BY JOSH LEW:-
Summer is low season in the Caribbean. By mid-April, the crowds have thinned out at most resort destinations. When June arrives, even savvy shoulder season travelers have left the islands. People who come during June and July have to deal with occasional rains and high humidity, but they are often rewarded with the lowest hotel rates and airfares of the year. It’s not impossible to find rooms at a 50 percent discount.
Cheap travel is one reason to go in the Caribbean in June and July, but there is another reason…
Pro sports with a Caribbean twist
Most of the anglophone islands in the region are obsessed with the sport of cricket. Yes, that is the game with the notoriously slow four- and five-day matches. However, shorter forms also exist. These include T20 (or 20/20) matches, which only take about three hours to play.
In June and July, professional T20 comes to the West Indies. The Caribbean Premier League (usually shortened to “CPL”) draws the world’s best players from as far away as England, Sri Lanka, Australia and South Africa. For six weeks, six franchises play each other in what is probably best described as a kind of traveling sports carnival.
Cricket lingo can be confusing, but even novice spectators will be able to figure out the basics by the end of their first match. T20 scores generally rise into the 100s, so unlike baseball there is always plenty of offense to cheer during the game.
A second carnival season
The actual matches are only part of the spectacle. The CPL is surrounded by a carnival-like atmosphere. Parades, concerts and street festivals are scheduled before and after the matches.
The party doesn’t stop when the cricket begins. Comely cheerleaders keep the crowd entertained during slow points in the match. In between innings, you might see a break dance contest or an impromptu pitch-side carnival parade. Sometimes it can be difficult to tell who is an actual paid performer and who is merely a spectator in costume or a ticket holder intent on showing their best dance moves to the crowd.
A few celebrities are involved in the tournament. (Marky) Mark Wahlberg, for example, is a part owner of the Barbados Trident franchise. Actor Gerard Butler has an equity stake in the Jamaica team.
Deals to take advantage of
One of the tournament’s sponsors, Caribbean Airlines, has a promotion that coincides with this year’s event wherein passengers can present their boarding pass to get a discount on CPL tickets. The airline flies to most major islands from New York, Miami, Orlando, Toronto and London. Off-season fares are certainly there to be found. For example, sub-$500 round trips are currently on offer on Caribbean’s Toronto to Jamaica and Miami to Trinidad routes.
The 2015 CPL hosting line-up includes Barbados, St. Kitts, St. Lucia, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago. One of the T20 franchises is based in Guyana, so the tournament spends a few days on South American soil as well.
Deal seekers will have a reason besides “super low prices” to come to the West Indies this summer. And those who are kicking themselves for missing carnival season can come and enjoy an authentic Caribbean party without having to wait until next February and March.
Barbados and Saint Lucia are the June tournament stop. Saint Kitts and Jamaica host the early July games, and the tournament wraps up in Guyana and Trinidad in the second half of the month. A complete schedule is available here.