Creative Cocktails in the Caribbean

Looking for colorful spirits to cheer about? Wondering how playful you can be with your Don Julio Blanco tequila, Tanqueray No. 10 gin,  Zacapa 23 rum, and Ketel One vodka? In the quest for the best Rum punch, who wins?

Luxury Travel Mavens shares Caribbean Cocktail recipes from World Class Mixologist Roberto Berdecia of Puerto Rico, and divulges arguably the best “Rum Punch” formula on earth from the country that invented rum, the Barbados, thanks to Roger Goddard and his Cutters Deli.

Eternal Cocktails from Puerto Rico

On a recent foray to the United States Territory of Puerto Rico, Berdecia, the creative cocktail guru behind the concoctions at the Eternal Bar of the Conrad Condado Plaza Resort in San Juan recommended the following to warm up the cold months:

 Spiced Sip

  • 1 ½ oz. Zacapa 23
  • ½ oz. Amaretto
  • ½ oz. Homemade Cinnamon & Black Pepper Syrup
  • 2 oz. Pear Juice
  • Garnish with Cinnamon Stick
  • Serve in a Snifter glass

Note: Zacapa 23 is a distinguished rum developed originally in Guatemala. Each bottle is adorned with a hand-woven Petate band which the Zacapa website says  represents “the unity of time and space, earth and sky.” The site also says the rum uses virgin sugar cane honey instead of molasses for sweetnes ,  and fermentation includes yeast from a particular kind of  pineapple.

Strawberry Puree adds sweet color at the Eternal Bar in Puerto Rico

Mint Tree

  • 1 ½ oz. Don Julio Blanco Tequila
  • 1 oz. Strawberry Puree
  • 1 oz. Grapefruit Juice
  • ½ oz. Passion Fruit Liquor
  • 8 leaves Mint
  • Garnish with Mint Leaves
  • Serve in a Cocktail Glass

Spooky Mango

  • 1 ½ oz. Tanqueray No. 10
  • 1 oz. White Guava Juice
  • ½ oz. Homemade Ginger Syrup
  • 1 oz. Mango Puree
  • Top with:
  • 1.4 ounce of Strawberry puree
  • Orange Zest for garnish
  • Garnish with Orange Zest
  • Serve in a Highball glass

Some tropical Blue Curacao to ward off the winter blues

Tropical January

  • ¾ oz. Ketel One Citroen
  • ¾ oz. Ketel One Vodka
  • ¾ oz. Coconut Cream
  • ¾ oz. Blue Curacao
  • Garnish with Slice Strawberry and Mint
  • Serve in Old Fashioned





Barbados Best

When you check in at the luxurious Crane Residential  Resort in Barbados, you are immediately asked, “Do you want Rum Punch or Fruit Punch?” as a welcoming refreshment.   The bartender at the Resort’s Bar 1887  (named after the year the hotel was started) asked the same question. This seems to be an ubiquitous query on this enchanting island. No wonder. Rum as a drink started in Barbados as a happy accident, and when the British moved in they made rum a medicinal ration for each member of the Navy to receive a daily dose.   Now restaurants and bars seem to want tourists to get their share too.  There seems to be an informal competition for the best Rum Punch.

The beguiling moon in Barbados after a glass of Cutters Rum Punch.

One night at a private party  with a beguiling full moon over the sea, I tasted what for me was the freshest best Rum Punch. Turns out the man making the mix was Roger Goddard of Cutters down the road and he goes lengths to get the freshest ingredients.   When I asked for the secret recipe I was told it was “1,2,3,4” as in

One of sour
Two of Sweet
Three of Strong
Four of Weak

To elaborate, this means:

One part fresh squeezed lime — no mix
Two parts sugar – Bajan (local speak for Barbadian)  locally grown cane sugar. At Morgan Lewis Mill they still press the cane the old fashioned way.  Goddard and  friends annually help press to keep the tradition alive
Three parts strong rum — Bajan of course (Mount Gay Rum is an historic choice)
Four parts weak: Serve over a full glass of ice

For the finishing touch, add fresh, coarsely ground nutmeg from Grenada,  the Spice Island near Barbados.

Clink glasses with a happy toast and enjoy good company!

-Lisa TE Sonne for


Photos by Lisa TE Sonne except for the photo to the left, provided by the Eclipse Bar in San Juan.


