The Caribbean might be famous for its carnivals but there are a whole host of other festivals to entice clients to the islands. Andrew Doherty rounds up some of the highlights from music events to celebrations of wellness, sport and culture.
From music and food festivals to week-long celebrations based around pirates, it’s fair to say that the people of the Caribbean know how to throw a good party. We profile a selection of top events that will bring your clients closer to the region’s authentic and diverse culture.
Visitors to the Cayman Islands should be prepared to shiver their timbers and walk the plank at the Cayman Islands Pirates Week. The swashbuckling festival is celebrating its 40th anniversary and will take place between November 9-13, 2017, with a host of nautical-themed activities on offer including fireworks, costume competitions and street parties.
Donald McDougall, regional manager Europe at the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism, says the festival is perfect for families.
“Pirates Week is the national festival of the Cayman Islands and the only one of its kind in the Caribbean region. Because this year is the 40th anniversary celebration, visitors can expect even more antics. For instance, the week kicks off with the pirates sailing ashore to try to 'capture' the islands’ governor. The entire island gets involved in this family-friendly festival, so it’s a truly spectacular occasion.”
Book it: Caribtours offers a week’s stay at the Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort on a room-only basis from £2,095pp with flights included. Price is based on a November 7, 2017 departure.
For three action-packed evenings a selection of the world’s finest musical acts will descend on Basseterre’s Warner Park stadium. This year marks the festival’s 21st anniversary and guests will be treated to performances from mega artists such as Jamaican reggae musician Jah Cure and American rock band the Goo Goo Dolls.
Taking place between June 22-24 this year, the celebrations also offer visitors the chance to sample authentic Caribbean food sold by the on-site vendors, and the opportunity to attend one of the many street parties around the festival grounds.
Malcolm Davies, product destination manager at Funway Holidays, highly recommends the event for its authenticity.
“It’s a cultural and musical extravaganza with an amazing atmosphere. And with the events performed in the evening, clients have the whole day to explore the island. Here’s an insider’s tip – experience this event just like the locals do by enjoying some of the Caribbean street food on offer in the festival grounds. It’s a fantastic opportunity to taste the local cuisine,” he says.
Book it: Funway Holidays offers a seven-night stay at the Ocean Terrace Inn (less than 10 minutes’ drive from Warner Park stadium) from £1,689pp. The package is based on a June 21 departure and includes flights.
It’s all about pedal power with Barbados’s latest sporting offering.
The inaugural Festival of Cycling, held this year from September 4-9, aims to bring cyclists of all abilities together to explore the island’s various parishes.
The main event, which takes place on the final day, is comprised of two round-island courses. For the more proficient cyclist there’s the gold course, starting in Bridgetown, which offers a 70-mile ride along the island’s coastal route, while the silver course is a less-strenuous 40-mile cycle.
Cheryl Carter, UK director of the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc., shares the inspiration behind the festival. “When Barbados decided to theme 2017 as its Year of Sports we wanted to ensure that all disciplines enjoyed by our locals were reflected in the annual events calendar.
"We are proud to show off the island’s superb cycling routes. Exploring the island on two wheels allows visitors to go further and see more. Those competing in the gold course will cycle around the perimeter of the island and will experience breathtaking panoramic views of the dramatic coast of Cattlewash, the lush greenery of the parish of St John, as well as often-missed small towns and villages.”
Book it: Travel 2 offers seven nights at the Colony Club by Elegant Hotels with flights from £1,389pp. Package is valid for travel between August 23 and October 20, 2017.
Although the Caribbean may already seem like paradise, Aruba is taking the concept of relaxation and wellbeing to the next level. Over the course of June, hotels and spas across the island will offer a variety of wellness packages designed to help clients feel refreshed and rejuvenated.
Aruba is a noted producer of the aloe plant species and is home to one of the world’s oldest aloe-based health companies. Hotels also invite guests to participate in wellness-focused activities, such as fitness classes and yoga.
Sanju Luidens, chief marketing officer for the Aruba Tourism Authority, says the island’s regenerative qualities should appeal to a broad range of clients.
“Aruba’s signature aloe, our number one export, celebrated its 125th anniversary in 2016 and is an integral component of this refreshing programme. It combines all elements of the island, showcasing its health and wellness attributes, and is supported by our hotel partners, spas and restaurants alike.”
