Tag Archives: Bahamas

St Lucia beach with Pitons mountains in the background

These Caribbean Islands Are Reopening to Travelers in June

The U.S. Virgin Islands, Antigua and Barbuda, and St. Lucia will reopen to U.S. travelers during the first few days of June, followed later this summer by Aruba and possibly the Bahamas. While large swaths of the world struggled with coronavirus outbreaks, many Caribbean islands were able to limit their number of COVID-19 cases and quickly contain community spread. Now, a few are preparing to get their tourism businesses back on track, with plenty of additional safety measures, of course.

Below are the opening plans, but keep in mind that the CDC still advises against all non-essential travel, and the U.S. State Department maintains a global level 4 “do not travel” alert. Also, flights to these islands are highly subject to change, warns Brett Snyder of Cranky Concierge.

Antigua and Barbuda

Open to travelers June 1


As of May 1, the islands of Antigua and Barbuda had seen only 25 cases between them and three deaths.

Travel requirements:

V.C. Bird International Airport on Antigua will reopen for international and regional flights on June 1. (The first flight scheduled flight from the U.S. so far is American Airline’s Miami–Antigua on June 4.)

When visitors land at the airport, they must show proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within the previous 48 hours, complete a health declaration, and undergo temperature checks. They must also have their own masks to wear in all public areas during their stay. Anyone arriving without a certified negative test result must either quarantine at their hotel for 14 days or pay to have an approved test administered locally. Read the government’s full travel advisory.

Hotels and activities:

All accommodations (hotels, resorts, rentals, villas) and transportation operators must meet cleaning and safety protocols and be certified by the islands’ health authorities in order to resume service. For example, hotel employees have to live on-property in order to limit their possible exposure to the virus, and taxi drivers will be given time to wash their hands at hotels between passengers. Government updates are posted here.


American: from Miami (June 4)
JetBlue: from JFK (July 1)
Delta: from Atlanta (July 4)
United: from Newark (July 11)

U.S. Virgin Islands

Open to travelers June 1


As of May 28, the US Virgin Islands had 69 cases of COVID-19 and six deaths. About two dozen more tests were in progress on that date.

Travel requirements:

Visitors to any of the U.S. Virgin Islands (St. Croix, St. John, and St. Thomas) will undergo temperature screenings and may be asked to take a COVID-19 test. No quarantine is mandated, but they are asked to monitor their health for 14 days.

Hotels and activities:

The USVI government is keeping a list of open hotels, and all accommodations (including rentals) are required to follow sanitization procedures.

Restaurants and bars will be open with seating restrictions (so call ahead), beaches are open with social distancing rules, and taxis will be available but operating at 50 percent seating capacity. A document outlining info for leisure travelers is being kept up-to-date on the USVI governor’s website.


American: from Charlotte (starts June 4) and Miami (ongoing) to St. Thomas; from Miami to St. Croix (ongoing)
Delta: from Atlanta to St. Thomas (ongoing)
United: from Houston to St. Thomas (ongoing)

St. Lucia

Opens on June 4 to U.S. travelers arriving by air only


St. Lucia suffered only 18 cases of COVID-19, and all of them recovered. As a result, it’s ready to get back to tourism on June 4. The opening applies to air travel only (seaports remain closed) and to U.S. travelers only.

Travel requirements:

Travelers must show proof of a negative coronavirus test taken with 48 hours of boarding their flight. On arrival at the St. Lucia airport, there will be temperature screenings and luggage sanitization.

Hotels and activities:

About 1,500 hotel rooms are expected to be available, and each property must earn a COVID-19 certificate from the government before it can open. The process requires that they meet safety criteria in areas such as sanitization and social-distancing protocols. Guests can expect temperature screenings at meal times, limited-contact check-in/check-out, on-site nurse stations, physical distancing, limited services and activities, and they’ll only be able to use taxis booked by the hotel. Restaurants on the island will be open for take-out and delivery only, and your hotel can offer information on what activities are available. Once they’re on the island, visitors must wear masks in public, even in public areas of their accommodations. For a full explanation of all of St. Lucia’s rules and preparations, read the government’s helpful FAQ.