To keep your brain from being as cloudy as the views when you fly, read on…

Flying First Class or Business Class and having lounge privileges and priority boarding status are all obvious ways to make travel more luxurious. These days, however, more and more flights are running full, and seat upgrades are not available, even if you have the funds or frequent flyer miles. All the great airport lounges and the horizontal in-flight beds sometimes don’t seem like enough of a balance against shuffling through security and zooming through time zones in a pressurized cabin.

Below are some suggestions gathered from experience and seasoned travelers. Please add your own tips in the comments box below, so we can all fly more luxuriously, whatever the circumstances.

There are things you can do to improve your flight.

Before You Leave For the Airport

*Dress comfy, loose fitting clothing

*Apply extra moisturizer on your skin to compensate for the dry cabin air on-board

*Don’t wear metal jewelry/watches, if you want to make security easier

*Wear shoes that slip on and off easily, too

*Some people wear clothing on-board designed to carry your carry-on items for you, so you can be more hands-free while traveling. You can now get Scottevest creations in Harrods London as well as online.

* Packing with carry-on only can be a way to avoid baggage delays or losses, but it also means more stuff to carry from terminal to terminal or gate to gate if you have multiple flights. Once your carry-on is in the overhead compartment, it’s harder to access in-flight. Whether you check bags or not, put everything you want within reach on the plane into a separate pre-packed bag you can pull out and stow under your seat.

* You can even keep your pre-packed carry-on package (see tips below) ready for any trip.

On-board Package Suggestions

*Your own first class “travelers kit,” with a sleep mask, sock-slippers, ear plugs, tooth brush, and comb in a ziplock or a container you saved from your last upgraded flight (This can help when you want to catch some sleep in other circumstances, too.)

*Headset with noise canceling features

*Neck-supporting pillow (with aromatherapy scents), if it helps you

*Personal water bottle (Take it empty through security and fill it up before boarding the plane, so that even when service is slow, you stay hydrated.)

*Reading material to leave on-board when done (for privacy, remember to cut off any address labels on the magazines)

*Glasses case, if needed

*Laptop and charger (and an extra battery in case you wind up in economy on a long flight) The computer is great for work or playing with photographs, games, music, movies, etc.

*Camera (Shots out the window can be amazing.)

Manhattan from a window seat view.

* A little flashlight (good for reading without the overhead light and for emergencies)

*Your favorite food for a meal and snacks

* Needed medications (Pre-calculate when you may need to take them while flying.)

*Anti-germ brigade (anti-bacterial wipes, some kind of nutritional supplement to fight germs, etc.) Comes in handy if you want to wash your hands before the meal, but you don’t want to wait in the bathroom line.

* Your smart phone/cell phone, computer/electronic reader. Even if they are fully charged (and they should be), include your charging units, too. If you have multiple things to charge bring a compact unit with multiple outlets.

Note: Make sure your name and number/email address are on everything, in case they get lose or left somewhere.


Hydrate & Moisturize if you don’t want to dry out while flying.

Hydration is key to a healthy flight. Regardless of whether you are flying first class or economy, the pressurized cabin air is often equivalent to being at an altitude of 5,000- 8,000 feet, so the air you are in for hours is thinner and drier. Also, the dry outside air (that may be at 35,000 or 40,000 feet) may be mixed with the filtered cabin air and circulated in the cabin for fresher oxygen.

You can bring a nasal spray or try taking a paper napkin or tissue, getting it wet, and placing it over your nostrils for awhile to keep the nasal passages from drying out. Drinking lots of water not only helps you hydrate, it might motivate exercise – as in, trips to the bathroom.

Movement is important. While the plane seems to be defying gravity’s law, our bodies are not.  When you sit for long periods on the plane, you can swell up, and bad circulation can cause problems.  Check with you doctor to see if wearing compression socks is a good idea for you.

The terminal travel blur. Miami Airport. Lisa TE Sonne

Walking the aisles every couple of hours is recommended and can be entertaining for people watching.

Rotating your ankles and stretching your arms while in your seat helps. Some airlines have specially designed exercises that are often in the seat back pocket or on one of the channels of the entertainment on the monitor

In the galley of the plane (and while waiting for a bathroom,) you can do stretches and bends.  The flight attendant conversations can be some of the best entertainment of the whole flight.