Book it: Funway Holidays offers seven nights at the Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino from £1,389pp with flights included.
Taking place between July 16-22, 2017, in Montego Bay’s Catherine Hall Festival Grounds, Jamaica’s premier music festival is set to be bigger and better than ever. From its genesis in 1993, Reggae Sumfest has attracted music fans from all
over the world.
This year marks the festival’s 25th anniversary and will see the genre’s highest-rated stars take to the stage over the main weekend celebrations. This year’s acts include Sean Paul and the critically acclaimed Sizzla.
Elizabeth Fox, regional director UK at the Jamaica Tourist Board, explains why the festival is dubbed the “greatest reggae show on Earth”.
She says: “As Jamaica is the birthplace of reggae there is no better place to experience this genuine dancehall affair with its beach parties and performances by popular Jamaican acts, including Grammy-winning Beenie Man (pictured below), along with Sean Paul, the Marley’s and more.
“Due to the growing trend of music festival holidays we’re seeing a lot of interest in visitors wanting to build holidays around music experiences and have partners who are creating tailored packages around this one-of-a-kind show.”
Book it: G Adventures is offering the 13-day Jamaica Encompassed & Reggae Sumfest itinerary from £1,303pp with admission to the festival and transfers included. Package is based on a July 20, 2017 departure.
If clients want to experience a taste of true Caribbean culture then this festival should be right up their street. Culturama is a 12-day celebration of the island’s national identity and the emancipation of slaves in the 1830s. Held between July 27 and August 8, 2017, Nevis will experience a jamboree of musical events, poetry readings, street parties and pageants.
Greg Phillip, chief executive of the Nevis Tourism Authority, urges UK visitors to come and take part in the celebrations.
“Culturama may be carnival-like but it is not a carnival. It is a true celebration of Nevis’s rich culture and heritage through music, folklore and food. It’s one sure way for visitors to get a full cultural experience on Nevis.”
Book it: Hayes & Jarvis is offering three nights at the Ocean Terrace Inn on St Kitts and seven nights at the Mount Nevis Hotel, from £2,399pp with flights included.
The inhabitants of Grenada are known for their love of the sea, passing down maritime skills such as boat making, fishing and sailing throughout generations. To celebrate this heritage, Grenada and the Grenadines will once again welcome the Carriacou Regatta.
The four-day sailing race, held over the first weekend of August, will see amateur sailors from around the world compete for victory in a variety of ocean-faring craft. Clients can sign up to race at puregrenada.com or stay on dry land and enjoy the famous donkey race, greasy pole or a host of other sporting events.
Sharon Bernstein, director UK & Ireland at the Grenada Tourism Authority, explains that the regatta offers clients a chance to get away from the crowds.
“Carriacou Regatta is a rare opportunity to experience the quintessential Caribbean at its best, far from big crowds. This tiny island, the proud home of a thriving wooden boatbuilding tradition, comes alive with working boats, sailing and racing boats, and yachts. Clients can share the thrill of the races from the shore or from their own charter yacht as the skilled sailors test themselves against the clock.”
Book it: Western & Oriental offers seven nights room-only in a Superior Studio at Blue Horizons Garden Resort in Grenada from £1,999pp based on two adults sharing from August 2, 2017 including flights and private transfers.
This annual celebration is certainly one to recommend to clients with foodie tendencies. Blue food is best described as a potato-like root vegetable called dasheen, which turns blue when cooked. The day-long event, held in Tobago’s Bloody Bay Grounds on October 15 this year, will see clients tuck into the starchy treat in its many forms; from dasheen ice-cream to champagne cocktails and cake.
Stephen Smith, UK representative for Trinidad and Tobago, explains what makes the festival special.
He says: “This festival is truly unique to Tobago and it will appeal to those who are real foodies and want to discover how dasheen is used in a variety of delicious ways. It showcases a special and unique aspect of the island’s cuisine and culture, so it’s a great way to show customers that the Caribbean is so much more than the beach.”
Book it: Hayes & Jarvis offers a week-long B&B stay at the Magdalena Grand Beach Resort with flights and transfers from £1,099pp. Travel based on an October 12, 2017 departure.