I mentioned the catastrophic effects of September’s collection of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes on large areas of the Caribbean in FIVE CRUISING GROUNDS (AND YACHTS) TO WARM UP YOUR WINTER. The Caribbean stretches across more than one million square miles and, although many of the areas affected remain off-limits, many were left unscathed or suffered minor damage. Here we cover just a few of the many resorts, restaurants and marinas that are open for business as usual, or will be in time for the winter season.
Only a handful of the Leeward Islands were really battered by Hurricane Irma, including Anguilla, Bequia, St Maarten and St Barths. Antigua, St Kitts and Nevis were largely spared due to their location on the margins of the hurricane zone, and both Falmouth and English Harbour on Antigua and Christophe Harbour on St Kitts have confirmed that their marinas are already welcoming yachts for the season, while the harder hit St Maarten and St Barth’s marinas are as a result slightly behind the Antiguans, but also working hard to ensure that they will be ready in plenty of time for their famed New Year festivities.
A long stone’s throw (well two miles…) from the coast of Antigua, Jumby Bay really is the ultimate desert island idyll. Part of the uber-glamorous Oetker Collection (which includes some of the world’s most iconic hotels including the Hotel du Cap Eden Roc and Eden Rock St Barths), Jumby Bay is renowned for being an upscale yet authentic Caribbean escape, and I can personally guarantee that the resort will be welcoming an extremely glamorous crowd over the festive season. Only twenty minutes from Antigua’s international airport, the island is a great place to acclimatise to the relaxed pace of Caribbean life for a day or two before stepping aboard your yacht in nearby Falmouth Harbour for a cruise through the Leeward island chain. My hot tip would be to pre-book the Jumby Signature Island Experience treatment for the day you arrive. The treatment has been specifically designed for those arriving from a long flight and involves a cranial massage to balance the body and relieve jet lag, along with a coconut shea butter full-body massage and a warm facial. Bliss…
If you’re flying from Europe then you’ll probably wake up early so take advantage of the four miles of trails running through the resorts 300 acres and get that circulation moving in your legs with a hike or bike ride. There are also ample water sports and the warm, clear waters are ideal if you are a novice but avid snorkeller like me. Back on dry land, the resort has a number of dining options, from fine dining to private dinners on the beach. Head to The Estate House for gourmet Mediterranean cuisine in the Spanish colonial plantation house or try the open-air Verandah Restaurant for local Caribbean flavours – personally I much prefer the latter for a relaxed evening out, while The Estate House is ideal for a more formal, or perhaps celebratory dinner or special occasion. I’ve also heard that the resort has recently introduced vintage rum-tasting sessions to its repertoire of activities. Dive in – it’s what the Caribbean is all about after all, entire days spent tipsy...
One of the most popular and well-known islands on the cruising map, St Barths was fairly well pummelled by Hurricane Irma but owing to plans made after the last big hurricane (when in the rebuild a lot of utilities were buried underground), and being a wealthy island with money to throw at any problem, St B is quickly bouncing back. Nicknamed St Barth 2.0, the airport and port are already back in operation and yachts heading to Gustavia for New Year will still be welcomed by many of the favoured restaurants and bars. Already open are Au Regal, L’Ardoise, Bistro Josephine, and Le Select, while Black Ginger, L’Isola, Mayas, Le Tamarin and Orega plan to open in November. The island’s flagship hotel, the Eden Rock St Barths, plans to welcome guests to its private villas in December and to its hotel in the summer of 2018. Le Guanahani also plans to reopen in the summer, while Hote Le Toiny has a longer road ahead with plans to reopen at the end of 2018. For those looking to stay ashore, Le Sereno is taking reservations. I haven’t been myself but have heard great things and understand they have three new villas overlooking Grand Cul-de-Sac Bay.
Anguilla has confirmed that the island and majority of resorts will remain in major recovery mode for the foreseeable future, with properties including Four Seasons Anguilla, Malliouhana, and CuisinArt all planning to open in early to mid 2018.
Many yachts that were previously planning to cruising the Virgin Islands to the north or the Leewards have chosen instead to venture south to the Windward island chain. Located entirely outside the hurricane belt, Grenada, St Lucia and the Grenadines were safe from the hurricanes of September, though they did suffer minor damage from the tropical storms that the hurricanes left in their wake. The countdown to Christmas has begun on the private island of Mustique and the island team has been busy putting together a host of celebrations and activities. The nearest international airport to Mustique is in Barbados, but there are hopper flights taking you over, although the airport closes at sunset because there are no lights on the airstrip! Whether you arrive by yacht (surely the best way) and step ashore to experience the three-mile long island, or fly in, there is plenty to do on the island, though in reality the best thing to do is to do nothing – all day (locally known as limin). The focal point of the island is Britannia Bay. Here you will find chic boutiques akin to those found on the most iconic shopping streets in the world. There is also a spa, located in Endeavour Bay, with an ESPA treatment menu. For those looking to stay ashore The Cotton House, the sole hotel on the island, opened for the season earlier this month with upgrades and refurbishments. There are also 110 privately owned villas, 75 of which were available to rent the last time I checked. Whether you decide to stay ashore or on board, make sure you visit the island on a Wednesday for Jump Up and Barbecue night with live music at Basil’s Bar – when I visited local fishermen were sharing the tiny dance floor with A-list celebs.
Meanwhile, the Marigot Bay Resort & Marina by Capella and Viceroy Sugar Beach in St Lucia are both open for business. The latter is truly one of my favourite resorts in the world, not just for its stunning location nestled as it is between the twin volcanic peaks of the Pitons that dominate the southwest of the island, but the décor, the cuisine, the beach, the pool – everything combined makes it, in my opinion, the best resort on the island, and one of the best in the Caribbean. Anchor in the bay and step ashore to dine at the Great Room Restaurant or spend a few nights ashore to experience the resort in full before embarking on a cruise through the Grenadines island chain.
One of the hardest hit of the Caribbean territories, the US and British Virgin Islands have a long road to recovery ahead. Various efforts are underway to help the islands’ get back on their feet. Virgin Gorda, home to the popular marina and resort Yacht Club Costa Smeralda, was one of the hardest hit and dates for reopening have not yet been announced but I will keep an eye and report on any news from this popular yachting establishment, and on other areas of these stunning cruising grounds.
The best way to help the Caribbean islands is to visit and spend your hard earned pounds, euros and dollars, so that they can put it all back in to their recovery efforts.