Bermuda I've been lucky enough to visit Bermuda more than once and my spirit lifts each time the plane lands on this 21-square miles of paradise that's just a two-hour flight from most East Coast cities. But last December was the first time I visited in the winter and I discovered the island's best-kept secret: Winter is a myth. While daytime temperatures that hover around 68 degrees may be chilly enough for the locals to wear jackets while tooling around on their motor scooters, visitors from real winter climes enjoy shedding their layers and indulging in outdoor activities.
One thing that makes Bermuda an attractive meeting or incentive destination is the range of recreational activities and interesting venues for group events. There's great golf on the island's eight courses, historic sightseeing, bicycling, shopping, good restaurants, and all manner of water sports. There are also many special festivals and events--including a tall ships celebration from June 9 to 12, 2000 ,when the roughly 100 ships participating in Tall Ships 2000 dock in the port of Hamilton. Groups can make arrangements for private receptions and tours of individual vessels.
Among the many venues for parties are The Royal Naval Dockyard, built in 1809 and renovated into a 75-acre shopping, dining, and arts complex that can accommodate up to 400 people for a reception or 250 for a banquet; the spiffy Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute, with dining for up to 200 and a 148-seat auditorium outfitted for multimedia presentations; and Hawkins Island, a private retreat for groups of up to 500.
There's also a substantial top-drawer hotel inventory. Bermuda is known for its luxe cottage colonies, many of which allow groups to take over the entire property. Luxury resorts that cater to groups include the 600-room Southampton Princess (a Canadian Pacific Hotel), the 405-room Sonesta Beach Resort Bermuda, the 402-room Marriott's Castle Harbor, and the historic Elbow Beach Bermuda (a Rafael Resort), which just completed a $42 million renovation of the stately main hotel (built in 1908) and its 174 guest rooms and suites. The resort has more than 100 additional rooms and suites in cottages scattered among 53 acres of landscaped gardens and eight meeting rooms that can accommodate up to 150 people. A full-service spa will open in September.
The Caribbean is known for its world-class parties, but none tops Trinidad's Carnival. This pre-Lenten party, second in size only to Rio's celebration, distills the joyous spirit of the region into several days of costumed galas and spectacular parades, all filled with dazzling costumes.
Last year, through the Donnelly Group, a group of 65 incentive winners and spouses from across the United States participated in Carnival. The sales group spent seven nights in the islands: three in Trinidad, followed by several restful days in nearby Tobago. "Carnival is an experience," said Catherine de Gannes-Martin, managing director for The Travel Centre, which handled arrangements for the group. Attendees arrived on Carnival Sunday, processing through the streets of Port of Spain in pre-ordered costumes. "They had the option to view from the grandstand or to participate. It definitely is an experience. You're not going to see anything else like this."