Category Archives: Caribbean

All Dressed Up and Someplace to Go – It’s Carnival Time!

Oh, how they love a good party in St. Maarten.  Carnival, the annual festival that has more music, rhinestones and feathers than a Grammy Awards show, is now going on in St. Maarten.  And, it’s going on and on and on.  The island has been partying for two weeks already, and they are not done yet.  But, almost.   The festivities end today.

According to Carnival connoisseurs, St. Maarten has one of the best celebrations in the northeastern Caribbean. There are events day and night.  A festival village is the hub, but parades fan out through the downtown of Phillipsburg.  There are also beauty pageants, numerous heart-pumping concerts, lots of food and costume competitions.  The latter is serious business.

After all, Carnival is THE biggest event of the year on St. Maarten, so it is no surprise that the fashions come out for the occasion.  Front Street, the parade route, turns into a red carpet of sorts with revelers strutting the stuff of the Caribbean’s finest Carnival designers.  There’s every color of the rainbow and then some, plenty of feathers, rhinestones, fringe, beads, netting and towering headdresses three feet high and three feet wide.

Planning what to wear next year begins nearly the day after Carnival ends this year.  Creative minds get sketching, colors envisioned, fabrics ordered, and soon nimble fingers are sewing, beading and spangling for months.

And, that’s not all.   There has to be make-up to go with the outfit.  Revlon commissioned Sandra Hordatt, a top Carnival costume designed based in Trinidad, but who works throughout the Caribbean, to develop some Carnival make-up looks last year. Stunning, we think you’ll agree, but judge for yourself with these make-up pictures.

And, here’s something else we’ve learned.  On Carnival Info, a website which tells you everything you didn’t even know you didn’t know about carnivals around the world, you can order a costume custom made for you.

And, now that you know the dress code, mark your calendar for April 2014.  There’s a party going on.

Since Carnival comes at a very popular time of year for vacations, book a stay at Divi Little Bay Beach Resort well in advance.  It’s never too soon to plan accommodations or party attire!

Knock, Knock. Holland Has a King!

Today promises to be a very colorful day in certain parts of the Caribbean – all stemming from the rise of a new king in Holland. His Royal Highness The Prince of Orange ascends to the throne that day. Hear ye and welcome King Willem-Alexander.

The investiture of the new king is taking place on Queen’s Day. Confused? If you’ve ever found yourself in The Netherlands, on St. Maarten, Aruba or other Dutch provinces and states around the globe, you know that April 30th is huge holiday, called Queen’s Day. When Queen Juliana ascended to the throne in 1949, she marked her monarchy with an annual celebration on her birthday, April 30. Her daughter, Beatrix, who became queen in 1980, didn’t think January 31, her birthday, was a good day for outdoor parades and merry-making, so she kept her Queen’s Day on April 30th.

Note to travelers: Queen’s Day next year is cancelled. Lest you think an uprising is about to occur at the loss of a national holiday, no worries. Starting in 2014, King’s Day fittingly will replace Queen’s Day; but the celebration will move to April 27th, which is the new king’s birthday. The king has already concurred that April is indeed a splendid time of year for a day off and grand party. This decision continues a long line of service to the people and practicality by the Dutch monarchy. (They’re also known for abdication, too. Queen Beatrix is handing the reins to her son, as her mother did for her, believing it is time for a new generation to lead the monarchy.)

Of this you can be certain: the national holiday that celebrates the monarchy – be it king or queen – is a great day for the wearin’ of the orange. Orange is the national color of The Netherlands because the Dutch royal family is known as the House of Orange-Nassau. The dynasty traces its lineage to the marital union of the royal house of Nassau-Breda in Germany with the Chalon-Orange line from France Burgundy in 1515.

The soon to be King Willem-Alexander is the first male heir to the Dutch throne in over 100 years. He and his wife have three daughters. And, you know what that means: King’s Day will become Queen’s Day once again.
The historical signs at Fort Amsterdam in St. Maarten, which are a very special part of the grounds of Divi Little Bay Resort, already have been repainted – with a fresh coat of orange, of course – to note the change in leadership of the Dutch Kingdom. At a ceremony there on April 27, SIMARC, an organization that works to preserve the island’s heritage, was awarded an Orange Bow, a very special honor indeed since it is the last bestowed under the reign of the outgoing queen.
Orange you glad you read this?

All That Jazz

Want to be part of a global happening?  Next Tuesday, April 30 is International Jazz Day. More than 300 concerts will be taking place around the world to celebrate the musical art form.  From Australia to Zambia, Barbados to Uruguay, there will be live jazz music that you can log in to listen to!

You’ll be treated to today’s International jazz greats (Herbie Hancock, Dianne Reeves, Milton Nascimento, Hugh Masekela, to name just a few), up and comers from jazz bastions like the US, Brazil and France, and enthusiasts in Croatia, Kenya and Nepal where they are just getting a taste for jazz. Such far-flung locales promise plenty of regional riffs on the jazz theme, along with the standards.

