywhere in Aruba. You can also visit the Aruba Aloe Museum & Factory Store.

 

Cadushy Distillery (www.cadushy.com), located in Rincon, is the only distillery on the island of Bonaire. It’s most well-known for Cadushy of Bonaire, a cactus liqueur with a cooling lime taste, the earliest entry in the distillery’s Island Liqueurs line. Sign up for a tasting and learn first-hand how the spirits are produced. Don’t forget to bring home a few bottles of your favorite flavors.

 

Earthworks Pottery (earthworks-pottery.com) is worth the short trip to the Edgehill Heights section of the St. Thomas parish. Everything at this workshop is authentically Caribbean, handcrafted by local artists. It offers a range of plates, bowls and vases, available as unique pieces or as part of beautiful sets. Earthworks is also happy to ship fragile items back home if you’re worried about their survival in your suitcase.

 

Although the wild-growing guavaberry can be found elsewhere in the Caribbean, locals speculate St. Maarten is the only place it truly thrives. It’s a central part of local folklore and traditional cuisine. The juice of these berries (no relation at all to guava) is mixed with rum and sugar and then aged to create guavaberry liqueur. Sample the sweet, light concoction and bring home a few beautiful bottles from Ma Doudou (www.rhummadoudou.com), a small shop just off Front Street in Philipsburg.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When you visit St. Croix, you’ll notice many local women wearing a unique type of bracelet. The St. Croix Hook or the Crucian Hook (www.gotostcroix.com/st-croix-blog/show-love-crucian-bracelet/) is a band-style bracelet with a horseshoe-shaped clasp. This clasp (or “hook”) represents true love on St. Croix. These bracelets come in a wide variety of styles, and you can find them in most local jewelry shops.

Divi Resorts Ditches Straws to Reduce Pollution & Promote Eco-friendly Efforts

In an effort to reduce its carbon footprint, Divi Resorts is getting rid of plastic straws at all of its Caribbean resorts on Aruba, Barbados, Bonaire, St. Maarten & St. Croix, as part of its “Divi Green” initiative.

According to National Geographic, Americans use 500 million straws daily and 8 million tons of plastic trash flows into our world’s oceans every year. While plastic drinking straws are not the top contributor, these tiny tubes are unnecessary and have become a huge problem for the beautiful Caribbean islands and the creatures that call them home. Their size makes them one of the most insidious polluters because they entangle marine animals and are consumed by fish. Divi Resorts hopes to curb this pollution by removing straws from all of its resorts, effective immediately.

“Our goal is to take an active role in protecting and maintaining the beauty of our tropical islands and the creatures that call them home,” said Marco Galaverna, Divi Resorts President & COO. “We’ve always been focused on green initiatives, through our Divi Cares program, and searching for ways to improve our sustainability, so this is just another way we can do our part to help the environment.”

Divi Resorts has been embracing the green movement on its Caribbean islands for years, with initiatives such as water conservation, energy management and waste management programs created to save valuable resources, reducing energy usage and efficiently recycle waste. In addition, Divi Resorts staff participate in workshops and seminars conducted by environmental committees, local government organizations and non-governmental environmental organizations to increase awareness and spread the word about sustainable living. These programs have earned Divi Resorts many awards and recognitions including the Barbados Environmental and Sustainable Tourism Award.

“We’re proud to say we’re putting our best foot forward when it comes to ‘going green’ on our resorts,” said Galaverna.

Travelers looking to stay at Divi Resorts can find information on great Caribbean vacation deals at www.diviresorts.com and also enter to win a free Caribbean Summer Vacation (contest ends April 11, 2018).