The Real Deal: Seven nights' accommodations, five days of guided boat dives, breakfast daily, transfers to and from the airport, and all taxes, for $702.
When: Departures daily, Sept. 1-30, 2008. For travel between Oct. 1 and Nov. 1, the included airfare voucher drops from $300 to $200 per reservation.
The fine print: Does not include departure tax, dive-staff gratuities, or airfare, although there are fares available through the tour operator at an additional cost. Based on double occupancy; single supplement is $295. Includes breakfast daily, taxes, and a Best of Barbados passport, good for discounts on the island. U.S. citizens will need a valid passport to visit the island; no visa is required for travel. Read these guidelines before you book any Real Deal.
Book by: Aug. 1, 2008.
Contact: Caradonna Dive Adventures, 800/328-2288, caradonna.com.
Why it's a deal: A seven-night stay at the All Seasons Resort in Europa will usually cost about $469 per person. For about $233 more, including taxes, Caradonna covers accommodations as well as five days of boat dives, two air tanks, transfers to and from the airport, breakfast daily, and a Best of Barbados pass, which includes discounts on activities and a food voucher. Plus, if you book by August 1, Caradonna will throw in a $300 airfare voucher per booking, valid for airfares purchased through the tour operator. For an idea of how much airfare will cost from your area, see the Getting There section.
Trip details: The Europa Dive Deal is named for the All Seasons Resort Europa in St. James parish, which will be your base for the seven-night stay. (A representative will meet you at the airport in Bridgetown to transfer you to the resort upon arrival.)
You'll stay in a suite with a kitchenette, a patio, and free wireless Internet. You can splash in the freshwater pool or use the hotel's complimentary bus service for access to the Gold Coast's beaches, shopping malls, and grocery stores.
You'll spend five days diving with the help of a guide who will take you on boat tours; you'll be equipped with two air tanks, weights, and weight belts. If you don't bring your own, you can rent gear like wet suits and masks for additional fees.
While Barbados is a popular diving destination, there are enough untouched parts to make your dives feel special. You may see turtles, sea horses, stingrays, schooling fish, and a popular shipwreck site of a Greek freighter, the Stavronikita.
The Best of Barbados Passport of discount coupons is full of ideas on how to occupy your free, non-diving time. The passport includes a $25 voucher good for dinner for two at Oistins Fish Fry, as well as discounts at retail stores in Bridgetown—about eight miles from the hotel—and a car rental discount (rent a car for two or more days and get a free day). According to a recent Kayak search, car rentals are about $64 per day for a two-day rental (4-door manual or automatic from EasyCar).
Also thanks to this passport, when you buy one ticket for an activity, you'll get the second at half price. Your options include the Barbados Museum, a Mount Gay Rum tour, and the George Washington House.
Barbados, which sits far outside the hurricane belt, has not had a serious storm sweep across its shores in 50 years, but it still suffers by association and muddles along with the rest of the Caribbean in proclaiming early fall as its "low season." Temperatures will be in the mid-80s during the day, with short bursts of showers.
Getting there: As mentioned above, Caradonna is offering a $300 air voucher when you book air through the tour operator. No quotes were available at press time, but agents assured us they offer comparable rates to search engines such as Kayak. We priced some round-trip airfares for Barbados in early September in a recent Kayak search: $453 from New York City (Air Jamaica), $538 from Boston (American), $563 from Atlanta (American), $594 from Chicago (American), $625 from L.A. (American), $662 from Dallas (American), and $694 from Seattle (American). If rates from Caradonna are in fact comparable, then the $300 voucher (for a double-occupancy reservation) would reduce a fare from New York City to just $303 per person.