Veteran Flyer Tips on Trips and Jet Lag:
Milbry Polk is an intrepid explorer who crossed the Egyptian desert on a camel, has rafted rivers, and hiked in the Arctic. She also founded Wings WorldQuest, celebrating and supporting women explorers. Between books, projects, children and writing for the Explorers Club magazine, she shares her personal list of tips for air travel:

Never drink (alcohol) on the airplane
Drink lots of water
Take a neck pillow
Sit far forward, in an emergency exit row – it’s worth the extra money on longer flights
Don¹t eat airplane food
Bring sushi rolls or other easy-to-pack food items
Don’t bother with the film unless you are bored- it is always cut and probably won’t play out uninterrupted.
Do sudoku (to help you fall asleep)
Stick with one airline if possible to rack up miles and join that airlines club.

Jet Lag

Joe Farago, a former actor and TV host who now travels all over the US to help with Emergency Disaster Training, developed his own ‘walk-nap-full evening’ formula for maintaining his body-clock:  “The first thing most people want to do after flying all night is check into their hotel and go to sleep.  When my room wasn’t ready, I dropped the bags and did some outdoor sightseeing until early afternoon.  About three, I went back to the hotel, took a two-hour nap and then went out for an extended dinner meeting.

“When I woke up the next morning, I felt great and had adapted perfectly with no jet lag for the rest of the trip. Not only had the time spent outside in the sunlight helped reset my internal clock but, by restricting my nap to just two hours and going out until almost midnight that night, I had forced myself into the local day/night rhythm.”

Steve Tight emailed from Hong Kong, where he’s the President, International Development, Caesars Entertainment. Previously, when he lived in California developing Disneyland in Hong Kong, he racked up almost two million miles on one carrier.

He shares from experience: “I still travel on business a lot, usually a country or two a week, but at least most of it’s within Asia, so I’m home most weekends.  I’m still a big Tylenol PM fan. I find it less aggressive than sleeping pills, and it really works in allowing me a full night’s sleep, even when on the other side of the world.

“Maybe I’m in a perpetual state of jet lag but the more I travel, the less I feel the affects of the time difference.

“There’s nothing like the almost nausea-like feeling after a transpacific flight, but if I can stay up until 9pm on the day of arrival in the States from Asia, I’m usually OK.  Also I suggest the usual things, like changing the watch and Blackberry to the arrival time zone before landing.  I’m now starting to watch out for what I eat and drink. It’s harder finding time for exercise with a busy travel schedule, so I’ve cut back on enjoying the alcohol on the flight – which probably also helps with jetlag.”


 Your Recommendations

Have you found a favorite airline for luxurious travel? A group called Skytrax takes surveys and rates the airlines, with five stars as the best possible rating. Hundreds of carriers are listed alphabetically for international and domestic flying.

Who has the best lounges? Which are the best and worst airports “for passenger wear and tear”? What do you take onboard for comfort? What is your best flying tip?

If you have additional tips for the best travel, airlines, and airports, please add your insights below, or write to me at  And please forward this to other travel mavens you know who may be able to add their expertise.

Let’s all help each other have better take-offs, landings and times in-between!

© Lisa TE Sonne, excerpted for

© All photographs by Lisa TE Sonne



Who can resist the luxury of a destination where the local residents all wear tuxedos naturally, night and day?    Antarctica is home to millions of endearing penguins, and no permanent human colonies.  For visitors, the “White Continent” offers bucket list richness — chicks hatching while the parent penguin sits on the rock nest,  and huge scale floating galleries of sculptural glaciers and icebergs with striking streaks of blues and greens.  Nature’s reality show of orca whales, leopard sharks, seals, and penguins plays out in a vastness that stirs the soul.

If you have dreamed of going to the South Pole, now is a good time to book your passage to make 2012 or 2013 your best yet. The holiday zone in the northern hemisphere — a good time for travel gifts to yourself or others — is summer in Antarctica, when the ships can get passengers close to the penguin rookeries and research stations worth visiting.

Specials are now being offered by the cruise line that shines historically in polar trips – the Norwegian Hurtigruten.   It’s also the only line I can personally vouch for, having experienced great times above the Arctic Circle and into the Antarctic Peninsula.

Savings of up to $3,000 a couple are being offered on the Classic Expedition Voyages embarking November 29, 2012; December 08, 2012; January 02 & 11, 2013; and February 13, 2013, if travelers are willing to wait for cabin assignments at the pier.