American: from Miami (June 4)
JetBlue: from JFK (June 11)
Delta: from Atlanta (July 2)
United: from Newark (July 11)


Tentative reopening expected between June 15 and July 1


As of May 29, Aruba has reported 101 cases, three deaths.

What we know:

Aruba’s government recently announced an intention to open sometime between June 15 and July 1. Once that date is finalized, they’ll provide more specifics about entry requirements, health-screening plans, and on-island safety protocols.

In the meantime, the Aruba Tourism Authority and the Department of Public Health have unveiled the Aruba Health & Happiness Code, a cleanliness-and-safety certification for tourism-related businesses and accommodations.


Since the island’s official opening date is not yet set, this flight information is all tentative.

American: from Charlotte and Miami (July 7)
JetBlue: from Boston, Ft. Lauderdale, and JFK (July 1)
Delta: from Atlanta (July 5)
United: from Newark (July 6); from Chicago/O’Hare, Washington-Dulles and Houston-Intercontinental (July 11)


Possible opening July 1, according to Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis

Flights to Nassau:

JetBlue: from Ft Lauderdale (June 11); from JFK and Orlando (July 1)
Delta: from Atlanta (July 1)
Southwest: from Baltimore (July 1)
American: from Charlotte and Miami (July 7)
United: from Newark and Houston (July 6); from Chicago and Denver (July 11)


Be a safer, smarter traveler: Sign up for Wendy’s weekly newsletter to stay in the know. And read real travelers’ reviews of Wendy’s WOW List and use it to plan your next trip.

Grace Bay, Turks and Caicos

What Not to Do in the Caribbean

Making the most of your Caribbean vacation means knowing where to find the hidden gems. It also means knowing what to skip and why. So we asked the Caribbean travel specialists on Wendy’s WOW List to share their tips for avoiding mistakes—what’s overrated, overpriced, or just not a smart move—in the Caribbean.

Hitting the beach? Don’t choose the wrong islands.

If beach bliss is your No. 1 goal, steer clear of Dominica, Saba, and Montserrat. They have plenty of charms, but are not known for their beaches.

Instead: While you can find inviting stretches of sand just about anywhere, the islands most famous for their beaches are what some call the coral islands: the Turks and Caicos, the Bahamas (Eleuthera, Harbour Island, and the Exumas are among the favorites), and Anguilla. These are all basically flat and scrubby with the quintessential powdery white sand and crystal-clear water that the Caribbean is famed for.

Read our Insider’s Guide to the Finding the Perfect Caribbean Island Resort, and reach out to Wendy to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

Planning to scuba dive? Don’t get stuck with the cruise crowds.

Cozumel and Grand Cayman can get overrun with passengers from the giant cruise ships that call there. The only way to avoid the cruise crowds is to dive at off-peak times or to go with a dive operator who knows the secret spots.

Instead: In Cozumel, Palancar Reef is about an hour’s boat ride from town, each way. If you stay at the Iberostar Cozumel you will be able to sleep in, then have a cup of coffee while others are “commuting,” saving you two hours per two tank! — Meg Austin, Wendy’s Trusted Travel Expert for Scuba Diving in the Caribbean

Read our Insider’s Guide to Scuba Diving in the Caribbean and the Bahamas, and reach out to Wendy to find the right travel planner for your next trip.

Renting on St. Barts? Don’t book a cook.

St. Barts has some of the best rental villas in the Caribbean, as well as some of the best restaurants. So don’t spend your money on a private chef the way you might if you’re renting on, say, Jamaica or Barbados.

Instead: Splurge on an in-villa massage. A number of villas have rooms or nooks designated specifically for spa treatments. In the late afternoon, getting a rubdown in a shady poolside cabana is the ultimate indulgence. —Peg Walsh, Wendy’s Trusted Travel Expert for St. Barts Villas

Read Peg’s Insider’s Guide to St. Barts Villa Vacations, and reach out to her through our site to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

Shopping in Bermuda? Don’t waste time in Hamilton’s generic shops.

Shopping in Hamilton, once a highlight, is no more. Although the storefronts nicely reflect the architecture of Bermuda, their merchandise decidedly does not; most is what you’ll find in the United States.

Instead: One exception is the Island Shop, with its colorfully hand-painted housewares. Owner Barbara Finsness has even brought back the “Bermuda bag”—a small purse with wooden handles that’s a relic of the past.

