Perhaps it’s something in the water – or in the rum. Barbados, a dot on the map between the Caribbean and the Atlantic just above Grenada, is known for more than sun, soak and sand. It’s known for its ability to make babies.
True, romance abounds in these parts and couples from other countries can legally tie the knot at a moment’s notice (or, rather, a day’s planning). But they can also try their luck at the Barbados Fertility Centre, fast becoming the epicenter for affordable and easy IVF treatments and other fertility therapies.
The JCI-accredited clinic runs the gamete, or rather the gamut, of medical procedures, from ovulation induction to donor programs, freezing, fertility therapies and vitrification with overall success rates ranging from 14 percent (invitro-fertilization for women over 42) to 67 percent, depending on treatment and age.
The clinic brings in a staff of islanders as well as surgical practitioners from Ireland and the UK and works out of a plantation-style facility in the south coast town of Christ Church.
Although treatments range between $400 and $8,500 a la carte, (IVF, including embryo cryonics averages around $5,000) full “holiday” packages can be arranged for rates starting at $5,500 per couple, including flights, hotel, transport, treatments and wellness activities through the center. And then there are medical travel middlemen options such as Surgical Escape that put packages together for individuals and couples that take care of all details, from pre-travel doctors visits to full itineraries and follow-ups for one set price.
For people who want manage their romantic ventures through more traditional mores, the rum on Barbados might be a good way to start. So strong is the sugar cane heritage here that a Canivale-style festival swings into action from July 3 to August 3 in celebration of the sugarcane harvest.
Crop Over Festival is Barbados’ biggest, loudest, brashest, boldest and best-loved fest for the party crowd. Hailing from the 1780s when the island was the world’s top sugar state, the last stalks of the harvest have meant the crowning of the king and queen of cane in a flurry of pure flamboyance that continues in an ever-burgeoning blast of glory. The island writhes in a heady mix of music, dancing, carnivals, markets and cultural exhibitions – all culminating on Kadooment Day, August 3, when the costumes come out and rum washes through the streets.
Romancing the rum continues year ‘round for those who manage to stumble onto the Rum Trail. The rum-making tradition here dates back to 1703 and can still be found in four island distilleries that open themselves up for tours. In St. Philip find the Foursquare Rum Factory and Heritage Park; In St. Michel it’s the Cockspur Beach Club and the Mount Gay Rum Distillery and Gift Shop to proffer a proper view of just what Barbadian Water (as it was once called in taverns lining British ports) is all about. And then there are the more than 1,200 rum shops and “tippling houses” that serve glasses and island chats in comfortable, homey quarters.
Mount Gay is the world’s oldest rum (although Cockspur’s Five Star rum is considered to be the finest and Foursquare Spiced Rum the tastiest) and has a “must-do” hourly tour that lasts about 45 minutes, costs about $7 and ends with a tasting. The Mount Gay Rum distillery is found 5 minutes north of Bridgetown, the island’s capital, and offers two expanded tours to serious rum lovers. The first includes lunch on the veranda after the basic tour, for $40; and the second includes a cocktail tour in the afternoon for $30.
While sugar cane thrives across the island’s 166 square miles the rum on Barbados is not a mass-produced commodity. The spirit requires careful crafting, sometimes multiple distillations, and Kentucky bourbon white oak barrels are often used for the aging. Rum can be a complex affair that renders the smoothness of a dexterous Scotch. Seek hints of vanilla, coffee, chocolate, banana and almond in a spectrum of colorful brands.
Whether you go for the beach, the babies or the Barbadian Water, check www.visitbarbados.org for the possibilities.