How do I go about finding a villa with a chef for a family reunion in the Caribbean?
Villas are ideal for big groups: more privacy, shared costs and parents don't have to read in the bathroom once the kids fall sleep. And a chef definitely adds to the holiday factor.
"Villas can range from smaller individual cottages to lavish private homes, and many villas have a staff, including a chef and maid," says Jennifer Polland, a New York-based editor with Frommer's Travel Guides (frommers.com). "It is possible to rent villas throughout the Caribbean, but I would recommend renting a villa in the Virgin Islands."
The U.S. Virgin Islands (visitusvi.com), including the busy ports of St. Thomas and St. Croix, as well as the quieter St. John, offer easy access from North America and a lot of rental options, she says. The British Virgin Islands (bvitourism.com), including Virgin Gorda, Tortola and Jost Van Dyke, are more relaxed and less touristy.
"All of the Virgin Islands offer pristine beaches and a quintessential Caribbean feel. You'll find lots of fresh seafood here, along with West Indian cuisine, such as curried goat and conch Creole. … And, of course, lots of rum-based drinks."
Polland suggests checking out these agencies that focus on the Virgin Islands: Calypso Realty (calypsorealty.com); McLaughlin Anderson Luxury Villas (mclaughlinanderson.com); Villa Madeleine Vacation Villas (villamadeleine-stcroix.com) and Caribbean Property Management (enjoystcroix.com).
In your search for the right vacation home – from the number of rooms and bathrooms to layout and location – ask if the property includes a chef or can help hire one, says Bob Curley, the Caribbean expert for About.com (gocaribbean.about.com). "If you really don't want to lift a finger, look to Jamaica, Barbados or St. Lucia – almost all villa rentals there include a staff with cook and maid," he says. "You just pay for the cost of food."
Three-generation families are the main demographic for the 90 properties at Jamaican Villas by Linda Smith (jamaicavillas.com), says company president Linda Smith, whose villas include housekeeping staff, a butler and a trained chef.
And imagine a coffee tray slipped outside your door at 7 a.m. or dinner feasts of jerk chicken – there's another bonus.
"Families … fall in love with their staff," says Smith, who says guests enjoy the conversations and connections. "They send me lovely comments about their villa, but they rave on and on about the loving, efficient staff members."
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Karan Smith is a former editor of Globe Travel. Special to The Globe and Mail