Read our Insider’s Guide to Bermuda, and reach out to Wendy to find the right travel planner for your next trip.

Looking to experience the best of the Riviera Maya? Skip the famous Xel-Ha.

Xel-Ha bills itself as a “natural aquarium” for ecotourists to swim and snorkel in, but it has nothing to do with the appreciation of nature. All of the coral in the lagoon is dead, and there are virtually no fish; it’s basically now a giant swimming pool stuffed with tourists and surrounded by tacky gift shops, restaurants, and bars.

Instead: Take the ferry to Cozumel on a day when no cruise ships are in port (have your concierge call the “Capitania de Puerto” to check: 52-987-872-2409). The boat trip—about $15 for adults, $10 for kids—gives you incredible views of the coast, the Caribbean, and the reefs around Cozumel. Once ashore, head to Pescadería San Carlos for some tasty ceviche. —Zach Rabinor, Wendy’s Trusted Travel Expert for Mexico

Read Zach’s Insider’s Guide to the Riviera Maya, and reach out to him through our site to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

Planning to do activities on a Sunday? Don’t be surprised when things are closed.

Many Caribbean islands are deeply rooted in the Christian faith, which means Sunday sees closures of attractions, shops, and even restaurants.

Instead: Pack your own pool float (because while some resorts might have a couple of floats for the pool, most don’t supply them for the ocean) and hit the beach. Depending on the island, consider venturing from your resort to a public beach to hang with the locals: On St. Barts, for instance, the public beaches (especially Gouverneur and Saline Beach) are postcard-perfect.

Read our Insider’s Guide to the Best and Worst of the Caribbean, and reach out to Wendy to be marked as a VIP and get the best possible trip.

Don’t forget to take your passport—and check it

Check the expiration date on your passport—it gets risky when you get to the six-month mark. Most countries now require you to have a passport that will be valid for at least three to six months from the time you travel or they won’t admit you—not a nice surprise at the check-in counter!

What are some of your own Caribbean travel don’ts? Leave your suggestions in the comments below.

Be a smarter traveler: Use Wendy’s WOW List to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

Norwegian Breakaway

Cruise Hacks: 14 Tips for Acing Your Family Cruise

Many of us prefer small ships, but sometimes a large one is your best option. Maybe it’s what your children need (only large ships have water slides and mini-golf), or it’s what your group can afford, or it’s the itinerary that best suits your schedule. Last month my family ended up on the biggest ship we’ve ever sailed on, Norwegian Cruise Line’s 4,000-passenger Norwegian Breakaway, because it’s one of the few ships that sails from New York to somewhere warm in the dead of winter. While a large ship can be a smart vacation option for busy kids and their exhausted parents, it can also feel crowded and chaotic, especially when chilly weather keeps everyone indoors for half the cruise. Since it was my husband’s and my tenth cruise with our kids, now 11 and 12 years old, I thought I’d share our hard-earned tips for maximizing the advantages, and minimizing the drawbacks, of a giant ship.

1. Choose a cabin suited to your children’s ages.
The larger the ship, the more confusing the cabin choices. A family of four can feel very cramped in one stateroom, but it can be hard to find connecting cabins or an alternative configuration that works. One thing to be wary of is cabins with upper berths. When we’ve had such rooms, we’ve been so concerned that the boys would roll out of their beds in the middle of the night that Tim slept in the first upper berth, the second went empty, and the kids slept with me below. When the boys were younger than eight, we were comfortable in a “mini-suite” where they could share a double sofa bed. Since then we’ve needed two connecting cabins. My strong recommendation is to book your cruise through a highly knowledgeable cruise specialist such as Tom Baker of Cruise Center: Tom knows the pros and cons of all the cabins on all the ships and has the clout with the cruise lines to get you the one you want.

En route out of NY Harbor. In 19-degree weather. Can anyone guess what ship we’re on?

A photo posted by Wendy Perrin (@wendyperrin) on

2. Insist on a balcony. A balcony gives you breathing room, fresh air, great views, lots of sunlight, and private outdoor space. When the boys were small, we opted against one because they could have climbed over the railing. By the time they were four and six, we felt we could risk it, and today it’s non-negotiable. (A balcony isn’t nearly as necessary on a small ship…but that’s a different article.)