In Barbados, that means a mix of piano and steel pan.  In a concert at Divi Southwinds, Ebe GIlkes, an iconic figure of jazz on the island, will lead his trio, along with Andre Ford, a steel pan artist, in classics as well as Caribbean jazz. Listen in at http://caribbeanwebcast.com/barbadosjazz/ at 7pm.

When you log on, you’ll be sharing the moment with people across the globe.  In Bhutan, for example, citizens have been invited to assemble near the palace to listen to the streamed concerts.  The concert at Divi Southwinds is just one of the many that will be streamed, meaning you can fill your entire day with live jazz from every time zone in the world on Tuesday, April 30.  More than 70 countries have planned events.  The concert schedule is available at http://jazzday.com/events/.  Also, more information is available at their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/intljazzday.

Started last year by Herbie Hancock, famed American jazz musician, to highlight jazz as a form of communication that transcends differences, International Jazz Day is part of the official calendar of both UNESCO and the United Nations. It’s a momentous day when music and the Internet connect us to our universal delight.

What should you pack for a vacation in Bonaire?

Swimsuit.  Yes.  Driver’s License.  Yes.  Watch.  No.

Going on vacation is a time for turning off the clock for some people. No need to be anyplace at any particular time. Let the boats and buses leave when they must.  Banish the smartphones and watches.  Ahhhh.  This is the definition of vacation.  Let’s go shore diving when and where we want – and for as long as we want.  No wonder Bonaire is paradise for divers who want to be “off the clock.”

Bonaire is the world capital of shore diving.  All a diver needs is a full tank and wheels to get where they want to go underwater exploring.  There are more than 80 marked shore dive sites along the coastline of this little island, 50 miles north of Venezuela.   Selecting the day’s destination just might be the hardest thing a dive vacationer has to do all week.

The shoreline and coastal waters of Bonaire are designated as the Bonaire National Marine Park and this protection has helped make the island one of the world’s top dive destinations.   A coral reef, encircling the entire island, supports an array of fish, considered by some scientists as the most diverse fish population in the Caribbean and among the best in the world.  Prepare to be amazed.

It’s easy to enjoy all the riches and relaxation that Bonaire has to offer.  Divi Flamingo Beach Resort has a new special called the Shore & Explore that is a deal on accommodations and wheels for a seven-night stay.  A pick-up will be waiting for you at the airport.  You will soon hold the keys to a very relaxing vacation. Go to the website for more details.  Ahhhh.  Can you feel your blood pressure going down already?

Eat. Play. Love.

The Taste of St. Croix, set for April 18th, turns thirteen this year!  What began as a modest one-night celebration of local restaurants now has grown into a week-long food festival, called the St. Croix Food & Wine Experience.  It is now the largest culinary event in the Caribbean.

And, that’s a fact that makes Katherine Pugliese mighty proud.  Pugliese, proprietor of eat@canebay restaurant, together with Kelly Odum staged the first Taste of St. Croix in 2001, at Divi Carina Bay Resort.  Now, the Thursday evening event – the highlight of the Food & Wine Experience and the social event of the island’s social calendar – draws over 1500 people and stretches nearly the length of the Divi beachfront.  Speaking about last year’s event, Pugliese said, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen St. Croix look so beautiful and so happy…”

Eat.  Play.  Beach.  Music.  A little wine.  A little rum. What’s not to love?

Did you set your clock on Sunday…for Taste of St. Croix?

Yes, you need to set your clock.  In just 5 days, tickets go on sale for the Taste of St. Croix, the annual food extravaganza that draws about 1500 people to the beachfront of the Divi Carina Bay Resort for a night of sampling, sipping and music.  The event is always a sell-out, so if there’s any hope of snaring a ticket, you will have to set your clock.  On March 23 at 3:00pm is when Taste of St. Croix tickets go on sale online at http://www.stxfoodandwine.com/buy-tickets/.

This year’s Taste of St. Croix is Thursday, April 19th.  About sixty of the island’s best chefs, bakers, chocolatiers and caterers leave their kitchens and set up stands on the Divi Carina Bay’s beachfront, offering samplings of their specialties under the stars. While guests sample and sip – wineries, breweries and rum distilleries also participate – a panel of renowned celebrity chefs from the States are hard at work determining prize-winning entries.

The Taste of St. Croix is the centerpiece to the six-day St. Croix Food & Wine Experience, which includes other food oriented activities such as Cuisine on the Green, a tasty golf outing, a tasting “crawl” through historic Christiansted, and a sunset jazz BBQ on the pier in Fredriksted.  It’s a great way to experience the local food scene and the island’s scenery itself.  For the full schedule of events, visit http://www.stcroixfoodandwine.com/.

Set your calendar and your clock.  April in St. Croix is sunny and warm.  It’s also delicious and philanthropic.  Tickets benefit the St. Croix Foundation.