A Christmas away from the madness

It looks like the festive season will be cancelled in this country. Run for the Caribbean, says Chris Carter

Christmas is cancelled. That is, at least, what the English have been led to deduce from the government’s latest ban on social gatherings of more than six people, says Greg Dickinson in The Daily Telegraph. Get caught with great auntie Mabel and uncle Bert in a group of seven and you could be slapped with a festive fine. “Merry Christmas.” But all is not lost. The Caribbean offers “the holy trinity of winter sun, no quarantine on arrival (or return), and no draconian restrictions on group sizes if you choose to travel with friends or another family”. 

Of course, restrictions can be applied at a moment’s notice and requirements vary between the islands. But if you book through a reputable tour operator, you should be eligible for a refund or to rebook at a later date depending on the policy. So, why not spend Yuletide in St Lucia? “With its lush landscapes and gorgeous coastline… [the island] is an extremely tempting proposition at any time. But the weather is best December to April – perfect for a Christmas getaway, without the need to quarantine.”

A new kind of traveller

Meanwhile, the last few months have not been much fun for your hosts, either. The constraints placed on tourism caused by the lockdown “has been a disaster beyond any hurricane for the Caribbean economy”, says Nina Burleigh in The New York Times. Airports, cruise-ship docks, restaurants and dive shops have all been closed for the pandemic. And yet every cloud has its silver lining. As tourism will start to recover, a new kind of traveller will emerge – “not necessarily richer in money, but more conscious, more of an explorer and less of a sybarite”. Either way, this could be the end of the era of cheap tourism and mega-cruises, as the premier of the island of Nevis, Mark Brantley, tells Burleigh: “Jurisdictions are going to pivot to more tourism pitched at the luxury market, with smaller numbers of people, and arguably, a better yield.”

Spoilt for choice

The Great House, Antigua ©

© The Great House

The Great House, Antigua ©

That said, travellers with deep pockets heading to the Caribbean are already spoilt for choice for sun-drenched hideaways. Take the Great House in Antigua, for example (pictured, above). A “pleasing antidote” to the island’s larger resorts, it “is centred on an exquisitely preserved 350-year-old shuttered Georgian residence within the 26-acre Mercers Creek estate in the north of the island”, says Lydia Bell in The Times. Great House is “one of surprisingly few such properties in this part of the Caribbean in which you can stay” (from £429, thegreathouseantigua.com). 

Or there is Baoase, a luxury resort on the Dutch island of Curaçao. A five-minute spin from the Unesco-protected capital, Willemstad, this “beachfront enclave” offers luxury and privacy, with butlers and in-room treatments. With its “profuse greenery and impressive landscaping”, it is a “good place to cocoon oneself” (from £436, baoase.com). 

Belle Mont Farm of Preferred Hotels & Resorts is yet another option. This “hideaway” on the fertile slopes of Mount Liamuiga on the island of St Kitts sits among 400 acres of “mostly organic farmland and tropical forest, [and] combines luxury with sustainability”. The main pool has a ceviche bar and “dreamy views of Sint Eustatius and Saba islands” (from US$899, bellemontfarm.com).

Forgotten islands

This last one tops the list of lesser-known Caribbean destinations, Curaçao-born travel blogger Riselle Celestina tells Insider’s Monica Humphries. Saba is “one of those islands that’s quickly overlooked because it doesn’t have beaches, but its underwater world is famous”. St Kitts’ smaller, less well-known sister is also worth a look. “I don’t think people realise how much you can do on Nevis,” she says. With its centuries-old sugar mills and welcoming locals, “it’s a quiet little place that’s really beautiful”. 

Dominica is another island that may not immediately spring to mind. Known as the “island of nature”, it is filled with rainforests and waterfalls, perfect for diving, hiking and relaxing in hot springs. Finally, there is Île Tintamarre, visible from the island of Saint Martin. It is the ideal destination for a day trip, says Celestina. Visitors won’t find any hotels or restaurants so pack a picnic. Day-trippers will be welcomed by wind, sand, “and a serene environment”.

For information on which islands are open, entry requirements and quarantining, head to gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice

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