3. Pinpoint the most convenient cabin location.
A great location for families is on an upper deck near the aft: It’s a quick walk to the places you need to get to most often—the pool deck, the sports deck, the kids’ club, the buffet—and you can avoid elevator waits and crowds.

4. Bring Post-It Notes, a European plug adapter, and highlighters. Post-It Notes are handy for your cabin door: When your kids are old enough to check themselves in and out of the kids’ club (which means they’re old enough to wander the ship on their own), they can leave you messages as to their whereabouts. If your family needs to charge an array of electronic devices daily (and whose family doesn’t?), bring a European plug adapter because your cabin might have only one or two U.S. outlets; don’t let European outlets go to waste. As for highlighters, the daily shipboard program delivered to each cabin door lists so many activities and events that each child will want a highlighter to mark his or her favorites.

5. Throw your kids’ swimsuits in your carry-on.
On embarkation day, it can take some time for your luggage to be delivered to your cabin. If you’re embarking in warm weather and you’ve got the kids’ swimsuits with you, they can jump in the pool and use the waterslides right away. One parent can watch the kids while the other walks around the ship doing recon and making spa and dinner reservations.

6. Switch your child’s cell phone (and yours) to airplane mode.
If your child will be using his smartphone as a camera, switch it to airplane mode immediately after leaving your U.S. port for international waters, so that international text messages can’t be sent or received. Otherwise you could get socked with charges. Keep your own phone on airplane mode so you don’t fall prey to roaming charges. (Keep it on airplane mode when accessing the ship’s Wi-Fi too. The great news is that cruise-ship Wi-Fi has improved a lot recently in terms of speed, reliability, and cost.)

7. When everybody else on the ship is zigging, zag.
My family avoids crowds by doing the opposite of what everybody else is doing. Between 6 and 7 pm, for instance, when everybody else is getting ready for dinner or already dining, that’s when we take advantage of the empty sports courts, Ping Pong tables, or hot tub.

8. Find your own serene shipboard hideaway.
In addition to a balcony, you’ll want space to stretch out in tranquility somewhere on deck. There’s almost always an empty area with lounge chairs somewhere. Sometimes it’s the Promenade Deck; sometimes it’s an area up top that people just haven’t discovered.

When the weather is too cold to be outdoors, you may crave an indoor pool or hot tub. Often the spa has a heated indoor pool you can access for a fee. On the Breakaway, access to the spa’s Thermal Suite for $199 for the entire seven-day cruise turned out to be a good value.

The spa’s hydrotherapy pool. #NorwegianBreakaway A photo posted by Wendy Perrin (@wendyperrin) on

9. Study the children’s weekly program schedule before making dinner reservations.
If your kids are like mine, certain scheduled evening activities will appeal to them and others won’t. Pirate Night is a must, Hollywood Night is not. If you’re making dinner reservations for the family, choose nights when the kids won’t complain about being with you rather than with their friends.

10. Ace the buffet.
It’s usually the most casual way to grab a bite on the ship (except for room service), and it can be jam-packed. Four tips: (1) Avoid the buffet on embarkation day, when it’s at its most chaotic. (2) When you do eat at the buffet, make a beeline for the Asian and Indian food. The kitchen staff is frequently Asian and Indian, so what you get is their home cooking, and it’s delicious. (3) Often one side of the buffet is open and the other is closed; if you can’t find empty seats, go to the closed side. (4) Feed your kids at the buffet, then go elsewhere for a proper adult meal. Like this:

This is the first raw bar I’ve seen on a cruise ship. How about you? #NorwegianBreakaway

A photo posted by Wendy Perrin (@wendyperrin) on

#yummy A photo posted by Wendy Perrin (@wendyperrin) on

11. Have your child wear a watch.
There are few, if any, clocks on the ship. If you’ve instructed children to meet you in a certain place at a certain time, the only way they’ll know is if they’re wearing watches.

12. Ensure room keys don’t get lost.
Bring a lanyard, or punch a hole into your child’s key card, so it can be worn around the neck.

