Travelocity Breaks Out the Beads with Ideas on Extending Mardi Gras 2006; Patrons Can Continue Their Bourbon Street Celebrations on the Beaches of the Caribbean This Year

SOUTHLAKE, Texas–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Feb. 9, 2006–Travelers don’t have to hang up their beads due to a shortened Mardi Gras this year, as the party will continue in some unexpected locales. As New Orleans regains its structural and economic stature in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, plans for a shortened version of the festival are in full swing. However, as the New Orleans celebrations come to an end, the Caribbean islands will just be heating up with their own annual festivals akin to Mardi Gras.

“New Orleans may be in the midst of a massive recovery, but there’s no shortage of dancing in the streets to be done in 2006,” said Natasha Carvell, Travelocity editor. “Mardi Gras may be shortened but looks to be more celebratory than ever as the islands of the Caribbean boast a lively line-up of culturally significant festivals that keep the party going throughout the year.”

From the reverberations of the Big Drums on the tiny Island of Nevis during Culturama to the grand poobah of Carnival celebrations on Trinidad and Tobago, the Caribbean is resounding with festivals and revelry throughout the year. Carvell suggests you pick a festival and watch fares to the island or cruise to the Caribbean and time it around a festival.

The following are Travelocity’s 2006 Editor’s picks for Caribbean celebrations:

TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO — Carnival (February 27 – 28, 2006): Among the most culturally-vibrant islands in the Caribbean, Trinidad and Tobago are home to a creative, spirited majority African and Indian populace. The island’s rich literature and theater are vital components of this heritage. Trinbagonians, known for their fierce sense of national pride and love for a good party, host a parade of festivals throughout the year. The biggest and most outrageous of these is Carnival, which originated in Trinidad and Tobago and are unmatched by other Caribbean nations.

GRAND CAYMAN — Cayfest (April 1 – 13, 2006): Overall, life on Grand Cayman has kicked back into high gear since Hurricane Ivan with construction wrapping up and the opening of a number of important new properties on the island, including the much-anticipated Ritz Carlton. Visitors also can experience the island’s annual Cayfest celebration, a month-long event held every April. This unique festival celebrates every form of Caymanian culture, from shipbuilding and thatching lessons to open-mike poetry jams and storytelling events like Granny Backyard, a radio event during which Caymanian women reminiscence about the lonely days when the men were at sea.

BARBADOS — Crop Over Festival (July – August, 2006): English charm meets laid-back Caribbean culture in Barbados, where the island’s brilliant white sand beaches are public. Seaside villages, pubs and English-style country churches dot the landscape, and afternoon tea (or gin and tonics) and cricket games are daily occurrences. The five-week summer festival known as Crop Over celebrates the sugar cane harvest and dates back to the late 18th century when the island was the world’s largest sugar producer. The most productive male and female cane cutters are named King and Queen of the festival and the Pic-O-De-Crop calypso competition pits “tents” of calypsonians against one another for the Party and Road March Monarch titles.

JAMAICA — Reggae Sumfest (July 16-22, 2006): Whatever the poison — rum punch on the deck at Rick’s Bar, wrangling over straw goods at a craft market, or dancing rocksteady and reggae clubs of Kingston or Negril — Jamaica delivers. Sponsored by Red Stripe, the annual Reggae Sumfest in Montego Bay in July features top reggae and dancehall performers. When in need of sustenance to keep up with the energy of Sumfest, true Jamaican flavor is best found at one of the country’s roadside jerk shacks. No amount of gourmet food or celebrity chef influence can replicate the flavor of pimento smoked and scotch bonnet pepper-flavored meat from these classic lean-tos.

NEVIS — Culturama (July 28 – August 8, 2006): This seven mile-long, five mile-wide isle of Nevis is known for its simple pleasures. Come Culturama time, however, the reverberating thuds of Big Drums, parade whistles, and Calypso rhythms and Kaiso song contests demand attention. Commemorating the island’s folklore, history, creativity, and beauty through elaborate pageantry, tireless revelry, and local cuisine, Culturama is celebrated every summer (late July/early August) over Emancipation Day weekend.

BERMUDA — Bermuda Music Festival (October 2006): While there has been some concern that the traditional men’s garb of long shorts and ties may be dying out, many of the classic images of Bermuda endure as it wraps up its quincentennial year celebrations in 2005. From endless stretches of pink sand beach to spirited cricket games, classical music festivals to water sports, Bermuda retains its trademark panache in every way. For 10 years, Bermuda has hosted one of the Western Atlantic’s top music festivals. Formerly known as the Bermuda Jazz Festival, the Bermuda Music Festival has expanded to include some of the world’s legendary R&B, soul, and jazz acts sharing the stage with local Bermudian performers and steel band music champions every fall.

TURKS & CAICOS — Conch Festival (November 2006): When astronaut John Glenn landed near Grand Turk after orbiting the earth in 1962, he was just one in a long line of explorers who landed there. While the legacy of wayward travelers has long been a part of Turks and Caicos history, it’s only in the past 40 years that people have purposely landed on the pristine beaches of these exotic isles. The Conch Festival celebrates the islands’ reliance on the sea for their livelihood and entertainment. Named for the mollusk (pronounced “konk”), popular in Caribbean cooking, this late November event features conch cooking contests, diving races, treasure hunts, live music, and more.

BAHAMAS — Junkanoo (December 26, 2006): There are 700 islands in the Bahamas, but only 30 are inhabited. With more than two-thirds of the population living in Nassau, once travelers venture outside the capital city’s banks, cruise ships, and casinos, the pace slows to a Caribbean crawl. Music plays a central role in this festive nation, with traditional rake and scrape goombay rhythms made from goatskin and dancing to accompany them. While the day after Christmas can be a let-down in some countries, the party is just starting in the Bahamas. Locals take to the streets from 2 – 8 a.m. for Junkanoo, a competitive parade of colors, masks, and costumes and “rushin” (two steps forward, one step back) to the latter of cowbells, goatskin drums, and whistles.

With Caribbean festivals jamming the streets, parading through neighborhoods, and serving up the best of island culture in 2006, there’s no need for a shortened Marti-Gras to deter travelers from celebrating in style this year.

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    SOURCE: Travelocity