Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

October 20, 2017
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The Right Resort

Craving a warm winter getaway? Here's how to pick the perfect one for you

For most of us, choosing just the right hotel or resort in just the right location takes more time and thought than a quick suggestion from a travel agent or a price-lure from a newspaper ad. This is, after all, about your long-awaited escape from the harsh realities of another Canadian winter. So, while the majority of mainstream brochure packages today do offer a decent vacation at a decent price, most hard-working doctors want to get it better than that.

Perhaps you're a single parent, and would like to find the perfect resort for you and the kids. Or maybe you and your significant other want to spend every day of your trip scuba-diving, or eco-exploring, or perfecting your golf swing. Some people envision a simple lounge chair in the shade with an armload of books. Others would like to learn how to sail or windsurf, or just spend their days indulging in massages and facials and mud wraps.

So why spend your meagre Canadian dollars on something that only half measures up to your vacation ideal, when for the same amount of money you can get it exactly right? For this reason, we've decided to give you a little head start on your search for the ultimate winter vacation destination. The sunny getaways included in the list below -- spanning from Florida to Mexico to the Caribbean to cruising -- offer top-of-the-line amenities and services, without going over the top in price.

For a rough idea of what each of these trips will set you back, refer to the Cost Legend on this page. For more details about the destinations themselves or to make a reservation, contact your travel agent.

MOST ROMANTIC
If you want this vacation to be the most romantic experience you've ever had -- for all the right reasons -- here are the places that first come to mind:

SECRET HARBOUR, Grenada: a Spanish-Moorish design with tiled roofs, terraces, arches and stained glass, sunken tubs and four-poster beds. (8)

CINNAMON REEF, Anguilla: private cottages with oversize bedrooms and sunken living rooms overlooking an undisturbed beach with tropical tranquillity make this island perfect for intimate vacations. (8)

GOLDEN ROCK, Nevis: a converted 19th-century sugar plantation with individual cottages set in the mountains. Also considered an ecological haven. (7)

ENCHANTED GARDEN RESORT & SPA, Ocho Rios, Jamaica: very popular for weddings, since it's set on 20 mountainside acres of tropical flowers, cascading waterfalls and exotic birds. Accommodations vary, however, so ask for an upgrade. (6)

LOS GALEONES, Cuba: adult-only SuperClub resort featuring spacious bedrooms set deep in the mountains overlooking the northeastern coast of Holguin. A tranquil getaway. (7)

Very Best: JUMBY BAY, Antigua: exquisite cottages and suites on a private island three kilometres off Antigua. Quiet, but with every conceivable activity available, including nature trails and superb alfresco dining. (10)

BEST FOR VILLAS AND COTTAGES
There's nothing more romantic than your own private, self-contained accommodations. If this is the kind of getaway you have in mind, ask about resort villas in:

Barbados, where the art of the villa has been perfected, like at CRANE BEACH, which offers four-poster beds, kitchenettes and scenic views. (7).

Jamaica, as the exquisite ROUND HILL, near Montego Bay, where your breakfast is cooked to order and served on your private pool deck. (9)

Grenada, at BLUE HORIZONS, with its 32 reasonably priced cottage suites set in lush surroundings. (7)

St. Lucia, at RENDEZVOUS, an all-inclusive for adults only with lovely suites and cottages. (7)

Very Best: COVECASTLES, Anguilla: features four three-bedroom villas and eight two-bedroom villas, each one appointed with raw-silk upholstery, rattan furniture, flower arrangements and ceiling fans. (9)

BEST FOR FAMILIES
It's one thing for a destination to provide fun and recreation for children, but it's quite another for it to fine-tune its amenities to cater to the special needs of mothers with infants, toddlers, adolescents and teens. Try these:

HOLIDAY INN SUNSPREE, Lake Buena Vista, Orlando, Florida: Very special, personal touches make this hotel with in-suite kitchenettes, themed kid-suites and fully supervised programs (with nighttime babysitting) the best value on the Walt Disney World doorstep. (5)