13. Don’t activate your kid’s room key for purchases.
On ships you use your room key card for purchases, and kids lose room keys. They accidentally leave them in the games arcade—where other kids may find them and swipe them in the machines—or by the pool, where adults may find them and use them to buy a round of drinks. I’m not kidding; this happens with surprising frequency. When you check in for your cruise, the check-in agent will ask whether your kid’s key should be enabled for shipboard purchases. Just say no, unless you’re certain your child won’t lose the key. And if you’re certain your child won’t lose the key, please share your secret with me!

14. Read my 12-year-old’s advice that parents should know before booking a family cruise.


If anyone else has tips for sailing on megaships, I’d love to hear them. Chime in below!


Disclosure: This was my family’s fourth cruise on Norwegian Cruise Line. We’ve always paid our own way in the past; this time the cruise line provided us with complimentary accommodations. In keeping with my standard practice, there was no request for or expectation of coverage on Norwegian’s part, nor was anything promised on mine.

Be a smarter traveler: Use Wendy’s WOW List to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

New York Harbor

Stunning Photos: An Ice-Filled New York Harbor in Winter

One of the biggest reasons to travel by ship is the views as you come into port. Yesterday, as my family sailed into an ice-filled New York Harbor—the final stop of a winter cruise to the Bahamas—I was reminded that certain amazing sights in this world can be seen only by ship. Even though I’m a jaded New Yorker who grew up in midtown Manhattan, the scene was otherworldly. It was well worth waking up at dawn, and shivering on my balcony, to capture it. Enjoy!

Pulling into New York Harbor at 7:00 am on a Sunday in February. #NorwegianBreakaway #NYC #skyline

A photo posted by Wendy Perrin (@wendyperrin) on

#tugboat breaking up the #ice for us in New York Harbor. #NYC #NorwegianBreakaway A photo posted by Wendy Perrin (@wendyperrin) on

4,000-passenger ship pulling into an icy Pier 88, NY Harbor, 7:30 a.m. on a Sunday in February. Home safe.

A photo posted by Wendy Perrin (@wendyperrin) on


What’s your favorite port in the world to sail into?

Baha Mar

It Hasn’t Even Opened Yet, but Baha Mar Is Already Transforming the Bahamas

Americans seeking a quick escape to a sunny tropical island will soon have a new option at their fingertips: A long-awaited $3.5 billion luxury resort development called Baha Mar is opening March 27 in Nassau, in the Bahamas. Nassau is just a three-hour flight from J.F.K.—and the resorts, on Cable Beach, are just a five-minute drive from the airport—so it will be an easy getaway for many in the Northeast. As I’m one of the only journalists who’s seen Baha Mar—I just happened to be passing through Nassau yesterday and went to take a look—I figured I’d share what I learned.

Baha Mar will have four swank hotels— the Baha Mar Hotel & Casino, a Grand Hyatt, a Rosewood, and a SLS LUX—as well as a 30,000-square foot ESPA, a 200,000-square-foot conference center, and more than 40 restaurants, bars, and shops. There will be 3,000 feet of white-sand beach, a Beachfront Sanctuary filled with sea creatures, and a reef you can swim to and snorkel at.

The development has already transformed Nassau—to build it, they had to move the prime minister’s office and two banks and reroute a road—but that’s nothing compared to the transformation to come. Nassau recently spent $410 million renovating its airport and building a gleaming new terminal, as it plans to grow airline service to the Bahamas by 400,000 passengers within the next year. There are even plans for flights from China.

Big developments on small islands usually make me cringe, but my tour guide—Baha Mar’s director of public relations Paul Turnquest, who was born and raised in the Bahamas and ran The Tribune newspaper there for years, says the locals are happy about Baha Mar because it’s bringing 12,000 jobs and a ton of economic opportunity to the island. “If you’re someone who makes straw bags, your bags could be chosen for one of the hotel gift shops,” says Turnquest. “Imagine the impact that this property will have on the lives of the people here. For many, this is the opportunity for them to be on a world stage.”

Will travelers come? Will they like it? We’ll find out after March 27. Meanwhile, here’s a first glimpse. (I was not allowed to photograph the areas still under construction—which is pretty much everything except the golf course and golf clubhouse.)


Have you been to the Bahamas? What’s your favorite resort there?