Caribbean editor Gay Nagle Myers attended the Caribbean Tourism Organization's annual State of the Industry Conference in Curacao. Before the business meetings got underway, she had a chance to explore. Gay's second dispatch follows.
WILLEMSTAD, Curacao __ While sun, sand and sea always top my list when I'm visiting the islands, I do like in-town locations when the three S's are within walking distance of my balcony.
Such is the case at the Renaissance Curacao Resort & Casino, literally at the doorstep of the Caribbean's most colorful capital city with the 19th-century Rif Fort (a Unesco World Heritage site), built to protect Curacao from invasion by pirates and other enemies. The Rif Fort's courtyard is out the front door and a manmade beach and infinity pool is out the back door.
It's the only place I've ever been in the Caribbean where, when I asked where the beach was, was told to "take the elevator to the second floor and turn left."
Actually the Renaissance refers to it as the eternity beach, created by trucking in sand and starfish and then containing water in an edgeless design that mimics an infinity pool found at real beachfront resorts.
There's the Infinity Bar, lounge chairs full of sunburned tourists checking emails (the resort's free WiFi works on the beach for those so inclined), umbrellas and even two massage tables under canopies for outdoor treatments.
A cruise ship frequently is docked so close to that beach that I could look at passengers on the decks looking at me on the beach.
Hang on to your floppy beach hat, however, when it's time for the behemoth to pull anchor. The blast from the ship's horn causes small waves and startles surprised dozers from their afternoon slumbers.
The Renaissance, which opened in 2009, hosts a happy hour each Thursday in the lobby with a Dutch twist that harkens back to Curacao's origins.
The specialty drink at the Renaissance is Blue Moon Punch, a colorful combo whose main ingredient is the island's famous Blue Curacao liqueur, laced with local Balashi beer, fresh lime juice and coconut water.
Bartenders Ruth and Windel served tidbits of pink sugar coconut candy concoctions called Sweet Bites to accompany the blue booze.
It was an instant sugar high, which guests devoured. Later, I headed across the shop-lined street in front of the hotel to the appropriately named Xquisit, a restaurant that Renaissance took over in 2011 and relaunched with a new menu and new name last March.
It's open from 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., features soft lighting, an intimate atmosphere, live mood music by a sole musician on a saxophone and a three-course dinner, priced at $35. Menus change every three months.
"We get a lot of guests from other hotels, from the Avila, Baoase, Kura Hulanda, Santa Barbara and the Hilton and from the cruise ships, especially on nights when the ships leave at 11 p.m.," my waitress said.
Lots of guests head for the Renaissance's Carnaval Casino, right off the hotel's main lobby, before or after dinner, although the place was buzzing when I took a peek at mid-day.
It's not my game, but European-style cafes, boutiques and local markets are, and they're all right out the hotel's front door in Rif Fort Village.
I took a quick class in cheese-making at the Cheesery, listened to live music on the square surrounded by 17th-century cannons and high stone walls, sipped wine at Soprano's and coffee at the sidewalk-style Douwe Egberts Café.
For Starbucks fans who need their grande caffeine fix, there's a location inside the Renaissance and another on the street outside.
Location is everything. The Renaissance had it inside the Rif Fort Village. Curacao had the rest.