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Luxury escapes

Bahamas blends island charm with modern elegance

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The Bahamas Investor Magazine
July 23, 2015
July 23, 2015
Tosheena Robinson-Blair

From secluded island paradises to private yacht charters and stunning hideaways, The Bahamas has a myriad of luxury escapes for affluent explorers to enjoy. These upmarket retreats feature discreet modern luxuries blended with island charm, remarkable guest experiences and just the right amount of isolation for high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs) to get away from it all.

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To attain success in the robust luxury travel market one has to have an understanding of the needs and desires of luxury travellers, says Michelle Albury, chief executive officer and
president of Platinum Pineapple Ltd, a luxury lifestyle management firm specializing in estate and property management and concierge services.

“Business is constantly growing. The luxury market seems to be recession proof,” says Albury. “High-net-worth individuals only want the best. In other words, ‘über premium.’”

Locations of choice
Globetrotting travellers can discover peace and relaxation on expansive white sand beaches in unforgettable locations on Eleuthera, Grand Bahama, or New Providence and on small cays such as Kamalame (just off Andros) and Elbow Cay (in the Abacos). Eleuthera’s Harbour Island has long been “a location of choice” for the wealthy and ultra-wealthy, says senior real estate broker, Alexander Alexiou. His firm, Island Real Estate, connects buyers with income-producing investments, primary and vacation homes, and rentals on the island.

“We offer the quaint colonial village atmosphere with the sophistication of some of the finest hotels and restaurants in the country,” he says.

Famed for its pink sand beaches and colonial charm, Briland, as locals call it, is only three miles long and a half-mile wide. Situated to the north of Eleuthera’s mainland, Harbour Island is accessible only by boat and offers value and ultra-luxury accommodations in equal measure making it popular with budget travellers and HNWIs, says Alexiou. Homes here range from one- bedroom properties to 14-bedroom beachfront complexes; the latter commanding as much as $50,000 plus per week.

Beachfront and harbourside are the most sought-after locations, followed by the historic Dunmore Town with its colonial cottages renovated to include modern amenities, says Alexiou. A laid-back community, anonymity is one of its top selling points. “You can have actresses and heiresses walking on the beach or sitting at the restaurant next to you and no one takes much notice,” says Alexiou.

The same holds true for Windermere Island. For decades this pristine isle has been one of The Bahamas’ best kept secrets, luring royalty (specifically Princess Diana and Prince Charles), the rich and famous, such as Mariah Carey, and other privacy seekers to its shores.

“Windermere and Harbour Island both have high-end clients that rent there,” says Jonathan Morris, an estate agent with Damianos Sotheby’s International Realty. “I think the Harbour Island crowd is younger and hipper and, to some extent, flashier. In contrast, Windermere would be more the ‘old money’ type.”

On one side of the six-mile long Windermere Island is the Atlantic Ocean. On the other is Eleuthera’s Savannah Sound. A tiny bridge–manned around the clock–connects Windermere to the mainland. Access is granted by invitation, or reservation only.

Harbour Island has more rental inventory when compared to Windermere, Morris advises. The latter has about 80 homes, including cottages and condos. Less than half are free standing houses. At press time Damianos Realty had 14 properties available for rent on Windermere. The priciest, Indigo–a four-bedroom, five-bathroom beachfront villa sitting on three acres–rents for $10,500 a week. Built almost entirely from Bankirai wood imported from Bali, Indonesia, the resort-styled getaway features decks and verandas overlooking the turquoise waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

Of course, Mariah Carey’s home commands the highest rental rate, reportedly going for $25,000 per week, on the rare occasions she rents it out.

Luxury hideaways
For those who crave a peaceful haven, but don’t have the time to travel too far off the grid, Deep Water Cay might be the perfect solution for a rejuvenating vacation. Located just off Grand Bahama’s East End, it is a 45-minute plane ride from Fort Lauderdale and roughly 30 minutes away from New Providence.

Once a sleepy fishing town, this upscale development made its official debut on the local market this year. Beachfront homes dot the length of this 2.5-mile long cay that is marketed as “unpretentious” and “ultra low-key.” Amenities include a welcome centre, a fitness centre, pool, marina and a lodge with a bar and grill. Also available are dry storage facilities for boats up to 33 ft, a landing dock and a 4,000 ft private runway, with onsite Bahamas customs clearing facilities. Visitors have access to flat boats and deep sea fishing vessels, scuba equipment, kayaks and paddle boards.