BEACHES TURQUOIS RESORT & SPA, Turks and Caicos: a detail-oriented all-inclusive, offering supervised children's programs along with a full range of activities and dining. (8)

SANDY BEACH, Barbados: set on a quiet sandy cove with a natural breakwater offshore to keep seaside play safe. Accommodations and attention to detail make this a favourite for families with young children. (7)

OCEANSIDE INN, Cocoa Beach, Florida: For those on a limited budget, this high-rise on the north beach is a true find. Rooms with balconies are standard but well-attended; the restaurant offers light and easy meals; and, for launch days, the rooftop has been designed to offer premium views of the Kennedy Space Centre. (4)

Very Best: DISNEY VACATION CLUB, Walt Disney World, Florida: Enjoy exquisite, self-contained villas and VIP service throughout your stay. (7)

BEST FOR SINGLES
The priority of most single travellers is not just to meet other singles; it's also about creature comforts when it comes to safety, accommodations and dining. Tops on this list are:

CLUB VARADERO, Cuba: This adult-only SuperClub is packed with activities, night-life and top-notch dining. (6)

CLUB MED TURKOISE, Turks & Caicos: Non-stop activities lure the 18-and-over crowd to this resort with an open-air bar, dance floor, theatre and nightclub facing the pool. It's also a diving, sailing and windsurfing haven. (7)

EDEN SUNSET, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico: an elegant, low-key all-inclusive, but located in one of the most diverse and exciting Mexican Riviera towns. (6)

LA CABANA ALL SUITE BEACH RESORT & CASINO, Aruba: one of many all-inclusive resorts on an island designed for meeting people day and night. (6)

Very best: HEDONISM II, Negril, Jamaica: a resort for non-stop meeting and mingling -- with no room for inhibitions. (8)

 

BEST FOR SINGLE PARENTS
Picking a place for your children is the easy part, but what about you? While the kids are occupied with all kinds of activities, here are a few places you'll enjoy socializing yourself:

DREAM CLUB AT THE HOLIDAY INN SUNSPREE, Montego Bay, Jamaica: packed with social activities for you, plus supervised kids' programs until 9pm, then babysitting services (at a fee) afterwards. (5)

CLUB ROCKLEY, Barbados: An informal all-inclusive with a golf course, children's programs and after-hours babysitting. (7)

BEACHES NEGRIL, Jamaica: There are fully supervised activities for kids, loads of pampering for you and social activities galore at this famous bohemian (sometimes nude, often topless) beach. (8)

BUSHIRI BOUNTY BEACH RESORT, Aruba: Kids enjoy supervised programs in a lovely setting while you sun, swim and tend to fitness and other activities. Nightly entertainment and theme parties on the property. (7)

Very Best: CLUB MED IXTAPA, Mexico: A lively, hacienda-style village on a beautiful beach where kids under five stay for free. (7)

ACTIVE VACATIONS
While most popular vacation destinations abound with outdoor recreation of one kind or another, some excel more than others. Here are a few of the best, broken down by activity: Scuba-Diving and Snorkelling: Belize, AMBERGRIS CAYE: for the second-longest barrier reef in the world and with three of the four authentic coral atolls in the Caribbean.

Turks & Caicos: for consistently superb underwater visibility (100 feet) spanning miles throughout its protected offshore reserve.

Cayman Islands: Each island has coral reefs and vertical coral walls teeming with so much marine life that they are considered one of the top diving locations in the world.

Bonaire: It's the entire culture here. The whole island is an underwater mountain fringed by coral reefs, resulting in superlative snorkelling as well as diving.

Very Best: ANSE CHASTANET BEACH resort on the southwest coast of St. Lucia for diving and snorkelling right off the beach. (8) Sailing And Windsurfing Most all-inclusive resorts offer windsurfing and Sunfish sailing. Yacht sailing, however, is best in: the Bahamas, the British Virgin Islands, the U.S. Virgin Islands and in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Very Best: CANEEL BAY, St. John, the U.S. Virgin Islands is a yachters' paradise (10).

