Whats new in the Caribbean?

There is always something new going on in the Caribbean. Here is an update of some of the latest adventures, accommodations, dining and travel services  available for your Caribbean vacation.

Trinidad visitors can now strap themselves to a high wire in a harness and helmet and soar through the trees of Macqueripe Bay beach in Chaguaramas as part of what’s being touted as one of the longer, higher and faster zipline rides. ZIP-TT Adventure Tours, along with a St. Lucian zipline company and Trinidad and Tobago investors, is making the activity available as part of a new, $30 million, 1,300 foot boardwalk extension project in Chaguaramas. The company has strung 2,000 feet of cable through the forest to accommodate the approximate one hour ride.

Cost is $120 per person and includes seven zip line rides as high as 100 feet along with five net bridge-canopy walks. Start times are Saturday and Sunday, 9 am to 4 pm and Tuesday to Friday, 10 am to 4 pm. For more information: (868) 634-4227; (868) 634-4312; (868) 634- 2424 or (868) 634 4349. Or, visit http://www.ichaguaramas.com.

Antilles Helicopter Services

antillies-helicopter-servicesAntilles Helicopter Services offers the opportunity to buzz the British Virgin Islands in a helicopter as part of three scenic tour offerings. The company’s Bell Jet Ranger departs TB Lettsome International Airport, Beef Island for $90 per person “Cloud 9” tours above Sir Francis Drake Channel; Road Town, Tortola; the rainforest at Sage Mountain National Park and Cane Garden Bay; and for $180 per person “Treasure Chest” flights above uninhabited islands, the celebrated Norman Island from Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island” and Sir Richard Branson’s Necker Island. Angel’s Window champagne tours feature Gorda Sound, Jost van Dyke, St John; natural sites such as the Baths, Fallen Jerusalem and Sage Mountain and pirate hangouts such as Money Bay and Pirates Bight. Departures from specific resorts and marinas also are available. For more information: (284) 441-7335, (284) 499-0545, fly@ahs-vi.com or fly@ahs-sxm.com. Or, visit http://www.antilleshelicopterservices.com.

Dominican Republic MINI Convertible Tours

Visitors to the Dominican Republic can now go topless as part of guided “MINI Convertible” tours. The eight-hour excursions provided by MINItours take place from 9 am to 4 pm, in MINI Coopers. Cost of $159 per adult includes hotel pick up, visits to Altos de Chavon and La Flor Dominicana Cigar Factory and lunch at Boca Yuma. For more information about this and other tours: 1-800-472-9546 or www.graylinedr.com.

Jean-Michel Cousteau Environmental Program

Travelers can feed green iguanas on St. Thomas and capture images of the silent underwater world off Dorado Beach, Puerto Rico now that a Jean-Michel Cousteau environmental program is available on these islands. The award-winning Ambassadors of the Environment program, already popular at the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, has been added to the Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas and the Dorado Beach Club, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve in Puerto Rico. Trained naturalists as part of it guide participants on eco-adventures and excursions tailored to the uniqueness of each locale, providing opportunities to learn the biological character and cultural heritage of each destination while gaining a greater understanding and appreciation for nature. Activities include hiking, kayaking, snorkeling and underwater photography. For more information: 1-800-241-3333 or www.ritzcarlton.com.

Private Jamaican Villas

sundown-villa-jamaicaSundown Villa is the latest addition to a compound of private homes available for rent in the historic fishing village of Discovery Bay, Jamaica. Guests of the four-bedroom, two-story cottage are provided private chef services, a private oceanfront swimming pool, private beach and unlimited watersports access. The property, owned by Sandals Resorts International chairman Gordon “Butch” Stewart, features king-size beds, fitness center, and personal kitchenettes on each floor. Jamaican bobsled aventures through a rainforest and deepwater fishing charters, along with the Sandals Golf & Country Club, are nearby. The Sundown Villa compound, which also includes a five-bedroom primary residence, accommodates as many as 12 people. Nightly rates begin at $1,360; weekly rates start at $9,500. For information: 1-877-845-5275 (North America) or (305) 284-1300 (worldwide). Or, visit www.yourjamaicanvillas.com.

Discovery Dining Program at Sandals & Beaches Resorts

Guests of Sandals Resorts and Beaches Resorts can embark upon culinary journeys as part of their vacations. As part of a new Discovery Dining program at the company’s Luxury Included Caribbean resorts, chefs have been internationally trained, menus altered and restaurants, service standards and menus designed to enhance the authenticity and experience of global cuisine at the company’s 18 restaurant concepts, including Japanese, Italian, Caribbean, Classic French, English and more. Anytime dining options have expanded to include ’round the clock eateries and, for all butler-level guests, 24-hour room service. For information: 1-866-726-3257 or www.sandals.com.

