You Need to Try These 8 Foods of the Caribbean

The Caribbean is such a beautiful place that sometimes the local cuisine gets overlooked.

Caribbean food is distinctive, in part because of the abundance of natural resources in the area: fresh fruit, seafood, and spices grow well in the climate and are easy to find. The Caribbean is also home to of many cultures - from Indigenous peoples to people of Spanish, Dutch, English, and African backgrounds. These cultures and the natural riches of the region have combined to make for some amazing food.

Here are the best 8 foods you have to try if you're visiting the Caribbean.

Seafood Dishes

You’re on an island the middle of a sea at an all-inclusive resort. It's time to eat some seafood. Grouper, whitefish, and fresh shellfish are all in abundance in the Caribbean. You should be taking advantage of the local markets as well. Some of the best fish and seafood can be purchased there, often only hours after it was caught.

As a bonus, at local seafood restaurants and markets, you can often meet the fishermen or fishmongers to learn more about their products, making your experience with fresh seafood in the Caribbean even more memorable.

Torta Cubanos, or Cuban Sandwiches

This may be the perfect sandwich.

Soft bread with extra-crisp crust is piled high with roast pork, ham, tangy dill pickles, and good, vinegary mustard, as well as jack or mozzarella cheese. Then you put that sandwich in a hot press and melt the cheese together with everything else, wrap it in parchment paper, and serve.

This is a great walking lunch too if you’re on a sightseeing tour and want some local food - it’s portable, but very filling. Cuban sandwiches are popular throughout the region, as are the ingredients. You’re likely to find roast pork, ham, mustard, and dill pickles in a lot of Caribbean food.

Guyanese Pepperpot

Pepperpot is similar to beef stew, or jambalaya.

This Caribbean food is a very thick stew usually made with beef, okra, squash, potatoes, eggplant, and cornmeal dumplings. Pepperpot can be spicy and filling, but it’s rarely made the same way twice. It's the perfect dish to use up vegetables or anything that’s in season, so every time you eat it you’ll probably get a new experience.

Conch

Conch is sort of like a very large sea snail - you’ve probably seen their beautiful shells before on a beach, but not near an oven.

Conch is cooked in a variety of ways in the Caribbean, from fritters to salads, soups, and stews. Fried conch fritters are a staple in many areas, and are great very fresh, which is hard to replicate outside of the region.

Jerk-Style Cooking

Jerk is a spicy, sweet, and tangy rub - either dry or wet - that is put on grilled meat, commonly as Jamaican-style jerk chicken.

Jerk sauce, with the distinctive flavors of ginger, allspice, Scotch Bonnet peppers, and lime, is also a popular addition to many foods. Jerk huts and jerk sauces are easy to find throughout the region, and everyone makes theirs a little differently, so you can eat jerk often and never get exactly the same experience.

Plantains

Plantains are growing in popularity outside the Caribbean - in particular, plantain chips are quickly becoming a great alternative for those who choose a gluten-free lifestyle.

But in the Caribbean, this food is prepared in innumerable ways. As they’re both sweet and savory, they are sometimes served with chicken and rice, another Caribbean food staple, to balance out the rich flavors. They can also be cooked with rum, sugar, cinnamon, and syrup for a delicious dessert.

Roti

Roti is definitely a dish of many cultures. Roti is similar to naan, but is thinner and chewier, almost similar to a tortilla.

It’s grilled and filled with curry, chicken, lamb, beef, potato, or pretty much anything that can be curried. Like the Cuban sandwich, roti is a great portable food, and is familiar while still conveying the unique flavors of the Caribbean.

Bonus: Roti is easy to recreate at home, so when you get back and can’t stop thinking about it, you can make your own without much trouble.

Rice

No, rice isn’t unique to Caribbean food. But it’s a vessel for all kinds of foods - rice and peas, chicken and rice, a side dish to roti, served under pepperpot. With the rich spices and unique flavors of the Caribbean, it’s never boring.

All those carbs are going to come in handy while you’re traveling around the region as well, as many areas are walkable or perfect for the thrill-seeking outdoor adventurer.

Try These and More

The Caribbean is not one large, indistinct area. Each region has its own unique culture and ever-evolving cuisine. But it is a place marked by an abundance of wonderful food, no matter what part you visit. The rich history of the region has created food that is unique and delicious. Just take your most comfortable shoes, your stretchiest pants, and your appetite with you when you go.

 

Originally published as Travel insights from Sandals Resorts "You Need to Try These 8 Foods of the Caribbean"

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Antigua Land of Sea and Sun

The Caribbean was hit hard by hurricanes this year, but nearly 80% of the islands are still gorgeous destinations open for tourism business. Luckily, the picturesque island of Antigua is one of them.