The best windsurfing is found in Aruba, Barbados, Bahamas, Cancun and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Very Best: Windsurf at CAP JULUCA, Anguilla (9). Golfing Florida golf doesn't have to be big-name expensive. Toronto's Golf-Away Tours (tel: 905-943-9770), Ontario's leading golf travel agency, can suggest quality golf in the Sunshine State that is as good, or better, at half the price.

A few to try: GOLF VILLAS AT THE RESERVE, Port Lucie, for PGA championship courses (4); PALM COAST RESORT, Palm Coast, features five courses, including the Jack Nicklaus-designed Grand Haven G.C. (5); GRENELEFE GOLF & TENNIS RESORT, Haines City, offers three championship courses (6).

Or, in Loreto, Mexico, Sunquest Vacations offers week-long packages with unlimited golf (5).

Elsewhere, golf is considered superlative on the islands of Jamaica, Aruba, St. Croix, Barbados, the Dominican Republic and Antigua.

Very Best: Jamaica, where you can stay at one of several resorts and enjoy full exchange privileges and unlimited golf on some of the finest courses in the Caribbean. Tennis Good tennis facilities are easy to find throughout Florida, Mexico and the Caribbean. Most resorts have well-attended courts with instruction, but real enthusiasts should go to: Antigua, Jamaica, Cancun, Cozumel and St. Maarten.

Very Best: HALF MOON GOLF, TENNIS & BEACH CLUB, Montego Bay, Jamaica (9). Nature Trails and Sailing Tropical ecosystems can be fascinating. Nature-lovers will want to visit the eastern regions of Cuba; St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Vincent and St. Lucia. Different again are the eco-systems of Costa Rica and central Florida.

Very Best: CAMP AT PETIT BYAHAUT, St. Vincent: Ask for Earl, of Fantasea Tours, to take you to the nature trails and La Soufrière, the island's active volcano.

SPAS AND FITNESS CENTRES
Although there are several wonderful private spas and fitness centres throughout the Caribbean and Mexico, they can be prohibitively expensive. In the more affordable range, you can count superlative services at some of the resort chains, including Club Med, SuperClubs and Beaches Resorts. Keep in mind that spa and body treatments are always an extra cost at all-inclusive resorts, although access to the fitness centre is usually free.

OVERALL MOST FUN, DAY AND NIGHT
If your notion of fun is an upbeat, welcoming atmosphere, surrounded by recreational options, cultural experiences, ample dining variety and varied nightlife -- and filled with other people of the same mind-set -- try these all-time favourites:

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize
Key West, Florida
Aruba, Oranjestad
Walt Disney World, Florida
St. Maarten, with 10 casinos and 300 restaurants and bars
Huatulco, Mexico
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
Nassau, Bahamas

MOST AGREEABLE CULTURE SHOCK
Sometimes, you want to get away -- as far away as you can. My favourite new cultures in the sun are:

Cuba, one of the last avowedly communist countries in the world where you meet brave, educated, compassionate people and explore their history, traditions and lush, interior landscapes.

Belize, and the island of Ambergris Caye in particular, where you can enjoy both idyllic Caribbean beaches and the lush Central American jungle. Small resorts, restaurants and nightclubs abound, and everyone goes barefoot -- including the snakes and crocodiles!

St. Vincent, where you can camp on a beach serviced by no roads, in the raised tents of PETIT BYAHAUT RESORT, with meals prepared especially for you under the stars.

Very Best: ANSE CHASTANET BEACH, St. Lucia, where you can hide away in one of 36 octagonal cottages perched on the hillside of a rainforest above the Caribbean Sea. The bedroom is the only room with a door and walls; the living room is actually just one giant, wraparound terrace, so that nothing gets between you and the grandeur of rainforest nature.

 

This article was accurate when it was published. Please confirm rates and details directly with the companies in question.

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