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ALMOND CASUARINA, THE CLUB BARBADOS & MORGAN BAY BEACH RESORT, ST. LUCIA

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Update: Couples Barbados resort is now located at the Almond Casuarina site. The Club, Barbados Resort & Spa is the new name for the Almond Beach Club & Spa. Morgan Bay Beach Resort is the new name for the Almond Morgan Bay Beach Resort in St. Lucia.

What makes Almond Resorts different from other Barbados luxury resorts and St. Lucia all inclusive vacations? According to Ralph Taylor, president and CEO, the Almond Resorts tag line says it all: For You. About You.

Trained in London, Taylor had run traditional hotels, but he was fascinated with all-inclusive resorts. He visited Sandals, SuperClubs and other Caribbean all inclusives and asked people what they wanted.

All inclusive Caribbean vacations

"People told me that they liked the fixed price of Caribbean all inclusive vacations, but they didn't want to be told what to do or when to do things."

When Ralph Taylor began Almond Resorts with two Barbados hotels in 1991, he made them all inclusive hotels with "no bells, beads or bull horns." According to Taylor, "We provide the amenities and service, but you do what you want."

Luxury Barbados resorts

In Barbados, Almond Resorts has three all inclusive vacation resorts. Almond Beach Club and Spa has 161 rooms and is located in St. James. Almond Beach Village, located in St. Peter, has 400 rooms. Almond Casuarina Beach Resort has 289 rooms and is located in Dover Beach, Barbados.

All inclusive St. Lucia resorts

In St. Lucia, Almond Resorts runs two all inclusive luxury resorts. Almond Morgan Bay Resort has 340 rooms. Almond Smugglers Cove, located at Cap Estate, has 357 rooms.

Caribbean cooking

Rates for Almond all inclusive resorts in St. Lucia and Barbados include all meals and drinks, with a choice of room service or à la carte lunch and dinners. Taxes and tips are included.

"Our hotels offer breakfast buffets, so vacationers can get to the beach quickly," says Ralph Taylor. "In each Barbados Almond Resort, we have a restaurant that serves native foods."

The Caribbean food restaurant is named Enid's. "She's a real woman who cooked native foods, just like my Mom," says Taylor.

"In St. Lucia Almond Resorts, the Caribbean restaurants have different names, but they are also packed with diners."

Cooking school

Ralph Taylor explains that Enid's has a cooking school, where chefs teach guests how to cook Caribbean foods and get local products.

Almond hotels also have a rum shop where guests can learn about rum and rum drinks.

"Almond Resorts work with local farmers with a farm to table program," says Taylor. "In St. Lucia, we give farmers money to grow crops for our hotels." Restaurants at Almond Resorts get fresh fruits and vegetables, while the St. Lucia farmer co-ops have a secure buyer for their produce.

Caribbean culture

Besides enjoying all inclusive water sports and land sports, guests can book excursions. "We want people to enjoy the Caribbean culture and go outside Almond Resorts to meet local people," says Ralph Taylor.

Excursions in Barbados, for example, allow Almond Resort guests to experience a Bajan fish fry, Moko Jumbies (stilt-men), limbo and calypso performances.

Besides Bajan and St. Lucian culinary classes, each Almond Resort brings in local musicians and Barbados and St. Lucia entertainers.

Caribbean family vacations

"Almond Resorts have unique kids' programs," adds Taylor. "A nursery accepts infants and toddlers up to two years old, from morning to late-afternoon."

Other children's programs are available for kids, two to four years old, five to seven, eight to 12 and teenagers. Kids' activities are fun, active and educational, ranging from pool volleyball to flower art.

Morgan Bay Resort

"All Almond hotels are upgraded," says Ralph Taylor. "We spend a lot of money to renovate them so they don't look tired."

As an example, Taylor explains how Almond Morgan Bay Beach Resort in St. Lucia was enhanced by planting gardens, adding four gourmet restaurants and 100 new rooms and suites.

Almond Resorts also renovated rooms and added new pools, a spa, squash and tennis courts at Almond Smugglers Cove, which is located in a 60-acre garden in St. Lucia.

Eco-friendly conservation practices include solar heating for hot water and garden lighting. Almond Casuarina Beach Resort, in Barbados, for example, composts most of its yard waste to enrich its tropical forest ecosystem.

Flights to Barbados

WestJet and Air Canada fly to Barbados from Toronto and Montreal. In Barbados, Almond Casuarina Beach is in St. Lawrence Gap, which is famous for its nightlife. Almond Beach Village and Almond Beach Club Resort are on the west coast of Barbados, "where the rich and famous play," according to Taylor.

Flights to St. Lucia from Toronto are also offered by WestJet and Air Canada. Almond Resorts in St. Lucia are all located in the Castries area.

All inclusive wedding resorts

Caribbean weddings are free at Almond Resorts in Barbados and St. Lucia. Wedding coordinators help brides and grooms select the location, plan receptions and arrange upgraded wedding packages, which include spa treatments and live music.

"Each Almond Resort restricts weddings to three per day," says Wendy Cole, VP sales and marketing for Almond Resorts. As a result, couples don't have to compete for prime wedding locations, such as the historic sugar mill at Almond Beach Village in Barbados.

All inclusive resort packages

The Almond Resorts website offers all inclusive resort deals for families and couples in St. Lucia and Barbados.

"You can spend one week in Barbados and one in St. Lucia to experience all of the Almond Resorts," says Wendy Cole. "In Barbados, we have a Stay at One, Play at Three program. Free shuttles between the Barbados Almond Resorts make it easy to experience the three all inclusives."


TRAVEL INFORMATION

Barbados Tourism Authority: www.visitbarbados.org

St. Lucia Tourist Board: www.stlucia.org

More things to see & do in Barbados:

Barbados Atlantis Submarine Tour

Romantic Barbados

Barbados Crop Over Festival

Barbados Wildlife Reserve