Read anything about the island, and you’re bound to learn that Antigua has exactly 365 beaches – one for each day of the year. You’ll also read about the island’s endless days of sun and stunningly gorgeous azure water. And while these things are true, they don’t capture the heart of this friendly little island, a former English colony where cricket games are an afternoon tradition and colorful roadside restaurants beckon with cornmeal and okra dumplings and cold bottles of Wadadli, the local lager.

Barely a hundred square miles, Antigua is particularly accessible, and exploring by car is a fun and rewarding experience – just stay alert for the bearded goats who sometimes wander into the road! Here are our personal recommendations for exploring the island:

1. Take the Dip in Half Moon Bay
No trip to Antigua is complete without a visit to Half Moon Bay. This family friendly beach is a national park that attracts visitors and locals alike for its stunning pink sand beach and quality snorkeling. Local vendors often sell food here, such as salt fish sandwiches topped with the local hot sauce, making it the perfect spot for a snack and swim.

2. Explore English Harbour
One of the most popular spots in Antigua, beautifully restored English Harbour has enough attractions to last an entire day. From pristine beaches and panoramic trails to restaurants, art galleries and historical monuments (this is where you’ll find Nelson’s Dockyards, the world’s only surviving Georgian dockyard), English Harbour is a must see.

3. Watch a Cricket Game
Cricket is serious business in Antigua, a passion considered more of a religion than a sport. From schoolyards to beaches, games are never hard to find, but for a truly fantastic experience, head to the impressive Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Stadium, built for the 2017 Cricket Cup, where you can join the cheering crowds for an afternoon of fun.

4. Hike Mount Obama

After Barack Obama won the presidential election in 2009, Antigua’s prime minister renamed the island’s highest peak after the U.S. president. Mount Obama, as it is now known, is an easy stroll along a lush jungle trail and offers spectacular views of the neighboring islands of Monserrat and Guadeloupe.

5. Dance the Night Away
Rum punch and live music fuel Antigua’s famous dance parties, where tourists and locals alike shake and shimmy to the rhythms of the West Indies. From rustic beach bars like Beach Limerz to the ever-popular Shirley Heights Lookout sited high above English Harbour, there is no better way to experience Antigua’s hospitability than on the dance floor.

6. Sail into the Sunset
Antigua has long been a favorite destination among the international sailing set. Join them by chartering your own classic wooden sailboat for the day or watching the sunset from the deck of a catamaran. Whichever way you chose, this is the quintessential Caribbean experience you’ll never forget.

Jamaica and Marijuana-Themed Travel

Last month, Jamaican tourism minister Edmund Bartlett spoke at the opening of the Caribbean Cannabis Conference at the Montego Bay Convention Centre. He noted that the government is considering the corridor from Negril in Westmoreland Parish to Black River in St. Elizabeth Parish in southwestern Jamaica as a possible site for the construction of a health and wellness center. One aspect of the center will be therapies and treatments that utilize cannabis products.

During his adhealth and wellness traveldress, Bartlett noted the success of marijuana-themed travel in Colorado and Amsterdam.

“We can do a level of product diversification that would enable us to be attractive to all demographics … and what we have seen is that cannabis-infused experiences have added much to health and wellness,” he said.

Jamaica may be salivating at reports coming from the U.S. about the growth of marijuana-themed travel. According to report by New Frontier and ArcView Market Research, the size of the market for legal marijuana in the U.S. is projected to grow to $7.1 billion in 2016, representing 26 percent growth over the previous year, driven largely by adult recreational sales of marijuana.

Since Jamaica’s major market comes from the U.S. (with 1.3 million visitors in 2015), it’s only natural that the island sees the potential for marijuana-themed travel based on who’s coming their way.

Marijuana — by all its various names, including cannabis, pot, ganja, herb and weed —  has long been part of the Jamaican mystique. While marijuana was illegal in Jamaica up until 2014, it was easy for tourists to find sellers eager to accommodate their needs with small amounts of the product during a vacation.

Currently, one of the most prevalent places for marijuana use during a visit to Jamaica is at Nine Mile, the site of Bob Marley’s birthplace and his mausoleum. For many travelers, smoking a joint at Nine Mile is considered an appropriate way to honor the memory of the legendary reggae musician. There are also marijuana farm tours affiliated with Nine Mile, such as those offered by Hot Box Bud & Breakfast. Tour operator Caribbean Vacations has marijuana tours at a variety of locations around the island, including Orange Hill in Westmoreland Parish.