Ritz-Carlton Rose Hall Renovations

US-based Playa Hotels and Resorts, the new owners of the Ritz-Carlton Rose Hall resort in Montego Bay, Jamaica, has begun renovations of the property. Playa purchased the 427-room, 5,000 acre oceanfront resort for a reported $70 million-plus. Playa Hotels and Resorts is expected to add 100 new rooms and three new restaurants as part of the refurbishments. Playa specializes in acquiring and developing all-inclusive resorts. The company owns 17 all-inclusive resorts in Mexico and the Dominican Republic, which it operates under the Barcelo Hotels & Resorts flag. The company also owns AMResort brands, such as Dreams and Secrets. The Ritz-Carlton Rose Hall, a AAA Five Diamond Resort, features a full-service spa, 18-hole championship golf course, five dining facilities, more than 25,000 square feet of meeting and reception space and a variety of watersports and recreational offerings. The resort, the first to be managed under the Playa brand, is expected to reopen in time for the winter tourist season.

New Eco-energetic “boutique” Estate St. Barths

A new eco-energetic “boutique” estate has opened on St. Barths. The oceanview seven-bedroom Villa Cumulus features four bungalows, a studio loft, spa, swimming pool, fitness center and tropical gardens, including a children’s garden. Villa Cumulus overlooks Lorient Bay and is within walking distance to Lorient beach. The property’s living room and library are equipped with modern technology, including iPod, DVD and CD players, flat screen television, photocopier, scanner, WiFi and more. Its Italian gourmet kitchen features espresso machine, juicer, dishwasher and more, and oceanview dining is available inside and out. Maid service is provided Monday through Saturday, except holidays. Additional services, such as private chef, baby sitting, yoga, swimming and surfing instruction, fitness trainer and masseuse, are available upon request. Rates range from $9,900 per week for two bedrooms during the low season to $77,900 for the entire estate during a two-week Christmas minimum. For information: www.st-barths.com/villa-cumulus

A new six-bedroom, 6.5 bathroom rental villa has opened in the gated St. Barths hillside of Domaine du Levant in Petit Cul de sac. Villa Good News combines contemporary architecture with antique furnishings and an expansive ocean view. A heated swimming pool and stone stairs leading to a natural pool are on site, as are terraces and gardens. The property, equipped with flat screen televisions, WiFi, DVD players, iPod docks and more, features living-dining room, television room, fitness room andfully equipped gourmet kitchen. It’s within walking distance to the Domaine du Levant beach and private tennis courts. Rates range from $28,000 weekly during the low season to $124,000 during a two-week Christmas minimum. For information: http://www.st-barths.com/villa-good-news.

Express Passenger Ferry – Port of Miami to Bimini

miami-bimini-express-ferryA new passenger ferry for service between the Port of Miami and Bimini has been christened. Superfast Ferries’ 669-foot (204-meter) Bimini Superfast accommodates as many as 1,600 passengers and has berths for 934 overnight passengers. The 32,728 gross ton vessel features casino, swimming pool, a la carte restaurant, fast food options, indoor and outdoor bars and two-story discotheque. The ship, registered in Panama, was built in 2001 in Germany, and is owned by Genting (USA) Ltd., a subsidiary of Genting Malaysia. It’s able to travel at speeds of up to 28 knots, completing the 48 nautical-mile distance between the two coasts in about 2.5 hours. Genting, the parent company of Star Cruises in Asia, owns 44 percent of Norwegian Cruise Line as well as Resorts World Bimini Bay, a new casino at Bimini Bay Resort & Marina. Day trips are scheduled to depart Miami at 9 am, daily and Bimini at 7 pm. Party cruises are scheduled from 9 pm to 5 am. Overnight packages are expected to be available. Cost is $49 per person. Passengers must have current passports or government-issued IDs with birth certificates. For information: 1-888-930-8688 or RWBimini.com.

In February, the Balearia Bahamas Express launched fast ferry service between Miami and Bimini aboard the 358-passenger “Maverick,” a catamaran-like vessel that departs the Port of Miami’s Terminal J at 9 a.m., Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, arrives in Bimini at noon and then departs Bimini at 5 p.m., and arrives in Miami at 8 p.m. The vessel features a bar, cafeteria and retail shop. Passengers must arrive two hours ahead of departure. Roundtrip fares ranging from $145 for same day travel to $226 for overnight, first-class travel include two bags per person. For information: info@ferryexpress.com or www.ferryexpress.com.

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About Author: Michelle Sheldone

Michelle Sheldone is an award-winning writer and the author of "Historic Walking Guides: Florida Keys." She launched her career at Family Circle magazine, where she worked as an entertainment editor. She has since contributed to newspapers, magazines and travel guides and handled marketing for government, education, travel, hospitality, fashion and conservation interests.