Estate homes rent for $1,900 a night ($13,300 per week), while the cottages rent for around $1,200 a night ($8,400 per week).

Although most travellers who want a luxury experience are willing to pay the price, they expect value for money. The cost versus value proposition is alive and well among the affluent. “Just because they have a multi-million-dollar home they are not going to pay you five times more than your typical price,” says Albury. “Cost is no object, but there must be value attached.”

Two best kept secrets fitting the bill are Elbow Cay and Kamalame Cay. About 175 miles east of Florida, Elbow Cay is one of many tiny cays in the Abacos. Hope Town, its main village, is the perfect spot for families, or couples in search of real downtime.

There are no big resorts, cruise ships or madding crowds here, only welcoming people, awesome beaches and jaw-dropping sunsets. Accommodations range from bungalows and cottages to private homes and luxury villas. Prices run anywhere from several hundreds to just under $5,000 per week.

Kamalame Cay sits just off Andros, about 17 miles away from Lyford Cay’s coastline. From the Andros airport it’s a 20-minute drive and five-minute ferry. A resort island, Kamalame Cay boasts 19 sophisticated seaside rooms and suites “in a range of charming, bougainvillea-draped cottages, bungalows, peak roof Balinese beach houses and classic plantation-style villas,” according to its website.

The boutique resort features a spa, a garden terrace, a heated, fresh-water pool edged in towering silver palms and a tiki bar with an open grill that regularly hosts torch-lit, beachside banquets with live entertainment provided by local “rake and scrape” bands.

The resort has two rate structures, one for rooms only and another that’s all inclusive (room, food, alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages). Rates also fluctuate according to the season. In low season, per night room rates range from $250 for a room to just over $3,000 for a four-bedroom villa. During high season, room rates max out around $4,000 per night. These are not all-inclusive prices.

Cruise control
The wealthy traveller could opt to indulge in all the comforts available in a luxury villa with the added benefit of cruising around spectacular seascapes and beautiful coastlines.

A leading real estate firm, H G Christie offers a variety of local yachts ranging from the 70 ft Sparkman & Stephens designed Bonaparte at $5,000 a day (local charter, all inclusive for 10 persons) to the 132 ft Sea Dreams at $12,000 per day. The yacht must be booked for multiple days. Expenses such as fuel, food and drinks are calculated at a daily, per person rate.

Smaller yachts such as the 105 ft and 110 ft Broward vessels and the 78 ft Cheoy Lee, are also available for a daily charter, or term charter. These yachts can accommodate from between six persons in three double cabins to eight to ten persons in the larger yachts. Browards rent around $32,000 per week. The Cheoy Lee goes for around $28,000. Additional expenses are not included in those rates.

“The demand for private luxury yacht charters has expanded enormously over the last few years as individuals have become wealthier,” says John Christie, chief executive officer at H G Christie.

H G Christie is the local representative for Edmiston Yachts, a Europe-based yacht broker and high- end charter company that offers megayachts in the 200 ft plus range to exotic destinations worldwide with prices up to $1 million a week or more.

At press time, H G Christie was “eagerly anticipating” the arrival of the 76 ft Lazzara Sea Journey, slated for day trips to the Exumas and any other island within a 50-mile range. The excursion is expected to carry a price tag of around $10,000 a day. All the yacht’s five state-room cabins are ensuite to allow privacy and enjoyment of other luxury touches, such as fine dining, excellent wines, flat screen televisions, full sound systems and Internet access. Jet skis and diving equipment are all included in luxury charters.

“All yachts are supplied with an experienced captain, chef and stewardess, plus deck hand and an engineer on the larger yachts and all the toys necessary to enjoy our three-, five- or seven-day trips to the Exumas, or other desired locations,” says Christie. “These trips will take in the Exuma chain calling at prime destinations such as Highbourne Cay, Compass Cay and Staniel Cay. The Bahamas offers the wealthy many exclusive and private destinations where they can enjoy their leisure time.”

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