PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — When a storm blows away your house in the Virgin Islands, you know there’s trouble in paradise. Mine on St. Thomas was wiped out by Hurricane Donna in 1960. That was nothing compared Irma and Maria of 2017. Those twin harpies turned major Caribbean resorts into wasteland. Overseas, a favorite European haven was shaken by political tremors this past year. Then there were storms, flooding rains and wildfires, disrupting flights and highways across the United States. In all, it added up to devastated lives at destination resorts and disrupted getaways for vacationers. The lessons for travelers – expect the unexpected and make contingency plans.
Land based resorts are undergoing extensive repairs. Many, including the popular Caneel Bay on St. John will not be open for this winter season. Damage to island infrastructure including roads and power supplies has made recovery all the more difficult. But Charter sailing fleet bases and shoreline restaurants and bars, popular among cruising sailors are in recovery and operating.
Many islands to the south of the Virgins were either untouched and were only slightly damaged. Consider Aruba as an island alternate with sun-seeker beaches and a Continental environment. Half of the island is administered by France, the other half by the Dutch. Restaurants reflect the European influence with a Caribbean tang and flare.
Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula was spared. My daughter just returned from Cozumel and found dynamic diving on coral reefs and big game fishing along with the lively nightlife, unique restaurants and the opportunity to explore nearby Mayan ruins.
Political upheaval in the Spanish state of Catalonia in 2017 raised concern about travel to the major cruise port and getaway destination at Barcelona. There were massive street demonstrations, but few travel disruptions. The situation has calmed and the prospect for normalcy looks good for the New Year. The U.S. State Department has not issued a travel warning or advisory. No cruises from the busy port have been cancelled. Hotels, restaurants and attractions are functioning. Areas to avoid in the event of demonstrations are Las Ramblas, one of the most popular Barcelona promenades and the Paseo De Gracia Boulevard as well as government buildings. Stay in touch with your hotel. Regularly check cruise line advisories and the State Department Travel Advisory web site section.
CLOSE TO HOME
Recent years have seen a greater commitment at Pocono Mountain ski resorts to provide alternate activities to fill the gap as snowfall and temperature patterns have dramatically changed. As we reported earlier this year, Camelback Mountain has taken the lead by carving out a four-season resort that gives skiers and riders a reason to visit, even if winter weather turns fickle. Cold temps, good snow making and early hits of natural powder have gotten the ski season off a roaring start. But a dynamic on-site hotel, indoor water park, eateries and bars at Camelback, a water park at Split Rock Lodge near Jack Frost and Big Boulder plus a spa at Bear Creek can take up the slack if winter repeats its on-and-off appearance.
The Jersey shore in 2017 was spared the agony and anxiety of waiting for another Hurricane Sandy. Shore resorts were busy and the weather remained summertime stable. With the memory of major storms disrupting cruise and southern travel, the nearby shore is likely to be a tempting getaway option for 2018.
My favorite 2017 getaway was becoming reacquainted with Gettysburg and the surrounding countryside. We discovered a little known but established tour of the battlefield on horseback at the National Riding Stables and then dinner at the 18th century Dobbin House where the menu is crafted to replicate early Americana. It’s wrapped in a setting that takes you back in time to a place that’s marinated in our early history. For a nearby getaway, the sights, history, recreation and restaurant options infuse the Gettysburg region with all the elements of a predictably enjoyable destination.
Note: The New Year is expected to see a rise in domestic travel. If you can pick your getaway dates, the best options will be off-peak seasons or midweek during the busiest travel periods.