Whatever your motivation —  you are looking for even more to be thankful for; you want to realize your New Year’s resolutions; you’re worried about the melting polar ice caps; or you want to make sure you visit all seven continents —Hurtigruten’s current bargains beckon for great journeys.

The MS FRAM (Norwegian for “forward”) is a modern boat with English speaking crew, outdoor Jacuzzis, a sauna, observation decks, and a team of scientists and expedition leaders to answer questions. Smaller flat-bottomed boats are used for twice-daily shore expeditions to remarkable places, weather permitting, and to get closer to floating icebergs to see playful penguins sliding down the slopes.

Fun Facts:

*There are no penguins at the North Pole! In fact, penguins north of the equator are rare. There are also no polar bears at the South Pole.

*Tired of rain and falling snow for the winter? Antarctica is actually a desert! It receives less than two inches of precipitation in a year, about the same as the Sahara Desert. It’s the driest continent on the planet.

*It’s the coldest continent, too, year-round, but when my husband and I went, summer on the Antarctic Peninsula was much warmer than most the northwest of the United States. We enjoyed sunshine and weather in the 40s. In one colony of penguins, the babies were actually overheated.
*Male penguins may lift up their heads and let out loud calls, a behavior called “ecstasy.”

*All 24 time zones converge at the South Pole, making Antarctica timeless or providing time for everything, depending on your perspective.

Please let us know if the Bottom of the World is at the top of your list!

-Lisa TE Sonne for

Photographs by Lisa TE Sonne



Paddleboarding in a lagoon near the Atlantic Ocean

“Don’t look at your feet. Look forward.” That was the main advice for our first foray at stand-up paddle boarding or “SUP.”

A few of us newbies gathered on a sandy patch near Aquadilla in northwestern Puerto Rico for a lesson from Aquatica Dive & Surf which also offers surfing, diving, and snorkeling.  Arcing in front of us lay a beautiful natural classroom and playground:  to the left,  the Atlantic Ocean, straight ahead, a placid lagoon; and to our right, an inviting, meandering, calm river,  flanked by lush jungle growth.

All the waters were warm compared to many other places in the continental US where  paddleboarding is taught, and the conditions were gentle for optimal beginner’s luck.

First attempts in the warm lagoon.

“It’s all about balance” was the other advice given as we pushed our long boards out into the lagoon. Guides were nearby to help steady us if we needed it. I got into a kneeling position in the middle of my board, placed the single paddle perpendicularly in front of me, and then used it to push myself first to squatting, then to standing position.

Wow! I was up on a paddle board! Things felt tippy at first, until I found my own sweet-spot on the board. From  then on,  it was relatively stable. For me,  paddling was easier than just standing still.

The long pole with a curved paddle at one end had been adjusted to my height, so that one hand could push down on the handle, while the other hand mid-pole pulled it toward me. Pushing and pulling the paddle in the right amounts is one form of balance. Being in the optimal position on the board is another.  Finding the body posture that works is also a key element of balance – not leaning back or forward too much, knees slightly bent. Most of that, the body seems to do automatically.

Lesson One: Look Ahead and Practice Balance

To control direction, you can back-paddle the way you might while kayaking. You can also switch the paddle over to the other side, which also means switching which hand is on top and which is in the middle of the paddle.

It was about the shortest learning curve of any new sport or recreation, I can remember– certainly easier than anything involving a ball or wheels.  Soon, we were heading up the river, first-time paddlers (ages ranging from the 20s to 60s) relishing the pleasure of something new.

Paddling offers solitude or good company.

We could be close enough for conversations or find our own niche in nature to listen to the wildlife and enjoy the jungle fauna.

It took just enough effort and attention that my mind was cleared of other worldly things. But not it did not require so much concentration that I couldn’t hum a spontaneous paddling tune, take photos with my waterproof camera, or just make up a jungle adventure.

Beautiful orange flowers floated. Coqui frogs added to the chorus. Occasionally a bird would swoop nearby. The river was so gentle,  it was encouraging for practicing different speeds and directions. The water was so warm that the idea of falling in was not intimidating.

We had seen stand-up paddle boarders out at sea where conditions can be much more challenging.  Those paddlers may also have the thrills of catching waves.  Kneeling or laying on long boards to catch waves goes way back in Hawaiian tradition.  The kind of recreational stand up paddle boarding or “SUP” we were learning has been growing in the last few decades with the advent of new board designs.