Jon Baker, considered a trendsetter in Jamaica because of the way he has enlivened the Port Antonio scene with his company, has some insider opinions. Baker is the co-founder of Geejam Collection, which consists of Geejam Hotel & Recording Studio and a group of luxury villas in Port Antonio. Over the years, Geejam has been drawing global influencers in music, fashion and art to its villas — including one of the ambassadors of herb, rapper Snoop Dogg (or Snoop Lion as he’s sometimes called) — in deference to Baker’s embrace of Jamaican culture.

“I think, more than ever, Jamaica is ready to take advantage of marijuana tourism,” Baker said. “Our country has had one of the longest histories in herb, starting all the way back from the days of the Maroons [runaway slaves who created their own communities] to being one of the largest illegal suppliers to the U.S. It is embedded into the culture, from the religion of the Rastafari all the way to the tourists that have been coming for years to enjoy our local music, culture and vibe.”

“I think Port Antonio is actually more suitable for the luxury chic vs. the rustic chic aspect of marijuana-themed travel outlined for the St. Elizabeth corridor,” he added. “I can definitely imagine marijuana becoming part of the Geejam experience.”

A 2015 study from the Pew Research Center shows that attitudes in the U.S. about marijuana are undergoing a shift. A 53 percent majority of Americans say that marijuana use should be made legal. This figure is even higher when millennials are polled, with 68 percent of them supporting its legalization.

“Jamaica, unlike Colorado, has the vibe and the culture built in,” Baker said. “Whereas in Colorado there are really no legal places to consume and enjoy your medicine, Jamaica can really capitalize on this.”

Agents should advise their pot-loving clients to still tread lightly when traveling to and from Jamaica. While it’s true that marijuana use in Jamaica is emerging from the shadows, it’s still not 100 percent legal, and in no way should travelers consider traveling back to the U.S. with some leftover ganja in their bags.

Originally Published on 16-OCT-2016

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Why not have a cruise ship wedding?

Spring has arrived and the weather warming up, so clients are beginning to look for different options and destinations to tie the knot. Cruise ship weddings provide an ideal opportunity for couples hoping to celebrate that special day either on the ocean or at an exotic port of call.

More than 2,600 couples each year exchange their vows on Carnival Cruise Line ships, and this year the line has completely revamped its wedding program, with upgraded amenities and new choices for flower arrangements, decorations and photography, as well as new culinary selections and a greater variety of on-island ceremonies. Some of the destinations include Grand Turk and Freeport, complementing Barbados, Grand Cayman, St. Thomas and the private Bahamian island of Half Moon Cay. The “Just You & Me” package provides a ceremony for up to eight people starting at $1,355 and includes a bouquet and boutonniere, tiered wedding cake with keepsake wedding topper, photography service, champagne toast with keepsake flutes and an officiant (couples are also welcome to bring their own clergy).

There are also packages which can cater to larger groups, such as the “Time to Celebrate…Big!” program, which can cater to up to 20 guests and starts at $1,975. All of the amenities of the Just You & Me package are included, along with a one-and-a-half-hour reception, open bar, a selection of hot & cold hors d’ oeuvres and a custom-designed ice carving.

Holland America Line is also offering a variety of wedding services this season, as well as packages for anniversaries and vow renewals. Wedding cruise itineraries include a personalized ceremony with wedding coordinator services, flowers, cake, champagne, a photo album and a keepsake wedding certificate. Photography, music, receptions and pampering appointments can also be added to customize wedding cruise packages.

The programs are available on multiple ships in Holland America Line’s fleet and start at $999 for a simple ceremony for two for North America and Caribbean sailings, or $2,999 for European sailings.

Princess Cruises creates three different wedding itineraries for couples with varying styles. The first package is ideal for couples looking to tie the knot at sea, with a ceremony set in either the chapel or library, depending on the ship. The legal ceremony is performed by the captain, and the package includes a one dozen rose bouquet, boutonniere, 9-inch single layer wedding cake, a bottle of sparkling wine, two Princess logo champagne flutes and a keepsake wedding certificate.

There is also a program designed to cater to couples who may have non-sailing guests, with similar offerings as the sailing package. The ceremony is performed by a local officiant at the specific port of call. For guests looking to take the celebration ashore, there is also an itinerary that includes a beach, garden or glacier ceremony (depending on the port of call), bridal bouquet, boutonniere, specialty cake for two, a bottle of sparkling wine and a keepsake wedding certificate.

Tip: After the initial celebration is over, Princess Cruises also offers a new Honeymoon Wishes Registry, providing a way for friends and family to give newlyweds the gift of personal contributions to cruise fare, beverages, spa treatments, added shore excursions, and photographs.

