In 2009, Trinidad played host to The Fifth Summit of the Americas, attended by President Obama and other heads of state, and the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. Throughout modern history Trinidad has acted as a political and economic hub due to its location bridging Latin America and the Caribbean. And with a strong economy supported by oil and gas exporting, the government is savvily investing in infrastructure and commercial development.
Port of Spain is the capital of the jungle-lush and fabulously festive Trinidad & Tobago, which hosts the world’s most glittering Carnival. To scope out the scene, we checked into the 243-room Crowne Plaza Hotel Trinidad, a longtime favorite of business travelers and an important meetings HQ for government, corporate and sports groups. The hotel recently completed a multi-million dollar transformation, creating the largest rooms in town by eliminating the rarely-used balconies.
Some other selling points for US planners?
“We’re known for our service, of course,” says Maxine Richards, Director of Sales/Marketing. “As at all Crowne Plazas, we offer a dedicated meeting director from beginning of planning to the end. That’s part of why we’ve cornered the market on small-to-medium meetings.”
During our visit, there were 550 telecom conferees in the Festival Ballroom. Eight other meeting rooms serve 10 to 250. “But most of all,” says Richards, “it’s our location.”
To demonstrate, she shepherded us past the live music in the lobby—a thoroughly Trinidadian touch—to the property’s signature space, the 140-seat Restaurant 360°, with the Caribbean’s only revolving restaurant. It’s popular for an elegant Sunday brunch, and planners covet the 14th floor panorama of colorful Victorian architecture, the cruise ship complex to the west and the deep blue Gulf of Paria beyond. A gentle spin reveals a rolling half-moon of verdant hills that protect the port from storms, and closer in is the busy city center, Queen’s Park Savannah, home to the lovely Presidential Palace and National Academy of Performing Arts.
Like most large Caribbean capitals, Port of Spain is big and bustling, but everything’s a quick walk or cab ride away. We were also impressed with the overall modernity of the hotel itself.
“That’s what Crowne Plaza ensures,” says GM Mike Phillips. “A hassle-free stay for business travelers, and things that work.”
Our faves? Lavender spray on plush beds, seamless wireless access, and the food. Trinidad is a foodie’s dream. The property’s less formal 120-seat Olympia Restaurant captures flavors as fresh and spicy as Carnival, strong on the African and East Indian elements so common here, with indigenous Arawak, Chinese, French, Syrian and English influences. Their callaloo, a greens-based soup and the national dish, is tops in town.
Offsite, most chefs are naturally fusion-oriented here in the Caribbean’s most multi-culti country. Still, Khalid Mohammed’s 100-seat Chaud stands out. This New York-trained local son draws ardent fans for his shrimp, lobster and crab mille feuille, veal cheek ravioli (his favorite) and a serious wine list. Request veranda seating overlooking Queen’s Park Savannah, or book the Savannah Room upstairs for 40-pax dinners.
Things can get a little more local on the streets around the Park. We stopped by a vendor who pulled big brown coconuts from his truck, macheteed off the tops, and handed out straws.