Boards left while paddlers hike.

Shore Leave

Our little quasi-intrepid group spread out and paddled under a bridge, and past a rope swing until we were gathered near a muddy shore where some branches hung low.  We helped each other ashore for a land hike.

The cleared jungle trail lead through thick growth to an early railroad tunnel in Puerto Rico, built in 1906. Naturally we felt compelled to walk through the dark passage until we saw the light again.

Paddling back to our original shore, I thought about how much this “lesson” had been like my first surfing lesson in Waikiki on Oahu- the warm waters,  gentle conditions and beautiful scenery there had made it an optimal place for a sense of fun and success the first time out. The same was true here for my first SUP chapter.

At  the end of our group journey, one person said she  thought it was boring as a sport. She was teased that she should try it in the ocean before reaching any conclusions. Two other people said they thought paddleboarding was more fun than kayaking. One because he likes being up above the water, the other because it uses legs as much as arms. A fourth person said she really loved it and would pursue it more when they got home.

All  were all glad we had tried a new way to enjoy Puerto Rico’s natural beauty and man-made features.

The Luxury Elements:

The view from the Eclipse Restaurant, part of the Villa Montana Beach Resort in Puerto Rico. The Resort can help arrange horseback riding on the beach, paddleboarding, and massages.

To make paddling in Puerto Rico a more luxurious experience, you could stay at Villa Montana Beach Resort, not far from the International airport in Aquadilla, (or find out what the Heliport sign is all about.)  The spacious villas can be your  home base for biking, horseback riding on the beach, tennis, golf, pool lounging, and tide-pooling.

The resort’s alfresco seaside restaurant, the Eclipse,  offers wonderful food and views, and delicious fuel to start your paddling day off with gusto.

Villa Montana Resort

To end your day with soothing luxury, arrange in advance for a private massage by the shore or in your own villa.

You could open the door to your place and be greeted by dozens of candles, sweet smells, and a talented masseuse ready to ease any muscles you challenged while enjoying paddle boarding and hiking. If you want romantic ambiance for yourself or mate, trails of rose petals can be arranged, too.




Some Practical Tips for PaddleBoarding:

*Wear water shoes with good support and grip (although some people prefer barefeet to help their balance.)

*Secure your glasses/sunglasses with a strap that floats

* If you want to wear a hat, make sure it has a strap

*Pre-spray bug spray on yourself,  and your hat

* Bring/borrow a waterproof bag for your camera and anything you want to keep dry

*Bring water with you to stay hydrated. Make sure the guide has  plenty before you start out.

* And, of course, check  with your doctor first, if you have any relevant medical conditions!

Thanks to Aquatica for a good first lesson.

Tips While There:

*Watch others to observe what works and what doesn’t

* Listen to the guides– they should know where it’s safe to get off near shore and where the submerged logs are,  etc.

*Ask for a “dry bag” if you want to bring your camera and keep it dry, then use it on the hike. Make sure you learn how to close the bag properly.

*There are some elastic ropes at the front of the board for securing things like the dry bag

*Ask what the plan for the paddle is. If you are going to stop and hike like we did, you might want to make sure you bring dry shoes and put them in a bag. (Fire ants like exposed feet.  Exposed feet usually don’t feel the same way about fire ants.)

*Remember to ask others to take your picture on the board, if you want a memento of your good time!

Puerto Rico- the Place!
Puerto Rico is a US territory,  so if you are a US citizen, you don’t need to worry about passports or customs or international cell phone charges, the way you would with many other Caribbean islands. US currency, and both English and Spanish prevail, and driving is on the right side of the road unlike many other Caribbean islands. You can fly into the capital of San Juan on the northeast of the island, and enjoy Old San Juan’s rich history, great restaurants, party night life, and wonderful museums. After a couple of days, drive west to the Isabella area of Puerto Rico, or you can fly straight to Aquadilla airport.

If you opt to take the east to west road trip, and are willing to go a little inland, two memorable attractions in Puerto Rico are the Arecibo Observatory, and the Rio Camuy Caves (787-898-3100.)

For more help planning a great trip, check out

What more can you share about Paddle Boarding or about Puerto Rico? Please add your comments below.    Viva the good life!

-Lisa TE Sonne for LuxuryTravelMavens

 Photographs © Lisa TE Sonne,