Royal Caribbean has three different wedding packages for couples to select from, based on their personal preferences. The line’s “Royal Proposals Package” includes a personal event planner, day-of-event coordinator, and sets up a private location of the guests’ choosing. A photography service is optional.

Clients looking for a bit more of a lavish celebration can opt for the “Ultimate Love Story Wedding Package“, complete with priority check-in with pier-to-ship escort for the couple and all guests, a private wedding venue, officiant, photographer, three-tier wedding cake and musical accompaniment. The couple will also enjoy a bottle of Moet & Chandon Champagne, chocolate covered strawberries and a decorated honeymoon room, among other amenities.

For guests looking to say their vows in a more private setting, the “Just Us” package is ideal. There’s nothing extravagant or over the top with this program, which includes a simple private venue, non-denominational wedding officiant, keepsake wedding certificate, photography service, a bottle of Moet & Chandon and a mimosa breakfast-in-bed for any morning of the couple’s choosing.

Good to know: These packages charge an additional fee for photography service.

Norwegian Cruise Line offers up a variety of wedding packages for that special day. Wedding celebrations can be created on multiple ships sailing through for the Bahamas, Caribbean, Bermuda, Hawaii, Alaska, or Europe.

Ceremonies can be celebrated with just the couple, or with friends and family, and the line’s wedding planners can also design for vow renewals and set up a honeymoon registry. Wedding photography packages, flower bouquets and boutonnieres, wedding cake choices and enhancements and décor can all be customized to the couple’s preferences. In addition, Norwegian Cruise Line also offers special group cruise discounts for guests booking eight or more staterooms for the ceremony.

Originally posted at: Travel Agent Central written by By Michelle Krol | March 23, 2016

For more information about any of these packages, contact Tiffany at 216-236-8450 or visit violetclovertravelgroup.com/contact.html

Where Same-Sex Couples Can Get Married Legally in the Caribbean

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Photo Credit: Freeimages.com/pat

Tourists don’t usually associate the Caribbean with same-sex marriage, but you might be surprised to learn that there are five islands in the region where same-sex marriage is legal and a handful of other islands where symbolic same-sex marriages are a common practice.

Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands recently became the two latest Caribbean destinations where same-sex couples can legally wed.

In late June, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled for marriage equality and that same-gender couples have the constitutional right to marry in all 50 states and all U.S. territories. Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are covered by the U.S. Supreme Court ruling. Civil marriage equality at the territory level is now legal.

These two destinations join Saba, Bonaire and St. Eustatius as the other Caribbean destinations where same-sex marriage is legal. Ironically, Bonaire and St. Eustatius are not as LGBT welcoming as other islands that do not allow same-sex marriage such as St. Maarten/St. Martin and Curacao.

In fact, most consider Curacao the LGBT capital of the Caribbean, yet legalized same-sex marriage doesn’t exist there.

The Netherlands Antilles, an autonomous Caribbean country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, was dissolved on October 10, 2010. After dissolution, the “BES islands” of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba became special municipalities of the Netherlands proper, while Curacao and St. Maarten became constituent countries within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, along the lines of Aruba, which separated from the Netherlands roughly 30 years ago.

Because the BES islands became special municipalities, citizens of those islands are entitled to the same rights as those living in the Netherlands.

“The Caribbean has over 30 islands with their own distinct background,” says Andre Rojer, marketing manager for the Curacao Tourist Board. “Then you have the Dutch islands and they won’t bat a brow on the issue. Amsterdam is the first country in the world to legalize gay marriages and they are the first country to bring this open mentality to the U.S.”

Although you cannot legally get married on Curacao, the island does offer symbolic wedding ceremonies and vow renewals for same-sex couples. The island even has its own wedding planner that has been assisting symbolic wedding and vow renewal ceremonies for same-sex couples in the last few months, Rojer says.

And other destinations are coming around as well. St. Maarten also offers symbolic ceremonies as well as the French side of St. Martin, which just started to offer symbolic wedding ceremonies for same-sex couples this year, Kate Richardson, director of tourism for St. Martin, told Travel Agent during the recent State of the Industry Conference in Curacao. Symbolic same-sex wedding ceremonies are also common on Aruba.

Also, keep an eye on Antigua and Barbados as both islands are making some great progress in adapting to the LGBT culture. Both islands are slowly popping up on LGBT clients’ radars as they are both beginning to offer wedding ceremonies but they still cannot get legally married.

Author: Joe Pike

Call 216-236-8450 to begin planning your destination wedding or visit www.violetclovertravelgroup.com